New Zealand Travel in 15 Days (North Island)

Here is our tour group. It is composed of six families: the five ladies who became friends through the Yingde Tea Farm, their husbands, and a couple from Beijing.  Except for one person still working full time, the rest are retired or semi-retired.

We selected all the places we wanted to visit in advance, and then hired a travel agent to arrange all the transportation, tour guides, and accommodations.  Most of the time we stayed at motels, and sometimes at B&B hotels.

New Zealand is made up of two main islands. While the North Island is marked by volcanoes and hot springs, the South Island has more glaciers and lakes. People enjoy an easy and slow paced lifestyle there.  The government, with the lowest levels of corruption, is ranked high in environmental protection and social welfare. English, Māori and New Zealand Sign Language are the official languages of New Zealand. 

We began at Auckland in the North Island. Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand, with a population of around 1.5 million. It is the industrial, commercial, business and foreign trade center of the country.  Interestingly, it seemed to cost less to dine out in Auckland than in other parts of the country.

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are now owned by New Zealand natives, the descendants of a Maori Chief centuries ago.  When floating inside the cave, visitors are not allowed to speak out or take photos, in order to protect the delicate environment of the glowworms.

These photos were obtained online.  The young glowworm larvae build a nest with sticky substances, and emit a visible light to attract insects for their feed.  The twinkling glow of hundreds of thousands of glowworms is so astounding that it looks like the stars in the sky.  It’s incredible.

Our favorite place to visit was Te Puia.  About 800 years ago, Polynesian seafarers arrived in NZ on oceanic canoes and developed a distinctive Maori culture.  Their meeting ritual is very unusual.  Visitors are welcomed with an aggressive challenge by a warrior, who then offers a token of peace, such as a fern frond, on the ground.  Acceptance of the token is seen as the courage and dignity of the visitor.  

One hundred years ago, people carried kerosene lamps to visit the cave.

This is the Rotorua Government Gardens Museum.  Due to our limited time, we did not get the chance to go inside. 

In ancient times, Maori warriors performed a war dance known as “Haka” before a battle, proclaiming their strength and intimidating the opposition.  Nowadays, it is a popular dance often performed in public gatherings.  The indigenous Maori music and dances are highly entertaining, the harmony of songs very pleasant to the ear, and the Haka dance very striking to the eye.

The Silver Fern is the symbol of New Zealand.

This is the Silver Fern plant.  Its leaves shine under the moonlight.  Leave a trail of leaves behind you as you travel at night, and you won’t miss your way home.   

Inside Te Puia, there is a strong smell of sulfur everywhere.  The same is true with boiling mud pools, geysers, and hot springs.  The geothermal temperature is so high that the Maori people used to cook their food with it.  The Maori were known for their bravery and cannibalism centuries ago.  In the early 1800’s, the British formally outlawed cannibalism.

Huka Falls is NZ's most visited natural attraction.  The volume of water flowing over the falls is so great that it can fill an Olympic sized swimming pool in 11 seconds.

During the trip we often prepare our own meals, not only to save money, but also to have a better taste for ourselves.

In Napier, we got up at 6 am to watch the sunrise.

This is the place where the sun rises the first in the world.

It rained heavily when we arrived Wellington, the capital of NZ.  We went straight to the Parliament.  The tour included not only the Executive Wing (the Beehive) and several committee rooms, but also the Chamber, where members of Parliament were debating.  This level of transparency and openness was an eye-opening experience for us.

Surrounded by mountains, Wellington is built on the seaside.  From downtown to the seashore is only a few minutes’ walk.

On the next day, we took a cable car up the hill to enjoy the stunning views of Wellington city and harbor.  The Wellington Botanic Garden is also on the top of the hill.  It is a unique landscape of native forest and exotic trees and flowers from all over the world.  There is even a black glass, which we had never seen before.

Te Papa Tongarewa is the national museum and art gallery of NZ.  Admission is free.  Inside the building are six floors of exhibitions on NZ’s history, culture, geology and natural environment.  Very educational and informative.  New Zealand was the last significant landmass on earth to be settled by humans.  This has resulted in a distinctive evolution of indigenous animals and plants.  

Before the arrival of humans, an estimated 80% of the land was covered in forest.  That number is only 23% now.  Just in the past century, much of the forest fell, and land was converted to pastoral and arable farming.  Polynesian and European settlement, and the introduction of new species such as rats and ferrets, led to the extinction of many unique species of flightless birds, including all 9 species of Moa.  They were driven to extinction by the Maori over 200 years ago.  Kiwi birds are also flightless and mostly nocturnal.  Due to their small populations and cultural importance, they are now fully protected and considered as a national treasure.

At the nearby coast we encountered a wild seal. Valuable information! Looking forward to seeing your notes posted. The information you have posted is very useful. Keep going on, good stuff. Thank you for this valuable information. I have enjoyed reading many of the art

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