Gateway To Paradise: New Zealand

Three years is a pretty much long time for the mind to retain a much-cherished holiday, but it is amazing, how certain intangible things of the places we visit, really strike a chord with our souls and become an inseparable part of us. Reminiscing our holiday to New Zealand for me and my family, is like unearthing a treasure trove of memories; I flip through the albums, I gaze at some of those enlarged pictures which adorn the walls of the living room of my Singapore home, and there I am- reliving the precious moments every minute; little to big; the cute motels that we stayed, volcanoes and caves, the breathtaking mountains, pristine lakes, charming cities: all the images slowly blow up to life size and a voice speaks from the depths of my heart- if only those days had continued for ever…

With that heart, and with a wary mind about my ability to do full justice in unraveling the beauty of this exotic land on our planet earth, my reflections are giving way to words, as I have set out to write my travelogue piece.

My younger daughter Padmini and I had teamed up and arrived at a very packed itinerary of twelve days to cover the best of this beautiful country. You see, for the money invested, we wanted to experience altogether a different landscape from our present concrete jungle; further, our plan to explore the magic of this wonderland by car had added to all the excitement. Thanks to the Internet, we could choose and get the glimpse of the cottages that we were to stay, the places we were to visit and the car we were to drive.

The long flight of eight hours from Singapore had landed us at Auckland with a brief stopover at Brisbane. The halt at Brisbane had helped us to finally decide upon the camera, which could snap the priceless photos of our dream holiday. Anyway, arriving at Auckland and being greeted with a warm big smile by Vishs cousin at the airport, we had felt immediately at home. While driving to the cousins home on the December morning, Auckland was cold and appeared as sleepy as we were.

Rendezvous with an Exotic Wonderland

Auckland city is built upon remnants of forty-eight extinct volcanoes and the highest volcanic cone Mt.Eden (196m) with a deep circular crater, offers a major attraction to the citys visitors. Hiring a van, with no time to loose and jostled out with a wake up commentary by the tour guide we were quick to arrive at this peak, and get a good view of the vistas of this, city of sails. Other than citys highlights such as the Sky tower, the Harbor, this peak also gives good view of the other volcanic eruptions, which have remained there for thousands of years. Few of such eruptions have been developed as public parks with couple of museums

Not far from Mt.Eden, visitors would find Auckland museum housing many war artifacts, Maori cultural items and armory, worth visiting. With just enough time to traipse around the museum and with mere glances at the marvels, we could spend the remaining day, by touring around the city and getting a closer look at the kauri houses, markets, University among others that we had spotted from atop the peak. .Did you know that to own a boat is a dream of a lifetime for New Zealanders, explained the guide.

Wai-to-mo caves were the next in our treasure hunt plan. You will encounter lots of Wais(water) in New Zealand. About a couple of hours of drive with the cousin, on the way to Rotorua, brought us to the caves. A sea of glowworms light your pathway of boat ride through the dark glowworm caves, which further leads you to another cave mushroomed with magnificent limestone formations. These age-old stalactites and stalagmites gave an awe striking sight as we stepped into the caves. The witty guide tried to put life into these stones, as tourists couldnt help gawking at the ubiquitous pale blue, pink and cream, huge structures around them. I can recall, I had to let go my imagination far and wild and resonate with his, as he created flowers, fruits, gods, and weddings in those natures marvelous creations.

Auckland and Rotorua seemed very thinly populated or was it because it was a weekend? Within forty- eight hours of arrival on this faraway land, we could feel our hearts aching to see more of our own kind, the human race which was distinctly less in count than our dwelling place. After all, why then we humans should be known as social animals? But then, isnt it a part of mother earths game to retain its beauty and charm, untouched, and unspoilt. So, it couldnt have been a better way for us to ward off the blues, than to have enjoyed the evening, with a Maori tribal dance in a hotel with the rest of the audienc e.

As the morning sun rose we were quick to check out of the motel and hire a van for the theme attraction of NorthIsland. Wai-O-Tapu. While creating this country, probably God had a very generous heart to bestow her, with a myriad of diversity.

You can witness mother earths restless activities at its peak in Wai-O-Tapu. This volcanic region of Rotorua, is spread over 18 sq.km of land. With its volcanic activity dating back to 160,000 years it is a protected Scenic Reserve with the flora and fauna and the boiling springs, collapsed craters and volcanic gases. The tourist can walk along a pathway to a part of this vast area of land and see very closely the chemical activities with lot of fumes emanating and below, the layers of crust in different colors, boiling, reacting amid the backdrop of lush green hills and forests.

Led by our very friendly Maori guide, who made sure we picked up the guide map to this thermal wonderland, we proceeded on the walk trail. What a feast to the eyes it gave: a brilliant colorful amalgamation of earth and life, elements and gases! A true marriage between geography and chemistry.I can recall as I tried to match the descriptions on the map with the scenery, while trying to avoid the strong pungent smell of sulphur, my daughters were vying for the best panoramic angle for a snap. At Lady Knox geyser, we could catch a lot of tourists who had gathered to witness the water eruption at 11 am sharp. If anything is a good example of how nature could be systematic and disciplined even in its fury, it has to be the boiling mud pool. You can spend hours waiting for the eruption of the boiling mud at regular intervals that would fall back to form various beautiful, perfect circular and symmetrical patterns.

Closely connected with these volcanic activities is the history of a village, buried village, once abuzz with locals and migrants from Britain, about 150 years ago, overnight got buried under a volcano .It was one of the worst tragedies recorded in New Zealands history. Various photographs vividly depicting the lives of people, then and the devastating volcano housed in a museum were something to be noted in minds. Of particular interest were the stones placed over a sprawling area of greenery, engraved with heartwarming letters of everyday account written by one young married girl to her mother in England.

Driving straight to the airport, finally it was goodbye to our Maori friend,and goodbye to Rotorua.

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