On our third day at the Kawarau Bungy Centre, people from our group went, you guessed it… bungy cord jumping. This is the world’ first commercial bungy site here at the Kawaru Bridge in Queenstown. It includes a multi-media bungy dome attraction (description), improved spectator areas. Did I jump off? Well, maybe next time. There were just too many people fighting for the spots.
Following this, we headed down the Haas River via jetboat. The ride was quite calm, nice, and enjoyable.
In the afternoon, we steered to the west coast region of New Zealand and had a site inspection of the Haas World Heritage Hotel . With 54 standard rooms, a bar, buffet and restaurant, it has the feel of a clean, modest motel. Rates go from $89 to $159.
Soon after that, we departed for the Franz Josef Glacier and stayed at the hotel of the same name. It is small, but the staff is very accommodating. I loved the hotel’s warming shower towel racks. (See www.franzjosefglacier.com )
Of course, the next morning on Day Four, we caught a breathtaking helicoper ride to see the beauty of the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. Though it lasted only 20 minutes, it was spectacular excursion.
Next, we hit the town of Hokitika , which houses a conclave of artists. To get a taste of local color, we visited the Hokitika Glass Studio to watch glass blowing and visit the showroom. (See www.hokitika.org ). The same day, we visited the South Bank Art Studio.
CAFES & TRAINS
For lunch, we went to Café de Paris , and believe it or not, the French restaurant served us teriyaki chicken! I must admit, it was quite good. And the French onion soup was SUPERB!
Later that day, we boarded the Greymouth Railway Station on the TranzAlpine journey to Christchurch. Let me fill you in- this train ride is rated among the top seven among train journeys in the world, according to popular travel magazines.
It took us through the rainforest across Canterbury Plains into the Southern Alpine Alps before descending down into the rainforest of the West Coast. Being able to view this scenic landscape was well worth the six-hour ride.
THE GEORGE HOTEL
Once in the city of Christchurch , we lodged at The George Hotel . A few blocks from the center of town, the hotel with access to a spa, gym, and tennis court, is an upscale boutique property with rates beginning at $224.25 nightly. The staff is friendly; the food is excellent at both the Pescatore high-end restaurant, and the 50 on Park casual eatery. (See www.thegeorge.com ).
I loved the cute teddy bear placed on my pillow when housekeeping turned our beds down at night. A charming touch!
On the afternoon of the fifth day, our group went abseiling, or in American terms- rapelling. We had to hike up to one of New Zealand’s highest mountains, and rapel down to about 60 feet, and then hike down the rest of the way. This was one of the most challenging things I have ever done in my life.
When I was ready to rapel, I was so petrified with fear that I wanted to cry, but I was determined to fight it. After the first few yards going sideways, I concentred hard on how to get down. By then I forgot my fears. It took me less than 5 minutes to descend, and, surprisingly, I rapelled down very smoothly. Let me tell you guys… If I can do it, anybody can do it, too!
Our last dinner was at the Palazzo Del Marinaio . The Palazzo is centrally located in Christchurch, close to many hotels. We had the opportunity to share the best experiences of the week with other co-adventurers. The food, by the way, was so good! We had our choice of fish or lamb chops. While I don’t care for lamb usually, I ate all the lamb chops on my plate. It was excellent. At least, I should say, it was not gamey.
Before leaving, we had a few more free hours, so our group went to the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch. This was twice voted the best indoor attraction in New Zealand, a fun and interactive experience which focuses on the present as well as the past. The site focuses on Antartic wildlife, the environment, and day activites on the ice. There was a spell-binding 14-minute sound and light show in the audio-visual theatre making visitors feel as if they have actually been there. The unique "snow and ice" experience means the public can experience snow 365 days a year.
The center features a "Polar Room" with real snow and ice made on site. Experiencing a chilling minus five degrees Celsius is huge fun for all. A fun photo opp is standing on the imitation ice slope along side a Ski-Doo vehicle. Currently priced at $50 per family or $20 for adults and $10 for kids 5-15, this place is definitely a "must-do" before heading home.
Kids will love the unforgettable Hagglund ride, a unique all-terrain, tanklike snowmobile which carries multiple passengers over hills, crevasses, through water around the adventure course.
I loved my trip to New Zealand and feel so fortunate to visit this spectacular place of many sights and wonders.
* Air New Zealand flies out of 3 hubs: San Francisco and Honolulu to the city of Auckland, North Island and from LAX to South Island.
* Wellington is the capital of New Zealand.
* One U.S. dollar is approximately $1.3 dollars in N.Z. currency.
*Director Peter Jackson, a New Zealander, hired 2,000 of his fellow countrymen for the movie Lord of the Rings , and some 15,000 appeared n the movie, many as Orcs.
*Warmest months in New Zealand run from November through April.
www.airnewzealand.com - Info on Air New Zealand for rates and bookings
www.thegeorge.com - The George Hotel information
www.millbrook.co.nz - More on the lovely Millbrook Resort
www.franzjosefglacier.com - Travel and tour information on Franz Josef Glacier
www.hotikita.org – All you need to know about this small artists’ colony on the South Island
www.realjourneys.co.nz - Cruising and other excursions in New Zealand
www.kjet.co.nz - Jetboat tours and more
www.transscenic.co.na - Pricing and scheduling for the TransAlpine train journey
Lin Low works as a travel agent with Chen-Martin Travel in Santa Clara. As a seasoned world adventurer, she has just returned from a safari in Africa and plans to go to the Middle East. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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