Friday, September 30, 2011

New Zealand Day 7 : Wellington, the capital city

Day 7 : Monday 12th September 2011

According to our initial plan, today we were supposed to cross over to Picton, but due to the problem we faced in Auckland the other day, we have made an arrangement to stay another day longer in Wellington thinking about Mr D's passport. Now that everything settled and we didn't have to go to Malaysia High Comm, we decided to use today to explore Wellington instead.

We will not be stopping for lunch, so we will rely on what we eat for breakfast to sustain us till dinner. Am blessed because Kak CM packed some halal sausages the day before for us, so I prepared simple bread, sausages, raw cabbage eaten with sauces. And Kak CM also gave us a bottle of manuka honey, since she noticed Mr D was not well and advised him to eat the honey with cinnamon powder. Apparently, this combination is good for cold. I later did a search in google and found out about the power of remedy these two ingredients have, interesting!

Our first destination of the day was to Te Papa museum. Notice how I love museum? Hahaha.. Te Papa is New Zealand's national museum, it collects the treasure of the land, from culture to history to environment, including the history of Maori. For those who love to know about New Zealand, it is really worth visiting. We spent about 3 or 4 hours in there exploring the collection.

There's no entrance fee to the museum, but visitors are welcomed to donate. There are many collection boxes located in each floor of the museum. By the way, there are six floors in the museum, including cafe and gift shop, so it is really a lot to explore. And I found this museum to also be very children friendly, there are many interactive programs provided for children (and adults like me) to play with, which is fun at the same time educational.

One of the things we can find in Te Papa is the giant colossal squid, which was there in the museum since 2007. This squid was caught by a group of fishermen by accident in the sea somewhere near Antarctica, who later donated the squid to the museum. The squid is so huge and there's also an interesting video to show how the squid was accidentally caught by the fishermen. And it is also interesting that this type of squid nibbles its prey into tiny pieces as it can only ingest small mouthful. Why? BECAUSE ITS NARROW THROAT PASSES THROUGH ITS NARROW BRAIN SO A BITE TOO LARGE CAN LEAD TO BRAIN DAMAGE! Poor.. poor squid.

Other collections in Te Papa is notably very interesting, Maori history especially, but we were not allowed to take pictures of it. It also has a lot of information about the nature including the earthquake in New Zealand. Really interesting and worth a visit.

After spending few hours in Te Papa, we spent our time going around the city. Wellington is a harbor city, with hills around the waterfront. So it is normal to see civilisation on the hilly terraces. It looks a bit like Hong Kong, I would say. One notable feature is the wind, it is so strong it can blow your spectacles. This blowing spectacles incident happened to Mr D long time ago while he was still studying, and that's the story he repeated to me time and again when he talk about Wellington hahahaha.

We then drove up the Wellington Botanic Garden, which is accessible from many entrance. It is located next to the cable car station, so it is also accessible by taking cable car. But what we did the other day was to drive up to the top to the main entrance, parked the car at the parking lot nearby (there's a 120 minutes parking nearby) and start our exploration from there.

The first thing we will be able to see is the view of Wellington from the top of the hill. The hill is not that high, but it is enough for us to view part of the city.

We walked down through the flower-marked path provided in the botanic garden, down to the city. It took about 50 minutes from the hill till we reach the city, but it was not tiring as we went down the hill and the weather was very good. Plus, the view is also beautiful.

The path from Botanic Garden will lead us straight to the city centre, through the garden and cemetery. Wellington, like other major city like Auckland and Hamilton, is not busy - not as hectic as KL is at least. Our plan was to find the cable car station which is located at Lambton Quay to go back up the hill and get our car. One thing lacking is because it was hard to find a signboard which will lead us to the cable car station.

With the help from the local, we finally reached the place leading to the cable car station, marked with a post with small cable car replica on top of it. Turn out the station itself is not visible from the main road, we had to go through a small path leading to the cable car station. The cable car is similar to what we can see in Hong Kong, but the journey up the hill was much shorter and the hill wasn't as steep. It had two stops, the first is at Victoria University and the final stop is near the entrance to the Botanical Garden.

