Thursday, April 14, 2016

New Zealand (North & South Islands) Autumn 2016

The beautiful Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown

" Love is the food of  LIFE. Travel is the Dessert. Little by little, one travels far "

" Never give up on a DREAM just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The TIME will pass away "

" Your LIFE will change when you put more energy in your DREAMS than in your FEARS "

" My 22 days Round the North & South Islands of New Zealand from 24/3 - 22/4/2016 - My first KIWI travelling experience by bus covering 3,907km "

Travel Itinerary: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia > Gold Coast (transit) > Auckland > Rotorua > Wellington > Picton > Kaikoura > Christchurch > Queenstown > Franz Josef Glacier > Nelson > Picton > Wellington > Auckland > Gold Coast (transit) > Kuala Lumpur

Total expenses incurred (22 days): NZ$1,201 + Rm1,797 = Rm5,183 = US$1,254

Air Asia Low Fare Ticket : Rm1,775
Hostel (19 nights) : NZ$573 (dorms)
Bus (Naked Bus & InterCity) : NZ$164 (9 bus trips)
Ferry (Interislander) : NZ$109 (2 ferry crossings)
Milford Sound Day Tour : NZ$109
NZ Airport Sky Bus : NZ$16 x 2
Entrance Fee (War Memorial Museum) : NZ$25
Franz Josef Shuttle Bus : NZ$12.50 (return)
Arrow Town Shuttle Bus : NZ$15 x 2 (return)
Wellington Cable Car : NZ$7.50 (return)
Sundries : NZ$12
Food & Groceries : NZ$157 (mainly own prepared meals)
KL airport Shuttle Bus : Rm11 x 2
Exchange Rates : NZ$1=Rm2.82; US$1=Rm4.13 (Ringgit)

1) Hostels (19 nights) total = NZ$573 (dorms)

- The Attic Backpackers, Auckland (5 nights) : NZ$29x2 + NZ$34x3
- Rotorua Central Backpackers (2 nights) : NZ$26x2
- The Dwellington, Wellington (3 nights) : NZ$29x3
- Dolphin Lodge Backpackers, Kaikoura (1 night) : NZ$29
- YMCA Christchurch (2 nights) : NZ$37x2
- Absoloot Value Accommodations, Queenstown (3 nights) : NZ$30x3
- YHA Franz Josef (2 nights) : NZ$27x2
- Tasman Bay Backpackers, Nelson (1 night) : NZ$27

2) Bus (Naked Bus & Intercity) total : NZ$164 (9 bus trips)

- Auckland>Rotorua (08.00>11.40) : NZ$19 (Naked Bus)
- Rotorua>Wellington (11.45>17.50) : NZ$19.96 (Naked Bus)
- Picton>Kaikoura (13.15>15.25) : NZ$8.99 (Naked Bus)
- Kaikoura>Christchurch (12.35>15.25) : NZ$18.99 (InterCity)
- Christchurch>Queenstown (08.30>16.30) : NZ$58.99 (InterCity)
- Queenstown>Franz Josef (08.00>14.15) : NZ$3.99 (InterCity)
- Franz Josef>Nelson (09.15>19.30) : NZ$4.99 (InterCity)
- Nelson>Picton (08.15>10.40) : NZ$4.99 (InterCity)
- Wellington>Auckland (07.45>19.30) : NZ32.99 (InterCity)

3) Ferry (Interislander) total : NZ$109 (2 ferry trips)

- Wellington>Picton (09.00>12.30) : NZ$49.99 (Naked Bus)
- Picton>Wellington (14.15>17.45) : NZ$58.99 (InterCity)

New Zealand was in my radar of travel for quite sometime when Air Asia made her first maiden flight to Christchurch in April 2011. But after a year's operation, Air Asia withdrew her flights to New Zealand and focused on new routes to Australia & other Asian destinations. So I put on hold my travel plan to New Zealand for awhile. 

Though I had been to Australia several times since the mid 80's mainly on official visits, the thought of visiting New Zealand did not cross my mind. 

So this New Zealand visit was long overdue and when Air Asia re-launched her flights to Auckland in March 2016, I bought a low fare return ticket (Rm1,775=US$430) and landed myself in Auckland on Friday 25th March - it was Autumn and the weather was cool throughout the day & night ranging from 18c-24c. 

