Thursday, July 2, 2015

Guest post II: Big pleasures in tiny New Zealand

This is a continuation of my friend Maansi Sharma's narrative of her experience in New Zealand. You can read the first part of her article here

Our next stop after Rotorua was Queenstown, and I didn’t even have to touch ground to know that this destination was going to be my favourite. When you land in Queenstown, you land through a mountain range. And we went in winter, which meant, when we looked out the window, we were met with snow-capped mountains as far as our eyes could see. I just know I am never going to find looking out of a window while landing as thrilling after this.
Queenstown was freezing, to say the least. And all our activities were in open air. First, we got on to the Southern Discoveries ship for a lake cruise. We had the option of indoor seating with hot chocolate. But we couldn’t stay in our seats when there were rolling hills and a bright blue sky to take in from the top deck. We risked getting blown off the side of the ship by strong winds, but it was totally worth it.

The next morning we went jet-boating and at the jetty we were handed a sweater, a rain jacket, a life vest, gloves and a cap. We looked like giant marshmallows and I felt ridiculous but only till the boat started moving and we realised that we were on a high speed jet boat out on an open lake at 8 am in the dead of winter. All the layers we had on were just not enough. On the plus side, having our hands frozen onto the handle bars and the rest of our bodies numb with cold five minutes into the ride helped keep us in place while we took in the beauty of Queenstown one last time before heading to our next destination – Mount Cook.

Mount Cook is the tallest peak in the region and the most magnificent sight there. All the hotels have rooms in such a way that each one of them has a view of it, ensuring you spend every free minute in your room staring out of the window in awe. It was here that I participated in an activity I didn’t even know existed – glacier exploring.

We got on to little boats that had a (very sexy) guide who explained the nature of icebergs to us and showed us quite a few, before taking us to see the largest glacier in the region – The Tasman Glacier. Rapidly receding, the glacier is much smaller now than when it was first formed, and judging by the predictions made about the rate of the ice melting, I am glad I got a chance to see it at least once in my life.
Glacier exploring

Our last stop was Christchurch. My heart went out to that city. Still reeling from the damages caused by earthquakes that hit in 2011, and slow progress in rebuilding due to bureaucratic red tape, the city is powering on in the midst of its debris. In an attempt to bring some colour into the city’s macabre look after the disaster, walls have been covered in beautiful graffiti and a colourful open air mall called Re:Start has been built in the centre of town. There is also a small canal full of ducks that runs through the centre of the city, where punting is just the most serene experience.
A graffiti in Christchurch
The old tram system has been rebuilt and used as for sightseeing in the day and as a moving restaurant at night. The old church has been rebuilt using a temporary facade made entirely of cardboard with a stained glass entrance. Just behind it is a memorial to those who perished in the earthquake – 185 chairs, each a different shape and design to represent each individual lost in the disaster.
Cardboard church in Christchurch

This is an account of just the places I stayed in. While driving from one destination to the other though I got to see and experience so much more. There were quaint towns like Arrowtown that look like they are straight out of a storybook. There is a lakeside church that would make you want to sit and rethink your life completely. There is a memorial built for Collies who are considered great contributors to the New Zealand society. There is a golf course surrounded by hills with a pond in the centre that makes you want to forget all life’s problems and stretch out on the greens…
Christchurch earthquake memorial

New Zealand is the first country I have seen that has made the most of the little it has. The country has no mammals, only birds, but the locals are incredibly careful not to disturb their natural habitat. They show a respect to nature that a lot of us do not despite being blessed with so much more in the way of wildlife. They don’t have land and weather conducive to growing coffee beans, but have perfected the art of coffee to brew a cup that is incomparable. It has bustling cities but has left the surrounding countryside and virgin land untouched. I could go on and on.

I have left my favourite part of New Zealand for the last. What I will miss the most about that country is the sunset. When you drive down the road at dusk and look out left, the sky is orange and yellow. Yet when you look right it is purple and pink. It is indescribably breath-taking, and I sincerely hope everyone gets to experience it at least once in their lives.

A New Zealand sunset

For information on how to get there, click here.


Maansi Sharma
 writes for a travel magazine. Originally from Pune, she has now made Mumbai her home. She loves her gadgets, her food and her books - and in that order! If you wish to know more about New Zealand or any of the vast number of destinations she has visited, she can be reached at

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