We then drove up to Mt Victoria located not far from there. Mt Victoria is a prominent hill within Wellington, and it looks very much like the drive up to Victoria Peak in Hong Kong, with the exception that there's no Sky Terrace on top. But they do provide the lookout point on top for us to admire the harbor city of Wellington. The wind was blowing quite strongly from up there, and Mr D told me that there's where the wind blew his spectacles in the past.

From Mt Victoria, we then head back to the city centre, where we walked around the shop and observing how the city is like. We found 3 Malaysian Restaurant, the Satay Kajang restaurant (which is opened 5pm onwards), Malaysian snacks and street food restaurant (which is not halal) and another Cinta Malaysian Kitchen (also opened 5pm onwards). I noticed that many of the restaurants are opened 5pm onwards. We later takeaway kebab for our dinner that night and head back to our motel.

We will be leaving early the next morning to catch our ferry crossing over to South Island, so we settled all the check out procedure at night. The original booking rate when I booked was NZD150 per night, but while Mr D and the owner were chatting, the owner suddenly changed the rate to NZD130 per night, so all in all we saved NZD40 from what we had budgeted earlier. He said he increased the price because of Rugby World Cup, but now decided to give us the normal rate.. yayy!!

Next : Crossing over to South Island

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New Zealand Day 6 : Taupo - Palmerston North - Wellington

Sunday 11 September 2011

Today we will have to drive quite a long distance. The ultimate destination will be Wellington, but we will make one major stop in between in Palmerston North to visit Mr D's ex-student who is now a permanent resident of New Zealand, lecturing at Massey University.

We started our day early, journey to Palmerston North will be quite long, and we intended to make a couple of minor stops in between so we definitely have to allocate more time for that to reach Palmerston North before lunch time.

The first stop was at Turangi, the next town after Taupo. This town is famous for its trout fishing. Our first stop in the town itself was actually to buy some medicine for both me and Mr D. The next stop after that was at Tongariro National Trout Centre, which we initially planned to visit, but it was raining quite heavily then and the walk into the centre was quite far [by the wet raining day standard] so we canceled the plan. Again??? Arghhh...

The journey from Taupo to Palmerston North is about 260km, and it took about 3 and half hours to reach the destination. Not much we can see along the way, it started with the typical green farm like what we can see in many parts of North Island, and followed by scenery of brownish-maroonish grass along the way. I was wondering initially what was that, till I googled it and found out that it is called carex grass.

We did a couple of other minor stops for coffee break and to visit the loo. But the most interesting town I would say is BULLS. Bulls is a farming area quite near to Palmerston North, and there's a small town there which I find it quite cute.. in the sense that everybody utilized the name 'bulls' in everything, from the name of the building to signboards. Kind of cool huh if you can find signboards like the one below in your town?

They really make use of the name for promotion huh? Cool.. Those kind of cute name can be seen even at the bank!

We later continue our journey to Palmerston North and reached there after 1p.m, just nice for lunch huh? When we get into Kak CM's house [Kak CM was Mr D's ex-student], the food is already on the table. Thanks to Kak CM for the yummy lamb rendang, fried chicken and some salad. That's the best lamb I've eaten after quite some times, as I can't taste that 'smelly taste' of lamb but just the tender meat.

There's nothing much in Palmerston North, which the local called as Palmy. Kak CM and her husband brought us to see the wind turbine nearby, used to generate electricity serving 4% of the population. It suits the windy parts of New Zealand.

It was good for Mr D and Kak CM to be able to spend time catching up on each other after quite some times. They both were so happy. Kak CM offered us to stay for couple of days in her house, but we already made arrangement in Wellington after that. It is OK, Kak CM, we will visit you again, insyaallah, in the future.

It was already about 5 PM by the time we start our journey from Palmerston North to Wellington. The journey is about 140KM, it took about 2 hours to reach Wellington. Initially, we wanted to stop by at Wellington just because we wanted to take the ferry crossing to Picton, so we booked a motel at Lower Hutt instead of Wellington centre itself, just so it is easier for us to catch the ferry which was scheduled to be very early in the morning morning.

We reached our motel, Fernhill Motor Lodge, at about 7 PM. It was already dark, and raining, making the day rather gloomy. We were pleased however to be warmly welcomed by the host, notably very friendly, like the other hosts of the motels we stayed in prior to that. It was a studio unit, quite comfortable, and located just opposite the laundry room - oh yeah, I need to wash our clothes to be recycled, as we didn't bring many clothes anyway.

