Tongariro National

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New Zealand - The Beautiful Landscape
One of my favorite destinations in the world is New Zealand. It is such a beautiful country with rugged snow capped mountains, volcanoes, coastal fishing villages, glaciers, penguins, and a variety of other differences and contradictions! They do speak English there, so if that's your native language you should do fine as far as communicating... You'll also enjoy the people, environment, and traditions of both the European New Zealanders and the native Maori tribes, which are the Polynesians of that country.

The Maoris' called New Zealand "The Land of the Long White Cloud", because of the cloud cover over the islands seen from canoes out at sea. You can imagine what it might have been like for the first Polynesians to sail or row across the Pacific searching for the next habitable location and finding these two huge islands that had a perpetual long, white cloud overhead and deciding to settle down and live here. It is a fascinating place, and if you haven't yet been able to visit it should surely be on the top of your list for places to go!

Most people will fly into Auckland, which is the largest city in the extreme North Island. In fact, there are 3 cities that you should be aware of and are the largest in the islands. Auckland is in the north, Wellington is in the southern part of the North Island, and Christchurch is located toward the middle of the South Island. Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and has all of the government buildings and so forth, and Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island and is the jumping off point for flights to Antarctica and scientific expeditions there.

I would highly recommend taking a self driving tour while in the country, as New Zealand has a fantastic Auckland to Wellington trip that is very interesting, and you'll get a chance to see much of the countryside. The middle part of the North Island holds a huge park called Tongariro National Park and is home to many active volcanoes. In fact, you'll find beautiful national parks all over New Zealand to celebrate the natural wonder and scenic opportunities.

Wellington is probably my favorite city in New Zealand, it will remind you of San Francisco in the U.S., because it's nestled right next to the coast in a beautiful bay with mountains surrounding it all around! As mentioned before, this is the capital of the country, and has the government buildings and embassies, and is also home to the great University of New Zealand. You can enjoy a very steep railed trolley ride, which includes a stop at the university! I had my most memorable meal in Wellington, and I believe it was a traditional "pork belly" with black pudding and a very dark "chocolate" beer! It was delicious, and a very pleasant experience! (For those interested, the restaurant I ate at was the "Southern Cross".)

After also doing a self driving tour through the city and seeing the many incredible views and sights, I was also able to experience a wonderful seal tour! This trip took us out of the city and on a 4 wheel drive expedition up, over and through the mountains and down to the coast on the other side to take a drive on the beach where the seals hang out and lay around all day. We were within a very short distance of them, and they did not react at all to our presence. This is a highly recommended tour for all who crave a little adventure! The next day, we hopped on the ferry that leaves from Wellington and crosses the Cook Strait over to the South Island. Let me tell you, this is one experience that you do NOT want to miss! The exquisite beauty of the fjords, snow capped mountains, blue waters of the sound, and villages as you come into the south island, are incredible! All I can say is WOW, and be sure to bring your camera!

I hope you are now excited about planning a vacation or trip to New Zealand, and if you do try and do more than just take a quick tour of Auckland... There is so much to experience and see down there, you won't want to miss anything! For myself, I can't wait to get a chance to go back and see more of New Zealand's wonders! Enjoy!
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