New Zealand, the most beautiful end of the world
On an immaculate day in paradise we pick up
the hired motorcycles in Christchurch, the Garden
City. Six women from all over the world cruise
out of town along the windy Peninsula road.
The sea sparkles in vibrant colours on the left
and the rim of an extinct vulcanoe creates the
skyline on our right. I smile in anticipation.
I like the first day on tour: to see on the
faces of the others how this little country
at the end of the world with its fairy-tale
like scenery just blows them away. We always
take it easy on this first day.
In Akaroa, the little township on the peninsula,
we watch the water bubbling with dozens of dolphins
jumping out of the water and diving under again.
They are just one arm length away from us and
we can see them eye to eye in the clear water.
The next day we reach the Southern Alps, New
Zealandıs 'backbone'. The vivid turquoise of
the glacier lakes, due to the natural levels
of phosphate in the water, look surreal amidst
the surrounding tussock land and snow covered
mountains. This evening we experience a spectacular
sunset in the colours purple, pink and orange
before we fall into a dreamless sleep.
An early start the next morning reassures us
that we will reach the old University town of
Dunedin for our date with penguins, sealions,
seals, albatrosses and other rare New Zealand
wildlife on the Otago peninsula. Lurking in
the dusk we hold our breath waiting for the
first penguin to appear. A wave travels ashore
and like Phoenix a little penguin materialises,
stands up and walks towards us over the sand.
Petra pinches my arm to make sure she is not
After a coffee-stop in one of the many nice
Cafes of Dunedin we are off to world renown
Milford Sound. Milford Sound is a world heritage
area like the Grand Canyon and other places
of internationally acknowledged significance.
It stands apart as a region of distinct character
formed by glaciers over the last 2 million years.
The road to Milford through dense native bush
and rugged mountains with many spectacular twists
and views, is one of the best rides Downunder.
Next day we take a steamboat over to 'thrill
zone' Queenstown. The TSS Earnslaw,, 90-year
old Lady of the Lake is a breathtaking picture,
is one of the last steamboats of her age in
service. When we reach Queenstown on the other
side of the lake we are overwhelmed by the stunning
view of 'The Remarkables' the steep, rugged
backdrop looming above the mirror-like surface
of the lake. Life in Queenstown is all 'go'
with choices of a thrilling offroad tour with
two and four wheelers, the "worldıs most thrilling
jet boat ride" , or the challenge of a spectacular
From Queenstown we go on to the magnificent
West Coast. This area holds world records in
rain fall and is often affectionately referred
to as the 'Wet Coast'! We are more than lucky
to catch one of the rare sunny days here. We
now experience the Southern Alps from the other
side. Two glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox glacier,
ooze down towards sea level and can be seen
not far from the main road. They are the fastest
moving glaciers in the world. We learn about
the culturally treasured pounamu or jade that
is only found in certain rivers of the West
Coast and then we reach the Pancake Rocks of
Punakaiki, one of the seven wonders Downunder.
With every high tide the water level dramatically
rises several metres. The next day we ride through
the Buller Gorge, New Zealandıs ³little Grand
Canyon², on our way to the exotic Abel Tasman
The beauty of this park is best seen by quietly
paddling our hired sea kayaks off golden beaches,
through warm clear blue-green water in absolute
tranquility. Our two days at the lodge are just
too short but everybody is happy to be back
on the pegs as we head through the picturesque
Marlborough Sounds towards the ferry harbour
to the North Island. The ride called "Queen
Charlotte Drive" offers one twist after another
and awesome views over tranquil bays and is
a good way to say 'good-bye' to the South Island.
Sunbathing on the deck of the ferry, the others
laugh at me when I point at dolphins playing
in the water. Soon everybody on the vessel is
on their feet watching them whirling around
Wellington is only a short stop-over where
Francesca welcomes us in her unique art-deco
women's guesthouse. From there we ride north
along terrific coastline and then inland towards
the high plateau of the vulcanoes. Tonight we
are invited to stay on a marae, the traditional
meeting house of the Maori community. Maori
are New Zealand's first settlers, arriving from
Polynesia over one thousand years ago. They
represent the rich culture of the South Pacific
in New Zealand. We are greeted by warm dark-brown
eyes and as we walk onto the marae, another
woman performs the karanga, the welcoming song.
It's so beautiful it makes the hairs on my neck
stand up. Inside a koumatua, or elder, tells
us the story of their whakapapa, their families,
their area and their ancestors with pride and
dignity and in Maori, of course. Then they
sing their song of heaven and earth and everything
Now comes our moment. They donıt know we have
practiced this, our hosts listen benevolently.
We have proven that we are not completely ignorant
and as soon as the official part is over we
are made very welcome. The night remains special
just as it began with a hangi, a meal cooked
in an earth oven and traditional songs. The
next morning it is hard to say good-bye to our
newly found friends. They made us welcome and
we feel as if we have spiritually arrived at
this place they call Aotearoa The Land of
the Long White Cloud.
Off to the thermally active area of Rotorua
for more adventures, boiling mud and geysers,
and then on to Mt. Maunganui for some relaxation,
lovely sea views and inviting beach promenade.
We enjoy a warm spell as we ride north of Auckland
to the beautiful Bay of Islands, where the European
settlement of New Zealand began with the landing
of James Cook in 1769. All too soon we reach
Auckland and with it the end of our tour. For
22 days we have shared the highlights of New
Zealand and all the emotions that are part of
this experience. The riders have become Towanda
Women family and as they leave they take a piece
of us TOWANDA Women and Aotearoa with them.
This story was kindly provided by www.womentravel.co.nz
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