Friday, November 9, 2007

New Zealand - By Pauline

I just returned from an amazing trip to New Zealand.

From Wellington we toured through Maori towns - Featherston and Greytown, the oldest planned inland town on our way to Wharekauhau Country Estate – a working sheep ranch. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe this heavenly place. From my window I watched the sheep and lambs at play in deep green paddocks. This stunning view was framed by turquoise ocean waters and snow capped mountains. We had an exciting 4WD farm tour through the paddocks and along the beach –forging through mountain streams in some places. What a thrill to watch the working dogs herd the sheep. The “eye” dogs get the sheep to look at them and lead them along while the “hunter” dogs ( they’re the ones who bark) flank the rear and herd them. It’s like watching ballet in the fields. An excellent dinner was served in their dining room – see photos on their website. It was fun meeting and talking to the other residents at the Lodge. Click on the link to truly appreciate the setting, accommodations and activities.

Next morning a bright red helicopter picked us up on the front lawn to take us to the airport for our flight to Blenheim. For the next few days we were toured around by excellent guides from Backcountry New Zealand . They can cover anything and everything. They really are “tops”. Check out their website.

Hapuku Lodge ( built by the architect owners) blends in with the surroundings. We felt like we were on an adventure in the tree houses. On one side our glass walls overlooked a deer stud farm and on the other end was a sheep and cow pasture. The food was excellent – grown in their own organic garden. Once again we enjoyed a wonderful communal lodge dinner. For more details and views click below.

Next day a blue helicopter carried us up to Shearwater Lodge in the mountains. The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful. A Kea bird joined us on the deck for appetizers. This is truly a hiker’s paradise. The forest is full of birds and interesting vegetation.
Next morning the more active hiked all the way down the mountain. Jacqui and I rode the Piston Bully half way (that was an adventure) then hiked the last half. See my photo of the red tractor. For descriptions of the walks click below.

We had a wonderful drive through the New Zealand countryside to Christchurch .
Otahuna Lodge is a real gem. Sir Heaton Rhodes built it in 1895. It is protected by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. Last year two Americans bought it and restored it. Furniture was designed and hand crafted to fit the rooms. Twenty eight paintings were commissioned. The stunning wallpaper in the dining room is the original wallpaper. The gardens are immaculately manicured. Everything has been finished to perfection.

We dined with other resident guests in their elegant dining room. Each course was introduced by their very entertaining chef. Their charming wine aficionado touched on the history of the wine to follow. It was a dinner to be remembered.

Click below to view this incredible lodge. Also click on the Rhodes suite where I stayed.
The bathrooms are extra large with a Jacuzzi tub, shower, 2 sink vanity with granite counter tops. There is a separate entrance room. Just like home!!!!

We did a site inspection at The George in downtown Christchurch . This is a modern styled hotel which has received several awards for their excellent service. An excellent choice for anyone requesting a downtown hotel.

Next day we flew to Queenstown. Here you can be as active or as laid back as you want.
We were to helicopter over Milford Sound but the weather changed our plans. We were treated to the “wild action” of the area Jet boats over the rapids give a very thrilling ride. Then we (one of us) tested the Canyon Swing – a 220 foot drop into a canyon with rocks and a river below. That was a heart stopper.

We drove to Blanket Bay and passed through Central Otago the heart of the vineyard region. The scenery here is so pristine - breathtakingly beautiful. The lodge goes with the scenery – divinely elegant. A perfect resort for someone who wants quiet solitude – away from all the cares of the world. This is a definite MUST to click on.

We did a site inspection of Eichardts Private Hotel in the center of Queenstown.
This charming historical hotel grew out of the fortunes and misfortunes of the pioneers and is located in the middle of town. Its history is charming.
Click on the guided tour and highlight the list on the right hand side.

In Queenstown we stayed at Azur - a retreat resort perched on a hill with exquisite views of water and mountains. Azur has a comfortable laid back atmosphere. They do not serve dinner but have a mouth watering breakfast and a delightful afternoon tea. The staff looks after your every whim and drive you into town (5 minutes) whenever you want. From the Jacuzzi in your bathroom you can meditate on the view – a calm blue lake with mountains towering over it.

Most of these resorts have been restored or built within the last ten years.
Backcountry New Zealand and Canyon Swing started about 6 years ago.
The filming of “The Lord of the Rings” has escalated tourism in New Zealand.
This is THE up and coming country to visit. Accommodations and activities will more than satisfy any type of traveler – from the most discerning to the backpacker.

There is something for everyone. The scenery is breathtaking – majestic mountains next to crystal clear lakes and blue green oceans. For those extremists who seek wild adventure they have Jet boats, Canyon swinging, Bungy jumps and heli skiing. For the moderate active traveler there are great hiking trails in the mountains, biking, skiing, and swimming with the dolphins. For those who prefer the cultural side, they can explore the Maori people’s arts and crafts and the laid back historical towns.

This country is a haven for wine connoisseurs. Wonderful vineyards are all around.
The cuisine is excellent - from 5 course gourmet meals at deluxe resorts to roadside sandwiches made with freshly baked bread. And shopping is excellent. Their Merino Mink sweaters – so soft and cozy and their fire opals are irresistible.

EXCLUSIVELY NEW ZEALAND is one of those special companies which really make dream vacations come true. They work with the best people, excellent guides, wide range of hotels and resorts and a variety of transportation companies. They can organize anything and everything any client would want.
Nothing is too large or too small.

Ellen Freschauf is their rep on the East Coast.
If you have any questions, call me.

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