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Why New Zealand makes a great place to explore

By ajinkya - November 14, 2016

Our traveller, Ajinkya Bhasme explored New Zealand with PickYourTrail. This is his from-the-heart account of how the country awed him. Ask us how he created this fabulous itinerary!

‘Let me today break all these shackles of the lifeless life painted in depressing shades of grey,

Let my heart pound louder while I lift up my anchor, push off the harbor and sail far away.

For the real voyage of discovery originates at the destination of our routine monotony,

Where knowing the unknown and living the un-lived emancipates the dormant agony.’

– Ajinkya Bhasme   

The world, as someone once said, is full of great books, but the best stories are hidden between the pages of your passport. It wasn’t as though I needed a reason to travel, but the urge to explore the beauty of the world was the driving force. And what better place than New Zealand to start off on the stories in my passport.

With life being a rollercoaster of data and research, a holiday was all that was need to break the monotony. It was my mother’s 50th birthday and she, by all means, deserved this holiday. We set our sights on New Zealand but had to overcome many hurdles that came in the way of our holiday. But miracles do happen and the Travel Gods seemed to be smiling on us as we flew off to Auckland to steep in beauty with a 10 day New Zealand itinerary!

Day 1: Auckland, here we come!

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We arrived at Auckland with the pleasant experience of not having lost any of our baggage. Ours was a self-driving holiday and our first stop was to collect our rental car. While everything seemed to go smooth, our car windscreen fogged up and the visibility went to zero. The feeling of being in a new country overwhelmed us at that moment. Our panic, however, didn’t last long, when a kind Kiwi helped us with the car heater and we got going to our hotel. I wondered at that point if my decision to self-drive was a good one. As I would realize later, it was probably the best decision, considering our New Zealand itinerary!

Day 2: Ready to explore Waitomo

First up on our New Zealand itinerary was a fresh breakfast, the delicious kiwis and plums were to become my favourite fruit. Our adventure began as we checked out of the hotel and started on our drive. After an hour of driving, it struck me that New Zealand is best discovered by self-driving. We were on our way to the world famous Waitomo caves, home to an underground river and millions of glow worms. Our guide was a mini encyclopedia on these caves, with a great sense of humour. He got together all the tourists in the group present to sing a birthday song for my mother, probably one of the best birthdays ever! We got to know that the name Waitomo in the Maori language meant ‘water through a hole’. We were left dumbstruck by the beauty of the caves and felt excited at what more the trip held for us. As we ended our day in the Rotorua motel, we knew New Zealand was going to be a trip to remember.

Day 3  Happy Birthday Mom!

My mother’s birthday dawned bright and we looked forward to a lot of adventure. The Te Puia natural geyser was the first on our agenda. Te Puia is where Maori history and culture is kept alive by locals in a 70 hectare breathtakingly beautiful location. The historic Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley is home to natural geysers, mud pools and a lot more natural phenomenon. This is also where the iconic Kiwi bird lives. We took part in a Maori cultural tour, where we were introduced to their traditional manner of wood carving, weaving and bone carving. As a student of dance myself, the Maori cultural performance was an amazing experience.

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Image credit – newzealand

After our cultural experience, we went on an adrenalin rush activity – water rafting! As we went down a 21 feet waterfall, my dad cut his lip. But nothing would prevent them from enjoying themselves, I could hear war cries from my parents as they enjoyed the thrill of the rafting. The waters brought out the dare-devil in me, as I tried out crazy stunts like jumping off a cliff into the water and swimming against the currents.

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Day 4: Swimming with the sharks

Kelly Tarlton’s sea life is ginormous! Never once did I imagine myself swimming with sharks, not after watching the movie ‘Jaws’. And guess what? My parents swam with them too! We swam with sharks and sting-rays for an unbelievable 60 minutes. After our exciting acts of bravado, we were all set to leave to our next adventure in Christchurch.

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Image credit – kellytarltons

Day 5: The best drive in the world to Mount Cook

Christchurch is called the gateway to New Zealand’s South Island, so of course, it featured on our New Zealand itinerary! From here we started our drive to Mount Cook. Bordered by hills and the Pacific Ocean, Christchurch is a pretty picture postcard in itself. The drive to Mt.Cook is said to be one of the best drives in the world. With lush green grassland on either side of the road, grazing sheep, cows and alpacas, it truly was just that. Ahead of us, trees of equal heights and girths sat in a perfectly straight line and snow clad mountains loomed ahead of us in the horizon, we were just awestruck. On the way, we caught sight of huge stretches of Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki. I did expect to see lakes in New Zealand, but I think, I saw paradise on earth that day. The English language lacks the requisite vocabulary to describe what I saw that day at Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki. This was where nature had played perfectly with colours and gradients to create that crystal clear turquoise shade of water!

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As we checked into our beautiful cabin at the Glentanner Park center, we were greeted by the pleasant sight of bunnies all over the landscape. Our day had more in store at night, as we visited the Hermitage village for a perfectly presented dinner. We commenced our journey further in the dark to view the stars. Never had I seen such a clear stretch of the Milky Way and other galaxies with my naked eyes! A sky full of hope and life. I think I am not the same having seen the stars shine on that side of the world!

Day Six: The Snow Clad mountains

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We had booked a helicopter ride that day, that would take us to the top of the snow clad mountains. The snow to my eye was whiter than the whitest I have ever seen. My parents were pumped by the helicopter ride. But the unadulterated beauty at the top of the mountain just drove us crazy! Surely one of the most memorable parts of our New Zealand itinerary. We also happened to see a couple who flew with us and got engaged at the top of the mountain. a very beautiful moment to witness.

Day Seven: Queenstown

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We drove next to Queenstown, another beautiful drive that cannot be expressed in words. Driving in the valley with a turquoise river flowing on one side is a sight of its own. We went straight to our gondola ride where little did we know, that we were going to do something extremely unexpectedly crazy. We did enjoy Ludge rides, but the highlight of the day for everyone present was when my 50 year old mother bungee jumped off a ledge 400m above the ground and I followed her into it! It was so thrilling to have gotten over my vertigo and not plummet to my death!

Day Eight: Milford Sound

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Milford Sound was a 4.5 hours drive from Queenstown, but every second of it was worth it. As we approached the place where the cruise was set to begin, we knew that it was going to be fun. We saw seals, waterfalls and lush green mountains in the Tasman Sea. My only disappointment was that we did not spot a dolphin. Maybe next time!

Day Nine and Ten:

Maybe at the end of a week of travel, it is pretty common that one feels homesick for home food, we had Indian food at the Bolliwood Restaurant. After plenty of shopping, we had to leave to Auckland to catch our flight back home. We flew back to India with stories that we will reminiscence forever.

Looking back, at any point in our vacation, I never felt like I was in a strange land. With all the hospitable and polite people, we felt totally at home. I love the ‘Kiwis’, they are really sweet! Pun intended! PickYourTrail ensured a great trip with the professionalism I’ve never seen before. The hitches we faced at the visa process, were more than made up for during the trip.

I truly think that travelling makes you speechless and yet gives one a thousand stories to tell. Looking forward to more such awesome adventures.

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