Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Visit to the Land of the Kiwis

We were able to visit New Zealand (NZ) in February 2006 during school break at the University of Queensland. We had saved enough funds from  my wife's full time job at the Queensland University of Technology and my summer job at an electronic assembly company to have this vacation. We got a promo fare from the Virgin Blue/Polynesian Blue for our Brisbane-Auckland-Brisbane flight.

To get our NZ visa, all we had to do was send by mail a self-addressed stamped envelope, our passports, bank statement, flight itinerary and the application form to the NZ Consular Office in Sydney and waited for a week to get our approved visa.

We booked a cab the night before our departure to pick us up at our apartment in St. Lucia. The trip to the Brisbane International Airport was quite lively, with the cab driver doing most of the talking. He narrated that he originally was from England and that he arrived in Brisbane almost penniless and how he began as a baker until he met his wife and got different jobs. Now retired, he drives the cab part-time for the extra income.

After checking-in at the airport, we waited at the lounge's floor for lack of available seats.

The flight took more than 3 hours with Auckland's time zone 2 hours earlier than Brisbane. After passing immigration and customs, we got our baggage and proceeded to the waiting vans. We took a van going to Takapuna, where our host lives, passing by Auckland.

We were met by our host, Peen and her son, upon getting to their place. They had a 2 bedroom apartment and were gracious enough to share one of the rooms to us.

We had dinner at Nando's, a peri-peri chicken house which is also available in Australia.

On our second day in NZ, we went to a flea market to buy some souvenirs and fresh produce. We also went to a nearby Visitors Information Center (VIC) to book our bus seats bound for Wellington. After the VIC, we decided to go to Auckland to have a quick look at the city.

We left Auckland that night and arrived Wellington the following morning. Although it was still summer, the weather in Wellington feels like spring or winter compared to Brisbane. We got a taxi and asked that we be taken to a friend's house and we gave him the address. Apparently, the driver doesn't know the place that he had to check out his map. We finally called our friend and got directions.

We had breakfast at their place and after putting our baggage, we tagged along with them to the bus station to take the bus going to the Wellington CBD so that we can explore the place by ourselves the whole day. We agreed to have dinner that night after office.

We had dinner at an Asian Restaurant where we also got to meet a former officemate who apparently had migrated to NZ already. I don't remember what we ate but I am sure it was good, ha ha ha

After that, we went up to Mt. Victoria Lookout where we had a commanding view of the entire Wellington. It is best to go there at night although public buses only go there during the daytime.

The following day, we took our luggage to the CBD and put it in a paid locker while we look around more of the city before our bus trip to Rotorua that night.

We had lunch at the Fisherman's Table along Oriental Bay. It was amusing to watch employees jogging along the road during their lunch break. Still using the free bus service around Wellington CBD, we roamed the various tourist spots around the city including the Parliament Building where we met a Filipino working there.

We finally boarded our bus that night bound for Rotorua.

We arrived Rotorua a little after midnight and were dropped of infront of the Rotorua VIC. Fortunately, there was a cab waiting for passengers. Since we didn't have any reservations for a hotel, we asked the driver if he can take us to an inexpensive inn for the night. Most of them are already closed or the ones that are open are just way beyond our budget. Fortunately, we found an inn where the owner lived in the premises and we were given a room. It was just some walking distance to the VIC where tours bound for the tourist destinations pick up passengers.

After a few hours sleep, we walked our way to the VIC to book for our tours. Wai-o-tapu Hot Spring in the morning and in the afternoon we booked a tour to Skyline for a cable car trip and luge rides.

Nothing much to see really at Wai-o-tapu but a lot of hot air,  he he he. We got to see a geyser which was artificially set by putting some chemical for it to act up.

The Skyline Resort got us up and it was our first time to ride a gondola and ride the luge, which is a gravity driven cart and claimed to be the first in the world.

We had dinner at a local Pizza Hut restaurant near the hotel and went to bed ready for our trip back to Auckland the following morning. 

The innkeeper was kind enough to drive us to the VIC to take our bus there. Upon arrival in Auckland, we didn't waste anytime. We placed our luggage in a paid locket at the bus station and  proceeded to the Skytower, where we were to catch a free shuttle going to to Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World. After K Tarlton, we got our luggage at the bus station's locker and went back to Takapuna.

The following day, we took a ferry going to Auckland. to meet up with a former officemate of mine who works at the Sky Tower. She treated us to lunch at a restaurant there where we treated to a buffet lunch. She had to excuse herself after lunch as she has to go to work.

We went to check out the Sky Tower viewing deck where we met a Filipino ticket seller. Although we paid only for entrance to the Main Observation Level, he gave us a complimentary pass to the Sky Deck.

The following day, Peen took us to a beach in Takapuna and also went up Mt. Victoria. Being a coastal town, we also went to a marina where we saw a penguin swimming all alone apparently lost. We called up the shuttle service to pick us up the following morning for our return trip to Brisbane.

We woke up early the following morning and waited for our shuttle. When it arrived, we bade goodbye to our host and thanked her for her hospitality and promised to keep in touch. A week of vacation ended as soon at it had began. So long New Zealand.

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