The Kiwi Country: New Zealand
Friendly and helpful, the locals are wonderful people with a smile always on their lips. The Kiwis make New Zealand even more beautiful!
An island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, New Zealand, is simply gorgeous! Though very few Indians would contemplate visiting New Zealand for a vacation, many are die-hard fans of the New Zealand cricket and the Rugby team. While New Zealanders are great sports people, their country is not just sporty but breathtakingly beautiful. With pristine beaches, high mountains, rain forests and volcanoes, New Zealand has amazingly different landscapes and climates. Geographically isolated for eighty million years, the topography is indeed unique and varied. With no snakes in the country, bats are the only native land mammals.
The Kiwis, warm and friendly, are quite environment-conscious, determined to maintain their distinct flora and fauna. Therefore, if one is visiting New Zealand, one needs to be careful of the immigration. Carrying raw food items including fruits, plants and even mouthwatering pickles can give you a headache since your luggage will need to go through additional x-rays meaning that much more time before you reach the hotel after a long flight!
A land of the Maoris – the indigenous people of New Zealand – their ancestors came to New Zealand from eastern Polynesia during the 13th century and carried with them their distinct culture, belief and tradition. Over centuries of isolation, these people further developed and maintained their unique culture, customs and language. However, with the arrival of the Europeans in the 17th century, the Maori way of life underwent major transformation. Though they gradually started to adopt Western aspects of society and culture like elsewhere in the world, some elements of tension has existed between them.
We visited Auckland and Hamilton in the month of December this year. While Auckland is the largest and most populous urban area in the country, Hamilton in the Waikato region is said to be the fourth most-populous city. The weather was cool and the maximum temperature hovered at 18-19 degree Celsius while the nights were cooler between 9 and 12. Visitors and locals were all outdoors having fun at the beaches and cruising given the bright and sometimes warm sun. However, there were occasional rains as well which made the temperature dive lower at certain points of the day.
Auckland’s waterfront bustles with ferry traffic and is a major attraction for tourists. It lines the Waitemata Harbor which also leads to the Gulf of Hauraki and the Bay of Islands. We did a lot of things like cruising and visited some major attractions close by. We decided to cruise the first day and visited the Rangitoto – a volcanic island in the Hauraki Gulf shaped as a symmetrical cone – as part of the tour. Rangitoto Island, formed by a series of eruptions between 550 and 600 years ago, boasts of a unique landscape of rugged lava crops, lush native bush and sandy coves.
The next day we took a 10-minute ferry ride to the village tucked by the sea called the Devonport. It had spectacular beaches including a breathtaking bay. The suburb is surrounded by the stunning waters of the Waitemata Harbour. The twin volcanic cones of Mount Victoria and North Head here offer some of the most spectacular views of Auckland.
The chocolate factory there was also quite a treat since I love gorging on chocolates. The factory was quite tiny but the chocolates were absolutely delicious. They were of different colours and shapes and boasted of the best quality chocolates in the region!
Our dinner on the second night was at the Wynward quarter on the Waitemata Harbour at the western edge of the Auckland waterfront which had some great restaurants. The fish and chips along with pasta and spaghetti were a real delight. We also saw a beautiful red tram on the Wynward loop ferrying people and children around the quarter.
We also visited Mount Eden, the suburb just 4 km south of the Central Business District (CBD). Not only was the view of Auckland breathtaking from the top with the Tasman Sea on one side and the Pacific on the other, but the massive bowl-like volcanic crater was especially spectacular.
Our next and final destination in New Zealand was Hamilton. A walk by the Waikato river was rejuvenating while the Waikato Museum, just along the river walk, educated us on Maori culture and art.
The Museum had many interesting artifacts, paintings and Maori-weaved garments on display including works of local artists. The souvenir shop, attached to the Museum, also had a great collection of Maori art.
Apart from the river and the Museum, the Hamilton Gardens was a great tourist location. The Gardens won the Garden of the Year award at the International Garden Tourism Awards in 2014. The Garden is rather unique focusing on garden design and not the usual botanical science. It has five kinds of Gardens: Paradise Garden Collection, Productive Garden Collection, Fantasy Garden Collection, Cultivar Garden Collection and the Landscape Garden Collection.
It was heartwarming to see the Indian Char Bagh Garden, one amongst the Paradise Garden Collection, quite popular with the tourists. Another garden within the Productive Garden Section, was the Te Parapra Maori Garden representing the pre-European Maori settlement.
Apart from the gorgeous landscape of New Zealand, what struck me the most was its people. Friendly and helpful, the locals are wonderful people with a smile always on their lips. The Kiwis make New Zealand even more beautiful!
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