78 – Kia Ora, Aotearoa!

Finally, New Zealand. The visit was long time overdue.

January 24-26

Although Malaysia and New Zealand are only 4 hours time difference, I manage to cause myself a spectacular jet lag nonetheless by firstly spending the night wide awake in Kuala Lumpur airport, then watching stupid films during the 12 hours flight, and then waiting for another 5 hours in Auckland airport for Eva’s flight to land. But if you arrange a meeting with your best friends on the other side of the planet, fucked up sleep pattern is not really an issue.

Sara, another friend of mine, is due to reach us in two days and in the meanwhile we catch up on gossip, meet up with my friends Jan and Ben from London who had recently relocated to Auckland and trying to actually figure out what we’re gonna do in the country. No plan is the best plan, but having still no plan whatsoever two days into your holiday in the busiest month of a touristic season is a bit crap, to be honest. But, we are women. We could rule the world if we cared to, so the main outlines of the itinerary are traced about an hour and a bottle of chardonnay later. And we fit in the first taste of the country’s dramatic scenery when Ben drives us to Piha Beach, about 40 minutes away from the city.

Janyary 27

Sara arrives at midday, after having travelled for some 30-odd hours, and strangely enough doesn’t seem too excited when we hand her another ticket for the connecting flight to Queenstown. New Zealand domestic flights are awesome. You print out your luggage tag from an automatic machine, and check in your luggage without having to queue forever, no one wants to see any ID and most importantly, you can have a bloody bottle of water. You can go through security check holding a cup of take away coffee. The security officer even smiles at you and says: “Don’t worry about the cup, ma’am, just walk through”. I guess the fashion of trying to board commercial flights with nitroglycerin hasn’t reached New Zealand yet. We are extremely lucky, reaching Queenstown on one of 10 days a year when the weather is gorgeous. It is a bit like travelling around the globe and finding ourselves in Switzerland, but I have to admit it is charming. There is everything you’d expect from a good Swiss town: alpine scenery, lake with little steamboat cruisers, and terribly expensive waterfront restaurants and cafes.

Kat & Kiwi

January 28

Trip to Milford Sound, a beautiful fjord some 5 hours drive away through some seriously beautiful scenery. There are plenty of agencies in town that organize the same trip, we booked ours through Intercity, the country’s biggest bus operator (an equivalent of US Greyhound), which was cheap, comfortable, included almost 2 hours cruise in the sound, and a cheerful commentary from the knowledgeable driver. You can drive it, but I personally would not. It’s a long and tiring drive, and most of the road has no cellphone reception, so if anything happens, you are screwed. Well, this is true for most New Zealand roads, to be fair. But this way, you can take a loooong nap on your way back to Queenstown and arrive fresh and rested and ready to hit the wine bars. Although I am a bit puzzled by my kiwi ex boyfriends claiming that NZ is cheap.. It’s anything but. Maybe when the exchange rate used to be three dollars to the pound (and not less than two as these days). But there are more things I don’t understand about my ex. Like why would he leave this beautiful place and move to London.

On the way to Milford Sound:

Milford Sound

Seals basking in the sun:

January 29

Flight to Wellington, beautiful weather persists. Wellington is famous for being a bit windy at best, but today it’s just perfect. We walk along the waterfront to Te Papa museum and when I see a bunch of kids jumping into the sea from about 10m high springboard, I join in. As if there is ever going to be an activity that involves doing stupid things in the water that will leave me indifferent.

One note on New Zealand dining. I would not even mention this, but as I’m travelling with two picky girls and we can only eat in certain places, I could not help noticing that the trends in local upper range restaurants are somewhat obsolete. They have prime quality meat, fish and seafood, but it looks like their chefs remained buried in the 90s and still believe that stuffing as many foreign ingredients as physically possible into a single dish is cool, and that creating a menu where one needs a dictionary to understand it is sophisticated as opposed to pretentious. Grilled fish with (supposedly) italian burrata cheese, shiitake mushrooms and port reduction is not fusion. It’s confusion. A lot of confusion.

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