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On December 17th it was time for Fabian and me as well as two other friends to go to New Zealand. After almost 30 hours flight and transit we arrived on 19.12. in Auckland with almost 30 degrees outside temperature. Our actual destination, however, was Christchurch, which is why we had to take another short domestic flight. Arrived and picked up the car for the tour through New Zealand, we fell into bed early and exhausted after a short reconnaissance.
Christchurch - QuakeCity
Our first day of vacation began in Christchurch, a city that was hit by a severe earthquake. In the meantime, the city is mostly rebuilt, but the damages at many corners still remind of the catastrophe as for example the half collapsed cathedral.
Besides the sightseeing of the city centre, Christchurch also has a beautiful botanical garden as well as a free museum in which we could learn something about the history of New Zealand. All in all a successful start into the vacation - apart from the jetlag, which already early on that day undocked me and provided for a 15 hour sleep.
Our trip to the dolphins
The second day began with our first longer driving distance - with left-hand traffic of course, since New Zealand is unfortunately one of the countries with this system. After a short settling-in period we got along faster than expected and arrived safely at our destination of the day - Akoara. In Akoara we took a boat trip on which we observed dolphins, penguins and sea lions in their free environment. Afterwards we ate Fish&Chips, which are said to be among the best in New Zealand - in fact they were delicious. Our further way led us to Lincoln, where we spent the night in a top equipped motel.
The next destination was Oamaru - a small town on the coast, which is known for its penguin colonies. However, we did not see them, because the price-performance was simply too unfavorable for us and we could already observe some of them the day before. Thus, on this day, we mainly explored the city and the SteamPunk museum there. The visit of this museum should be obligatory for every tourist, as the sightseeings there are very interesting. A special highlight was the Infinity room, which was able to feel the infinity around you with sound and music.
After the SteamPunk-Museum we walked in the direction of the already mentioned penguin colonies through various gardens and historical cemeteries. After the city showed some very strong differences in altitude, this undertaking was very exhausting and we fell asleep quickly after arrival at the hotel - ready for the next day.
Starting from Oamaru we went on to Dunedin in the early morning. On the way we visited the famous Moeraki Boulders, a multitude of round stones which were formed by the sea and deposited in large quantities on the beach. The stones themselves are up to 4 meters tall and look like the marbles of a giant.
Arrived in Dunedin we visited the city centre - called Oktagon. But that was rather unspectacular except for the historic train station. In the evening we quickly compensated by driving to SandFly Beach. One of the probably most beautiful natural sand beaches of this world. The visit of this beach is not only recommendable for scenic reasons, but also for the reason that animals can be found in the wild at this beach. In our case it was a sea lion relaxing in the sun.
From Dunedin we continued our journey to Wanaka in the middle of the island - a popular holiday resort for the local population. On the way there we also visited the filming place of Rohan from the Lord of the Rings as well as the village of Rohirrim. The latter was unfortunately no longer available, but the excursion into the steppe-like area was very interesting from a scenic point of view and a bit adventurous due to the field paths to be crossed and the enormous temperatures of well over 30 degrees - luckily we were sitting in a well air-conditioned car. :-)
On Christmas day we visited the Puzzling World as a day highlight in the early morning. Here we were able to experience and feel various optical illusions up close. Among other things the following heads are to be mentioned, which are only concave bulges in the wall, but still know how to deceive. In addition, there was a room in which gravity seems to play crazy, water flows uphill and you can hardly walk - a successful massive deception of your own sense of balance.
Afterwards we ventured into the associated "The Great Maze", which is one of the largest labyrinths worldwide. The goal of this labyrinth was to find the ways to four different towers and then the exit. Some of us have done this, as the pictures on Flickr show. On average one is in the labyrinth about one hour and more than 3km walking distance on the way.
After this noontime effort we went on to the actual destination of the day, the Fox Glacier Township in the middle of the Mount Cook National Park. We arrived late in the afternoon and due to the lack of possibilities due to the holiday, we stayed at the hotel and recovered.
The second Christmas day, called "Boxing Day" in the English-speaking area, is no longer a direct holiday in New Zealand and therefore the shops were regularly open again. In the morning we first visited the Franz Joseph Glacier and walked to the foot of the mountain to get a good view. Unfortunately, the glacier is constantly shrinking, which is why we couldn't see it at close range anymore.
Afterwards we went a little bit further to a more inanimate hiking track, which led over 150 height meters and offered the chance of Kiwi sightings, the national animal of New Zealand. The latter we did not see, but we had a wonderful view of the surrounding landscape. The steep ascent was worth it and when we arrived at the car, we went back to the hotel to relax.
In the evening we visited Lake Matheson, which is known for its exact reflection of the surroundings. But we were not lucky on that day, because it was too cloudy to have this effect. Thus we were content with a partial circumnavigation of the lake.
After two days in Mount Cook National Park it was time to leave. We drove along the west coast to Greymouth. On the way we visited Ross, which offered old gold digger ruins from the gold rush around 1900 for inspection. After the check-in at the hotel we drove on to the Pancake-Rocks about 50km away, which got their name because of their structure. As already the Boulders at the east coast these have originated over millions of years from deposits and erosion. A quite interesting destination, which I can definitely recommend.
After some more or less exhausting days, depending on who you ask, it was time for some relaxing and as luck would have it, we passed Hammer Springs. A well-known health resort, which offers a fantastic thermal bath. We seized the opportunity and checked into a motel, and found ourselves in the same thermal bath again. The pools there had a temperature range of 25° to 45° Celsius and with an outside temperature of a little below 20° Celsius one can imagine that one did not want to leave them for a while.
The tenth day of our trip led us over hilly roads to Kaikoura on the east coast where we took a tour out to sea to observe whales in their natural habitat. In the concrete case it was about sperm whales, which we could always observe for a few minutes while emerging and taking a breath, before they glided down again into the depth for feeding. To admire the majestic animals, which were as big as our ship, was worth the boat trip alone. However, we also saw a school of black dolphins that swam back and forth between the ships and often rather jumped.
After this absolutely recommendable whale sighting tour we went on to Blenheim at the north coast. On the way we stopped at a vantage point where we could see the breeding place of fur seals from above. Interestingly, directly at the highway, but the animals seemed to have got used to it.
In Blenheim we visited the following day the local airplane museum, which specialized in the First World War and had some really impressive pieces to show. Among others, film directors like Peter Jackson borrowed airplanes for their films here.
After this one and a half hour story we went on to Picton where we looked at the harbour and unpacked our hiking boots to climb a view point on the peninsula. Here some nice photos came out, which you can see all in the attached Flickr-Stream. At the time of writing this article they were uploaded until 27.12 and more will follow little by little. In addition, the quality is not perfect here and there, as I took pictures with my smartphone camera.