After preparing a 22 day travel plan, I used Hostelworld website to book my hostel accommodations (a total of 9 hostel bookings). As I travelled solo, I used the websites of Naked Bus & InterCity to do online purchase of bus tickets including 2 Interislander ferry tickets covering places both in North & South islands. The ferry crossings from Wellington to Picton & vice versa via Cook Strait were the most scenic part of my round the island trip in New Zealand. 

For bus ticket bookings and as an "early bird - 6-7 weeks in advance", I managed to purchase on-line four NZ$1 bus tickets (Picton to Kaikoura-156km, Queenstown to Franz Josef -353km, Franz Josef to Nelson-462km & Nelson to Picton-133km) and after adding the booking, travel protection & bag fee (for Naked Bus), the total cost per ticket per trip for these 4 routes was around NZ$4 -NZ$9. A great saving in my public transport bill ! 

New Zealand currently has 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites :

- New Zealand Sub-Antarctic islands
- Te Wahipounamu, South West New Zeland
- Tongariro National Park

As Mirror Lakes & the Eglington Valley are in Te Wahipounamu, South West of New Zealand, I had the opportunity to visit these world heritage sites under the Milford Sound day tour package (NZ$109) which I booked through my hostel in Queenstown. 

As for the Tongariro National Park in North Island and in my return bus trip from Wellington to Auckland, the bus passed through a part of the Tongariro Park & the town of Turangi for a stopover .... just a glimpse & a feel of the environment surrounding this region ! 

In Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, I had the opportunity to visit the Parliament Building for an one hour escorted tour opened daily to the public at a designated time. Highly educational and impressive indeed after seeing the interiors and hearing the commentaries about the current NZ parliamentary system .....

During the 22 days in New Zealand, I spent a total of 10 nights in North Island (Auckland, Rotorua & Wellington) & 9 nights in South Island (Kaikoura, Christchurch, Queenstown, Franz Josef & Nelson). All the hostels I booked were conveniently located and within walking distance near the main roads, train & bus terminals. In between the various bus trips, ferry crossings & overnight stays, I had the opportunity to see the vast green NZ country sides, country towns, city centers, morning markets, botanical gardens, charming lakes, South Pacific coastlines & Cook Strait, national parks & glaciers served by bus & ferry services provided by Naked Bus, InterCity & Interislanders. The buses passed through the following country towns & lakes in North & South islands: 

Country towns, North Island:
1) Pukekohe
2) Halmilton
3) Cambridge
4) Taupo
5) Turangi
Country towns, South Island:
1) Blenheim
2) Geraldine
3) Omarama
4) Cromwell
5) Wanaka
6) Haast Village
7) Hokitika
8) Greymouth
9) Punakaiki
10) Westport
11) Murchison
12) Havelock

1) Taupo
2) Tekapo
3) Wanaka
4) Te Anau

5) Wakatipu

National Parks
1) Tongriro
2) Paparoa

3) Fiordland

Morning & Weekend Markets
1) Auckland
2) Rotorua
3) Nelson

1) Fox
2) Franz Josef

Ocean & Straits
1) Cook Strait ferry crossings
2) South Pacific Ocean coastline

If you are staying for a longer period, you could opt for a number of grumpy day tour programs in Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington, Christchurch & Queensland. The popular ones are Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, Hobbiton Movie set tour, Maori performance, Agrodome farm show, Waitomo Caves, Milford Sound cruise etc. 

As this was my first visit to New Zealand and based on the 22 days of travelling by bus round the North & South Island, I could say that I had seen quite a fair bit of NZ but I hope to visit Mt Cook & Dunedin if I ever make another trip to NZ in the near future ! Maybe I could consider taking the Stray bus package to visit places off the beaten tracks ..... another wild dream in the making ! 

Travel Highlights: 

1) Auckland, North Island

2) Rotorua, North Island

3) Lake Taupo, North Island

4) Wellington, North Island

5) Ferry Crossing (Interislander) from Wellington > Picton > Wellington (return)

6) Picton, South Island

7) Kaikoura, South Island (Whale Watch)

8) Christchurch, South Island

9) Lake Tekapo, South Island

10) Queenstown, South Island

Lake Wakatipu, Queensland

11) Arrow Town, South Island

12) Milford Sound

13) Lake Wanaka, South Island

14) Franz Josef Glacier, South Island

15) Punakaiki / Paparoa National Park, South Island

16) Nelson, South Island

A feeling good & curiosity factor in me on this KIWI trip - The start of my Air Asia flight departing KLIA2, Kuala Lumpur 21.40 > Gold Coast (transit)