So that's how we ended the day, we didn't plan to go out that night, because it was a lot of driving that day so we better just sleep for the night to prepare for tomorrow. For dinner, we were blessed because Kak CM packed some lamb rendang and frozen sausages for us, so all I need to do was to cook rice in the microwave, and wash some salad - complete meal on the table to end the day yeah!!

Next : Experiencing Wellington City

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Zealand Day 5 Part 2 : Rest period @ Lake Taupo

It was a tiring, but satisfying journey around Wai-O-Tapu , I think this is another location we cannot miss if we go to Rotorua. Pity that we can't continue with our nature adventure at redwood forest and the buried village. So we decided to continue our journey to Lake Taupo, where we had already secured a booking at a motel.

Journey from Wai-O-Tapu to Lake Taupo was a short one, it is just about 50km so it took only slightly over half an hour to reach Taupo. But along the way, we stop first at Huka Falls, which is the largest falls on Waikato River.

Huka Falls is already very near to Taupo, perhaps about 5 minutes drive. We can also experience a walk along the riverside, which takes about 30 minutes where there are several viewing platforms provided for us to appreciate the nature.

Huka Falls is very beautiful, with water rushing through very rapidly. The water is so clear, I called it as blue as Listerine mouthwash.What makes the water flows so rapidly is because the 100m wide Waikato River abruptly narrows to just about 20m as it crosses a hard volcanic ledge. Oh.. before I forget.. for those who love to have a little adventure, this is where you can board the legendary Hukafalls Jet to experience the speed around the beautiful nature.

We then continue our journey to check in at our motel, Baycourt Lakefront Motel. It is a very comfortable motel, complete kitchen with both convection stove and microwave. The hosts are also very nice and accommodating. The unit we got is a downstairs one, easily accessible and quite spacious. It is not a studio type motel room, it is like a one bedroom apartment. We were also given complimentary 500MB internet access.

Since Mr D is not well, I was determined to just go to the lake on my own that afternoon. But Mr D assured me that he was OK after about half an hour rest, so off we went to the Lake together, which is just located opposite our motel.. so we just walked around.

Lake Taupo is so big I didn't feel like looking at the lake. It is like looking at the sea! Lake Taupo is the biggest freshwater lake in New Zealand, and the second largest in Oceania after Lake Murray in Papua New Guinea. It is as big as Singapore. Mr D used to joke that if anybody asked about how Singapore is, we can answer Singapore is like taking the whole population of New Zealand and throw it into Lake Taupo.

Lake Taupo is said to be formed by a series of volcanic eruption, the biggest one being Oruanui volcanic eruption some 27,000 years ago which ejected about 1,200 cubic km of pumice and ash. The eruption caused several hundreds km of land to collapse to form the caldera, which was later filled with water. That's where Lake Taupo is. We spent about half an hour admiring the scenery around Lake Taupo, with albatross and duck easily seen at the beach.

Taupo has a peaceful neighborhood next to the lake. The lakefront is full of motels, but I think there's residential area behind the front row. It is a very peaceful looking neighborhood.

Taupo i-Site is located at Tongariro Street. After its office hour, we can still find information at Xperience Taupo, which is located at the opposite row not far from Taupo i-Site. Taupo is famous for its various cruise journey, both for scenic and trout fishing at Lake Taupo. We didn't have time for both of course.

We also did a little shopping for All Black jersey for All Black fans back home, my 14 year old stepson and my younger brother. It was Rugby World Cup, so the price for RWC jersey was quite high. But am sure both of them treasure the jersey, when Mr D presented the jersey to my stepson he was all smiling and excited, Mr D had to warn him not to wear the jersey while playing rugby in the field.

And for those in search for halal food, there's a halal Turki's kebab shop on the same row with Xperience Taupo, called Best Kebabs. We bought two chicken kebabs for our dinner that night, it was so big I think we might be able to share one kebab between both of us. Wonder why all kebabs come in huge sizes.. even when I was in England, all kebabs I found are huge.. wonder why.

Next : Journey from Taupo to Wellington, through Palmerston North.