Join Kathy for a quick look back at her latest tour - NEW ZEALAND GARDENZ TOUR - Monday October 20th to Saturday November 1st 2014
A small tour group of seven landed in Auckland to be graciously met by our driver, guide and new best friend Brian. After collecting us at the airport Brian took us through to our Hotel, The Rendezvous in Auckland. NZ is 3 hours ahead of us so our 8pm meal felt like 5pm and 10pm bed was more like 7pm, but the 7am breakfast slowed us all down (4am) Although we all love our gardens and flowers none of us are really good at botanical names. Jacki, the Brazillian head gardener at Ayrlies Country Garden, knew them all – I’m not sure we shall remember them though. Being spring the rhododendrons are in full fantastic bloom all through the country, and we all took many photos, Rod topping the list with nearly 3000 pictures. Much to Doreen’s disgust we visited the famous Southward Car Museum in Wellington – Rod took a picture of every car and Doreen was able to visit an art gallery held in the museum. (We told her it was put on especially for her!!)
Wellington, the windy city, you are either going up or down. Just to prove that point - we entered our hotel lobby from street level to check in, we then discovered we were in the 11th floor!! The ground floor level was the entry off the back street!! Across the Cook Strait to the South Island and on to Ohura Fur Seal Colony, where we saw many lazy fur seals basking in the very weak sunlight. All the beaches here are grey/black pebbles and sand, and most rivers are very wide and flat. The scenery is magical with snow topped mountains above majestic green valleys and forests. As we drove past the beautiful blue Lake Pukaki we saw Mount Cook, (Aoraki, Cloud Piercer) in the distance, almost always partially hidden in the clouds, and today was no exception. The water is an unbelievable blue, this is caused by the glaciers grinding the rock to a powder, many millions of years ago. This is known as Glacial Bloom or Rock flour. (A little something we learnt!!) Next stop is Queenstown, The Adrenalin Capital of the World, - bungee jumping, white water rafting and much more. We found our insurance didn’t cover these pursuits, so we couldn’t partake. (That’s our story and we’re sticking to it!!)
On to Milford Sound and it is as beautiful as everyone says, we even had a little snow while we were there, just a dusting. Maple Glen Gardens, over 25 acres, and growing!, of plants and trees. Planted as a private garden transforming the original Dairy Farm into one of the best gardens I have ever seen. This is absolutely a MUST SEE. Dunedin (Edinburgh of the South) is a beautiful city, we had morning tea in the sunshine in the centre of town, we then headed north back towards Christchurch. As we approached the little town of Hampden, about 15mins later, we had 2 inches of snow fall. Everyone was in raptures as they had not seen ‘real live’ snow before. And No... we didn’t stop for a snowball fight – it was too cold.
Christchurch is a lovely city but the devastation from the earthquakes is evident in the middle of the city. It is really just a mess of empty spaces where buildings have been removed and piles of rumble still waiting to clear. They are slowly getting things rebuilt. It was a sad way to end this wonderful Tour.