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In February/March 2005 I visited New Zealand. From the big metropolis Auckland I travelled north staying in Paihia, a small town in the Bay of Islands. A day trip from Paihia got me to the most northerly tip of New Zealand, Cape Reigna. From there you can only go south.

It smells like rotten eggs, but it is beautifull The fist stop on the way south was Rotorua. You can smell it from far away. Rotorua is also known as Sulphar City and is the thermal and volcanic capital of New Zealand. And I have to say, you do get used to smelling rotting eggs. Here I went rafting for the first time on the Rangitaiki, a grade 3/4 (out of 6) river. That was great fun. Naturally a stop at Waiotapu and the Lady Knox geyser were also on the agenda.

Next up was Tongariro National Park, best known for its three volcanoes, Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. A great place for walking, unfortunately the famed Tongariro Crossing was not possible due to bad weather. But a few smaller tracks got me through the day.

The final destination before leaving the Northern Island was the capital, Wellington. Here I took the ferry to go to Picton on the South Island.

The first destination on the southern island was Kaikoura. Here you can walk among the seals on the Kaikoura Peninsula, but it is also the place to go whale watching. One tip if you go whale watching, do not forget your 'Sea-Legs' or other pills to avoid sea sickness. To give you an idea, on the boat there is a guy who is pretty occupied with exchanging full for empty Barf bags. On this trip I saw 3 whales and a lot of dolphins. The latter actually was more impressing.

From Kaikoura it was back north to the Marlborough Sounds, where we walked the Captain Cook trail. After a few hours of stiff climbing the views that await are spectacular. All in all it is about 6 or 7 hours to the place we spent the night. The next day I did feel every muscle in my legs, but there were still more great walks and sights to see.

The next several days were spent on the western side of the Southern Alps. This side of the Alps sees about 200 days of rain a year. First we stayed in Blackball, an old miners town. The rain added to the atmosphere of the town.

Further south we went to Franz Jozef Glacier and climbed the Fox Glacier. The weather was very bad, heavy rain, wind and cold did not make this an easy hike up the glacier. On the way down the small stream we crossed had swollen to a fast streaming muddy river. Forming human chains and knee deep in the muddy water we reached the other side. A warm shower afterwords did wonders. In the afternoon we went back to the glacier and nothing reminded me of the bad weather from the morning. The enormous amount of water had retreated and only a tranquil stream remained.

Parapente, Paragliding Queenstown Via Makarora the next stop was Queenstown, the Adventure capital of New Zealand. The place were bungee jumping was invented. I did not go for a 15 second adrenaline rush, but instead opted for a 15 minute tandem paragliding flight. Starting at Coronet Peak (1158m) in the snow and landing about 3 kilometres away on the green grass somewhere between Queenstown and Arrowtown. I managed to keep my breakfast where it belonged during the acrobatics.

After a great night in Queenstown we headed for Te Anau. Here I visited the Te Ana-au Caves. Spectacular caves where you can see glow-worms on the ceiling of the caves. Like stars on a clear night.

From Te Anau it was easy to go for a day trip to Milford Sound. Milford Sound lies in the heart of the Fiordland National Park. As you can guess from the name, there are a lot of Fiords. Cruising the Sound is a great experience. There are huge waterfalls and some seals to be seen. Also the scenery between Milford Sound and Te Anau is spectacular. We hiked to Key Summit on the way to the sound and enjoyed the great views from the top.

It was now time to go back to the east side of the island. We stayed at Kaka Point in the Catlins. After the mountainous Southern Alps the country side of the Catlins is completely different with its rolling hills. In this part of country more waterfalls can be seen as well as Sea Lions.

The last days of this holiday are going fast. All that is left are two cities, Dunedin and finally Christchurch. Our days in Christchurch coincided with St Patrick's Day. There are a lot of people with Irish roots in New Zealand, so StPatrick's Day is a day of celebrations. I guess even the non-Irish don't have a problem with partying. I know we didn't.

All good things must come to an end. It is said that New Zealand has all the different landscapes of the world on two islands. Apart from the desert, I guess that is true. This is a very diverse country with lots of opportunities to do all kinds of activities. I guess only one word can sum up this holiday ... Awesome!!!

I made this trip with Sawadee.

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