Remain curious & keep learning
Travel Purple. Purple is Awesome !
KLIA2 - Air Asia flight terminal

Transit in Gold Coast, Australia departing 09.05 to Auckland, New Zealand

It took me Xtra Long time to think of visiting NZ ! Finally I landed .
My last visit to Gold Coast, Australia was in the mid 80's

Arriving in Auckland International Airport 15.30

Airport Shuttle Bus (Sky Bus) services from Auckland airport to Queen Street, City Centre (NZ$16 one way, return NZ$28)

Auckland, North Island - New Zealand 2016

Total Costs Incurred (6 days) : NZ284.15
Hostel (5 nights): NZ$160 (dorms)
Entrance fee: NZ$25 (War Memorial Museum)
Bus: NZ$19 Auckland > Rotorua (Naked Bus)
Airport Sky Bus : NZ16 x 2
Food: NZ$48.15

Auckland is the largest city in NZ with a population of 1.5 million. Malaysia low cost airliner, Air Asia now flies from Kuala Lumpur to Auckland (via a transit in Gold Coast). I spent a total of 5 nights in Auckland (2 on arrival & 3 nights prior to departure for home). Auckland has many attractions & island visits for tourists to spend their time in exploring the city & the offshore places. 

Using the local public transport, I was able to visit Mt Eden & Mission Bay. Auckland harbor front, Queen's Wharf, Princes Wharf, Viaduct Basin & Wynyard Quarter are all within walking distance from the iconic Ferry Building & the nearby Queen Street shopping area. As the timing of my arrival coincided with a Saturday weekend, I was able to join the locals enjoying a pop music performance & a Saturday morning market at the Viaduct Basin area. Also my visit to the Auckland fish market was an interesting one ! From the city center, I took a slow walk to the Auckland Domain & War Memorial Museum and spent sometime inside the museum to appreciate the various exhibits on display. 

For two consecutive nights, I took an evening stroll to the Sky Tower, the Auckland harbor & waterfront areas passing the Queen street to get a feel of the surrounding environment and to admire the night scenery & also to enjoy the sea breeze and the fresh cool weather at this time of the year. 

I had a great start for my first two nights in Auckland and upon my return from the South Island, I spent another three more nights in Auckland - this time was more relaxed and stress free after roaming the North & South islands for three weeks ........ another mission accomplished ! 

1) Auckland > Rotorua (Bus)

My 1st Bus ride - Mana Bus (Naked Bus consortium) departing Quay Street, opposite the Ferry Building, Auckland to Rotorua Information Centre, Fenton St, Rotorua (08.00>11.40) - 228km

The bus made a brief stop to pick up & drop off passengers in Hamilton.

You could also consider taking a tourist train - Northern Explorer from Auckland to Wellingtion passing Hamilton, National Park , Palmerston before arriving Wellington.

A double decker bus - Auckland > Rotorua

Sky Tower, Auckland

Sky City, Auckland

Auckland Town Hall

Aotea Centre, Auckland

Aotea Square, Auckland

Downtown & Ferry Terminal, Auckland

Britomart Transport Centre, Auckland - the main downtown public transport centre in a historic Edwardian building; I took a town bus from here to Mt Eden & Mission Bay.

Ferry Building, Auckland - an important landmark

Auckland Civic Theatre - an internationally heritage theatre built in 1929 & renovated in 2000

Queens Wharf, Auckland

Auckland by Night

Princes Wharf, Auckland

New Zealand Maritime Museum, Auckland

Queen Street, Auckland - the premier shopping area

Upper Queen Street, Auckland

The Strand Arcade, Auckland

Auckland Art Gallery

St Patrick's Cathedral, Auckland

The University of Auckland Clock Tower (1926)

Albert Park, Auckland

Harbor Bridge - connecting Central Auckland & the North shore

Viadut Basin - a marina & residential development in downtown Auckland, the venue for the America's cup regattas in 2000 & 2003

Family Day & Weekend Market (Saturday) at Viaduct Basin, Auckland

Auckland War Memorial Museum (admission fee NZ$25)

Auckland Domain

Wynyard Quarter, Auckland

Auckland Fish Market

Mt Eden, Auckland - take a bus from Britomart Transport Centre > Mt Eden (NZ$2.50 x 2)

Mission Bay, Auckland - took a bus ride from Britomart Transport Centre > Mission Bay (NZ$4.50 x 2)

The Attic Backpackers, Wellesley Street, Auckland