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Travel Story by Tyron Woolfe

  A Kiwi Experience
New Zealand
 


Tyron at Franz Josef glacier

Auckland

Auckland is the main city of New Zealand and also has the highest population (1.5 million out of 4 million NZ inhabitants live here). It has a wonderful port with many ferries going to different islands. Some of these are day-trips; others take longer. There is a lot of information available for travellers, and you are made welcome.

It is a good idea to try and remember that Auckland is a lot bigger than just the city centre itself. The best places to visit are spread out over several islands and wonderful beaches. One example is Davenport, a beautiful city, which overlooks the sea. One can easily drive there although there are plenty of ferries going to and fro.

Auckland has one of the friendliest populations I have come across on my travels, where people are very keen to welcome you. There is an abundance of independent coffee shops and Starbucks is nowhere to be seen! Loads of people walk barefoot; it is a wonderful feeling of looseness.

For Deaf travellers, a warm welcome is guaranteed at Auckland Deaf Club where many people gather. It is like the UK deaf clubs in the old days, but management is intertwined with both young and old Deaf people taking the reins. It is also useful to visit Kelston Deaf School, which is more of a resource base for mainstream schools although it has about 90 children who reside there. I enjoyed my tour there especially the Deaf History room – where the room has not been touched for years, with dormitory beds and old school equipment. The archives are truly admirable.

There are a wide variety of tourist attractions that you can visit. You will need a car to visit these places but the general public are very welcoming and are often willing to give you a lift. A friend showed me around in his car, which I enjoyed. Auckland has many volcanic mountains (about 40) to explore, with cafés where there are panoramic views of the city and also of the forests that New Zealand is famous for.

There are many wonderful bush-walks where you can see nature at its best. These are often found next to well-maintained nature/environment information centres and you are left with the impression that that this is a country that really values its flora. When you get off the plane at Auckland and find yourself in mile-long queues to check you for any biological hazards (including hiking boots) you definitely realise it!

I had a humorous experience walking up and down on Parliament Street for 10 minutes wondering just where Parliament was. Parliament moved to Wellington years ago! All one can see nowadays is a couple of trees.

The area next to the sea with several marinas and wharfs is the best part of Auckland to explore. Just order yourself some mussels fresh with orange tangy mayonnaise and sit back and relax.

Rotorua

Anyone would not be blamed for wondering if Rotorua got its name from ‘rotten eggs’ as there is a foul stench here. The name comes from Maori culture and not rotten eggs! The smell comes from volcanic activity with geothermal pools everywhere. Some places are good to bathe in and cover yourself in mud, which has natural healing properties.

I was in Rotorua for 4 days for the Australian and New Zealand Educators of the Deaf conference as one of the keynote speakers.

Just like other cities in NZ there are plenty of things to see and do here such as paragliding, jet boating, parachute jumps, etc. But more special to Rotorua, the heartland of NZ’s Maori culture is its Maori culture centre. You can easily spend three hours in this place, there are many geothermal mud pools – it is wonderful stuff, just looking at bubbling mud and so much natural activity. There are Maori culture performances on the hour where you experience the powhiri (traditional Maori welcome) and gain an interesting insight to Maori culture.

Rotorua’s main city centre has plenty of wonderful places where you can eat; you really are spoilt for choice. There are quite a few bars to hang out; some are open-air bars, which is great on humid nights.

A side trip could be made to the Buried Village if you have the time – this is a village that was buried in 1886 in a volcanic eruption. There are buildings and ornaments from that era, which were ‘discovered’ under the volcanic ashes.

Wellington

Wellington is the capital of New Zealand. More famous for its Parliament, Wellington is also the hub for the constant travel between both islands (North and South).

People tend to follow a pattern of going up to the Botanical Gardens by gondola, walking through the gardens back to the city centre, visiting the famous Maori Museum, then lunch at the wharf followed by some shopping.

It is very windy in Wellington because of its geographical location, hence its nickname ‘The Windy City’.

Parliament and the train station are opposite each other, and in a country with such a small population there is not much security. Anyone can bump into their local MP in the shops, or even pop in to see the Prime Minister! The Parliament building is a magnificent beehive shaped building, which makes for a good photo.

Franz St Josef

You are guaranteed a wonderful experience here; it is one of only 4 places in the world where a glacier exists next to the rainforest. The adventure centres will supply you with all the clothes/equipment that you will need including boots. You can get a helicopter up to the top but it is pretty expensive and you may prefer to do the all day (or half day) hike.

Franz St Josef is a glacier in the mountains and I had an amazing time here. The all day hike is rated as being suitable for fit people, and involves hiking up the glacier, walking on ice and climbing all the way to the top via various crevices. You do not have to be very fit to do the all day hike but if in doubt ask the instructors at the adventure centre for their advice. The ice/snow on the top of the mountain is like a huge frozen wave with different ice formations. There are ice crevices that you can ‘slip’ through and tunnels to crawl into – these are bright blue from the sky’s reflection. Our guide cut steps in the ice (ice steps) with his ice pick. The scenery on the glacier reminds you of the opening scenes in ‘Superman’ where everything was so white.

It is worth visiting Lake Matheson on your way to or from Queenstown. There is an amazing view of the mountains with their reflection in the lake looking just like a mirror image. Some people go there really early in the morning and have breakfast as the sun rises.

Queenstown

Queenstown is full of activities and many of these are quite pricey. It is a good idea to shop around the various adventure shops and try and go for a package deal.

I enjoyed the water activities where we had a thrilling ride on a mega speedboat, and then kayaked down a mountain river for four hours – a brilliant experience. The instructors are very friendly and their deaf awareness is excellent.

It is very easy to be tempted into doing one of the various bungee jumps that Queenstown is famous for. But I opted for a canyon swing instead. More information about this activity can be found at www.canyonswing.co.nz. Although less scary than the bungee jumps, it still takes a lot of courage to do this! One can do a jump while sitting in a chair where you have to rock the chair backwards into a 60-foot drop and swing across the canyon. It was very scary!

You can take a gondola up the mountain overlooking Queenstown. At the top you can enjoy several aspects of Maori culture as well as the view of the town itself.

The Ice Bar is a bar where everything is made of ice including the seats, shelves and glasses. You can have a vodka cocktail and take some photos. Although it is freezing cold a duffel coat is provided along with gloves and warm woollen shoes.

Christchurch and Akaroa

Christchurch is a lovely city in the South Island with plenty to see. Famous for its rugby team (the Canterbury Crusaders) and the tramway, you can easily spend all day sightseeing. Hiring a car will allow you to take a trip out of the city and enjoy the scenic journey on the coast.

The Deaf school, Van Asch (http://www.vanasch.school.nz/about.htm) makes a pleasant visit for a couple of hours and you are promised a warm welcome.

An hour and half away from Christchurch, there is an amazing mouth of water that goes out to the sea at Akaroa. You can hire a canoe at a very reasonable price and paddle for an hour or so. Dolphins come and join you and swim up really close. It is a wonderful feeling and a nice reward for the long row out to sea. Another alternative is to jump on a tourist boat and watch the dolphins through the glass bottom floor.


Click on photo to enlarge


The Beehive, Wellington  Reflections on Lake Matheson  Tyron at the Ice Bar, Queenstown


Date Submitted: 19 Nov 2006


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