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TRAVEL TALES:Touring beautiful New Zealand

April 26, 2007|By Elizabeth Broedlow

A 16-day tour of New Zealand brought together my husband, Ted, and I, our friends Ray and Jennifer Woolsey of Lake Forest, and Jack and Linda Seelhorst, formerly of Newport Beach who now live in Sisters, Ore.

We flew into Auckland, and our first full day was spent with a Maori guide hiking the hills of Mt. Eden, learning about Maori history and the early days of New Zealand.

We spent the next day on Waiheke Island, one of the many islands off the coast of Auckland, which we reached via the local ferry.

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Our excursions also included hiking down the slippery red rocks of Mt. Tarawera Volcano. We explored the natural geysers of Rotorua, and learned about local Maori culture at the Te Puia cultural center.

We visited the Auckland Zoo and learned why kiwis don't fly, and that the tuatara is a very large reptile that feels spongy when you touch it. The silver fern that you see on most New Zealand logos gets its name because of the silver on its underside, which is very reflective and can be seen from a distance. This could come in handy if you get lost in the forest.

Most of our two-week tour consisted of traversing the South Island of New Zealand. North and South Islands together are about the size of Colorado, with more than 4 million people.

Our New Zealand adventure took in the varied terrain, and we stopped to have high tea with local farmers who run a bed and breakfast and to visit a deer farm. Did you know that New Zealand sells deer embryos to America in order to improve our deer population?

Just outside of Arrowtown, not far from Queenstown, we spent three relaxing days at Millbrook, a lovely golf resort. Ray and Ted managed to get in some golf, while Jack and Linda took off for a day of fly fishing.

Jennifer and I spent the day shopping in Queenstown, and visited a lovely park that overlooks Lake Wakatipu. This region is also known for producing some wonderful wines, and our group sampled their Pinot Noirs at a wine tasting seminar.

The highlight of our trip was a helicopter flight to Franz Josef Glacier, which included landing on the ice with a little "walkabout."

The following day our group hiked back toward the glacier where we were able to get another perspective on how large it is.

Another group ahead of us had already reached their glacier and was beginning to hike up it. They looked like ants making their way up a mountain of glimmering blue ice.

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