Monday, September 11, 2006

Things to do in New Zealand

While in London this weekend, I was caught up in a conversation of all the things we've never done in London, despite living in the South East. There'll probably be a post on this later, but it will be a collaborative effort (I'll take other peoples ideas, put them into a list and take the credit) and so will need a bit of time to organise. However, I've been picking up some New Zealand traffic recently, so here's a slightly patronising list I call:

Tourist Traps in New Zealand that are so interesting, even New Zealanders ought to visit them:

The Sky Tower
Did you know it's the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere? Well, you ought to as I was told this ever-so-many times. But it has a magnificent view, and you can prove how fearless you are by walking on glass floors that are over 200m of empty air. Also, you can spy on people in the sky city hotel pool.

Tongariro Crossing
It's a magnificent walk, even when it looks like this. Coming from a flat and tectonically inactive part of the world, crossing a mountain pass between two volcanoes is a really exciting thing to do. Note that older guidebooks refer to this area as the Tongariro National Park, rather than it's modern name of Mordor. Don't believe me? Tell me that isn't Mount Doom[1]. (The crossing is the low bit between the two peaks, above and to the left of the kiwi sign). Note: This activity has been awarded the Vas seal of approval.

New Plymouth
Admittedly, the reason I pick New Plymouth is because of the Wind Wand. But it's a nice place to visit for other reasons; you can climb Paritutu for a view of the Sugar Loaf Islands; Puke Ariki is an interesting museum; plus, if it happens to be your birthday, you can round up a bunch of people from your hostel and go out to an Irish Bar and dance around to a covers band (there's a story here which I may tell later, when I've made up a few bits to make it more interesting).

Fox Glacier/Lake Matheson
If you can't be bothered to get up at dawn, you can get a professional shot of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman reflected in Lake Matheson for NZ$49. On the other hand, you can just hike down there and shoot off a few pictures of it. Plus - a glacier! (Remember, from flat lowlands in a temperate climate...)

Stewart Island
Go to the South Island. Keep going south, until you run out of land. Then hop on a boat to go a bit further south. Stop! You're there. It's not quite as remote as it sounds (although it does have New Zealand's southernmost pub) but it really is on the edge of wilderness, and is absolutely full of wildlife. I'm not sure exactly why I liked it so much, but, despite good facilities for visitors, it felt as though it would get along happily in just the same way without us. Note: As well as the Vas seal of approval, Stewart Island was given a questionable shake of the head by a man I met in Auckland who invited me to a meeting of the Church of Christ (New Zealand)[2].

[1] I mean, that is Mount Doom, without all the CGI make up it had for the filming.
[2] In the interests of full disclosure I should also point out that he recommended the Sky Tower.
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