Issue 17 / A Hidden Gem: Exploring The Far Ends of The Earth In New Zealand

A Hidden Gem: Exploring The Far Ends of The Earth In New Zealand

Oct 03, 2015

Green water, purple skies and picture perfect landscapes are just a few of the surprises that I experienced in New Zealand.

Kia Ora! That is "Hello. How are you?" in Maori. I learned and saw so many things in New Zealand that made it special. Here's the stuff I would recommend.  

The most common question I get asked is why I went to New Zealand. Why not? It has palm trees and it's an island. Who in their right mind would not want to go there? Interesting facts: It has no snakes or any poisonous animals/insects and no raccoons. And their rats are the size of our mice. Lord of the Rings was filmed there and the Weta Caves studio in Wellington is where they design the characters and props for some epic movies. Wellington is the Hollywood of New Zealand, so much so that there is a Wellington Sign on the mountain, just like the one in Los Angeles. I will get to more about Wellington later, let’s talk about the city where I spent most of my time – Auckland. 


Auckland is a beautiful city. It's the business capital of the country and where the majority of the population lives. It's where the larger Maori population resides and the Maori language is used in everyday conversations. The names of the suburbs, cities and streets are Maori and hard to pronounce. I suggest practicing privately or with a trusted friend as some people take offence to the mispronunciations.  

Everywhere you look is a picture-perfect opportunity. The landscape is perfectly manicured, with grassy ledges, that I can only describe as steps, perfect for the sheep to graze on. Surrounding the island are a dozen or more other islands of which I visited three. Weiheke, the land of cottages and wineries; Devonport (more of a suburb of Auckland but best accessed by ferry), home to underground tunnels and views of the coast; and Rangitoto, a volcanic island off the coast of the city.There are a limited number of ferries to take you there and back and this island is covered in black ash with a steep climb to the top. But all the sweat and tears is worth it; one must conquer Rangitoto when in Auckland. 

Photo Credit: Vandana Bharti 



L-R: Vandana in Devonport and Rangitoto
Photo Credit: Vandana Bharti


So far my favourite city in New Zealand, this windy city is artsy and quirky yet conservative. It's easy to get around and there are art pieces randomly located all over the city. For a government town, I was surprised that it has a lively night life. A friend took me to a hidden gem called The Motel, located in a seedy looking alley, whose bartender is recognized as one of New Zealand's top 10 mixologists. The drink he made for me was a rum based cocktail with locally made ingredients which included gun powder.  

The next day, I did the typical touristy tours including the Weta Caves where they created the Lord of the Rings characters and many others, the Te Papa museum where they had the Gallipoli Exhibit (giant sized soldiers and props that brought the scenes of the war to life). 

The trip would not have been complete without a trip to a winery, so, last minute, I hopped on a ferry and headed to the South Island, and in that adventure I got more than I bargained for. While the wineries were lovely the ferry ride over was the real experience. The waters were choppy because we cross over where two bodies of water meet (the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean). The winds were out of control and we were not allowed to go on deck. When they finally did allow us, I thought I would fly off. Mother Nature gave us a treat though and the sky suddenly lit up in a deep pink almost purple colour which contrasted against the mountains and provided some gorgeous pictures.  


One thing we do not have in Canada is geothermal springs, at least the way they do here. I went to two geothermal parks to see the springs. The naturally created crystals and colours that the thermals formed were jaw-dropping. Some changed the colour of the water (the Devils Pond was this florescent green body of water and the champagne ones were light pink with a deep orange border). Amazingly when I approached the water, the steam from the springs was so thick it engulfed me and when the cloud cleared all I saw was the orange and pink colours of the crystals.  


L-R: Rotorua
Photo Credit: Vandana Bharti 


If you are an adventurer, or looking to find yourself, or let go of something, this is the place to go. The safe, friendly, funny and breathtaking country should be on everyone’s bucket list. 

Auckland's cityscape 
Photo Credit: Vandana Bharti 


Main Image Photo Credit: Photo of Rotorua by Vandana Bharti 


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