My trip to New Zealand should go down as one of the most unforgettable holidays I have ever experienced. Ever since I got back, I often wonder what makes the land so special. And one thing strikes me the most - the tourist places in New Zealand - whether extraordinary or not - are invariably marketed under an alluring package of comprehensive safety, exceptional discipline and well organised schedules for visitors from the world over.
But does that mean the country is far from extraordinary? Of course not! The beauty of New Zealand lies not in what it offers but in what it is.... the sheer beauty, the rich variety of the landscape makes every sight nothing short of breathtaking. No wonder, whatever the purpose of oneâ€™s visit, itâ€™s the journey thatâ€™s etched in memory forever, not the destinations.New Zealand is the kind of place that kindles the philosopher and poet within each one of us!
New Zealandâ€™s spectacular landscapes incorporate the vast mountain chain of the Southern Alps, the volcanic region of the North Island, fiords, glaciers, lakes, rainforests and extensive grassy plains. New Zealanders, like the neighbouring Australians, are Outdoor people. The lifestyles invariably include a wide variety of sports and leisure activities. Tourism reflects this defining character of the country in full measure.
Surprisingly for a lush-green island country, New Zealand is free of snakes, reptiles and wild animals. In sharp contrast, neighbouring Australia has these creatures in abundance. Even as you speed through the deserted roads laden with green cover, you hardly ever come face-to-face with any creature â€“ just a few small unfortunate ones that got crushed under the speeding cars.
New Zealand boasts a rich variety of marine life and thanks to the meticulously designed tourism programmes, the visitor views the scenes from extremely close quarters, yet the natural habitats and activities are never disturbed. The visitor is a silent spectator at all times.
Hereâ€™s a list of locations that have enriched my travel experience and help me get an intimate feel of this beautiful country.
St. ARNAUDS LAKE
A few hours drive from Nelson airport this lake is easily one of the most beautiful lakes. Crystal clear water, quiet natural surroundings and almost untouched by the trappings of a tourist place.
Feeding the ducks and swans and watching them flap their wings and run after you are guaranteed to make anyone feel like a child again. The walking trails of this place are excellent.
The place is known for its arts and crafts. Visitors can catch the artists in action and witness the celestial transformation from raw materials to exquisite pieces of art and jewellery. The Jade factory brings you cost-effective jade carvings and sculptures along with free educational tours and workshop visits, Heritage jade houses high-end jades. One can watch the master glass blowers hand crafting glassware, art glass, giftware, souvenirs, tableware and glass beads. The Maoris consider Jade holy and spiritual.
The highlight of this place is the Jade shopping. Though jade is very popular amongst other tourists, it might not appeal to Indian tastes, neither in terms of beauty nor price. It is a visual experience nevertheless. But, do note that most of the shops here shut by 5p.m.
Although 140 glaciers flow through the Southern Alps, only the Franz Joseph and fox glaciers reach the lower rainforests. There are various options for guided tours to the glaciers including walking trails, peripheral walks (for those who canâ€™t bear the cold) or helicopter rides. The most interesting part is the view of melting glaciers during summers. The casual and fun approach of the locals makes it a haven for bag packers with majority of accommodation tailored to their needs. Even modest motels offer services like Spa and Jacuzzis. To find a VCR and video cassette in this age of DVDs and blue rays is both refreshing and nostalgic. And the free pop corn makes the experience innocently delightful. As far as sheer beauty is concerned, there are bigger glaciers in India but the comfort and infrastructure of this place will force the visitor to repeat trips or extend stays.
The densely populated Dunedin (by New Zealand standards, not Indian) is one of the principle cities of New Zealand, undoubtedly a crystal maze with its numerous roundabouts and interlinked streets. The strict lane discipline and car park rules amaze and annoy the Indian traveller in the same breath. To add to woes, the GPRS is not much of a help and could in fact prove confusing. And there are one-off instances of road rage. On the lighter side though, the New Zealand version of road rage is only a cautionary horn blowing, just in case you seem faltering while driving around.
The Cadbury chocolate factory at Dunedin offers an educational and entertaining tour where one can see the clinical process of chocolate making. Children will relish the trip to the in-house store in particular. The highlight of the place is the chocolate fall. Itâ€™s a great sight to see a ton of chocolate drop from the five-storied silos.
But the factory lacks the glamour of Willi Wonka and his chocolate factory. A nice experience, but the place can surely be replicated. Maybe we can have something like that in India too. Dunedin boa
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