You dream of Columbus
With your maps and your beautiful charts
You dream of Columbus
With an ache in your travelling heart
– Mary Black
Wanna Go New Zealand
I see a map. I dream. My stomach tightens at the prospect of new discovery, new adventures, new lands, New Zealand.
Never been. Wanna go.
The Tourism Board of NZ here in Singapore started it. They sent over some highlights to set my wanderlusting heart aglow. Map open, let’s have a look at these diverse destinations … and dream.
Urban Winery in Napier
On the east coast of the North Island, Napier is located on the southwest swoop of Hawke’s Bay. 320 Km from Wellington. 416 from Auckland. So, it’s out there a bit, but that hasn’t dampened its tourist appeal. The whole city is replete with art deco architecture the happy result of the 1931 earthquake that flattened most of this small city. If you’re busy tomorrow, don’t look at the Google images of the place today. You’ll be on a plane this evening.
A creamy art deco building houses The Urban Winery. It once housed the National Tobacco Company. IMHO, the winery is a much more appealing tenant. Hey, that’s just MHO. You gotta love Chardonnay, because that’s what Tony Bish, founder of The Urban Winery, specializes in. Chardonnay and only Chardonnay. My visit (already planning, you see) will be complete only when I see the Taransaud Ovum, a French oak egg-shaped barrel. The only one in New Zealand! “It is a piece of the most beautiful wooden sculpture, and totally captivating.” Says the website. Other “eggs” in the winery are made of concrete. The shape creates currents of yeast resulting in a creamy wine texture.
First grabbing a couple bottles of Chardonnay (what else?), a chunk of cheese, and a loaf of bread I’ll head for the water and just sit, listen to the waves lapping the sand, and reflect on the places life has brought this humble traveller (well, at least her mind).
Great Barrier Island, Te Aroha, Coromandel, Rotorua, Lake Taupo, Hanmer Springs. These are some of the more prominent of New Zealand’s plethora of hot springs. All, except Hanmer are on the North Island which, sitting atop the “Pacific ring of fire” has hot water gurgling up almost everywhere. “Subterranean angst” (Great phrase, eh?) as the ‘100% Pure New Zealand” website has it.
Why are there far fewer hot springs on the South Island, then? I don’t know, and am not going to Google the answer right now. I’m in travel dream mode, remember?
Saunas, steam baths, hot tubs – I love them all. Give me a hot spring, though, for the most natural, soothing, relaxing, at-peace-with-myself experience. I’ve been in a Japanese onsen in winter. Snowflakes fluttering, saki cup and bottle on the brim – it doesn’t get much better. But I’m talking about New Zealand, and, judging by my web poking, the hot springs there come damn close. From Napier, packing a bottle or two of Tony Bish Chardonnay, I’ll head 140 km to Taupo Hot Springs.
Boasting 20+ hot springs, pools, and baths, The Great Lake Taupo region is nirvana for heat seekers like moi. Looking at the map, one might be forgiven for thinking that a leap in any direction will land one in hot water (couldn’t resist!). I like the sound of Wairakei Terraces and Thermal Spa.
The terraces are silica and the water is a deep blue. Not the least expensive of Taupo’s many choices, Wairakei’s waters and surroundings – native paintings! – are worth the modest charge. I love that first rush of contentment upon slipping into a hot pool. Then the calm. My body becomes all dente pasta. There is a series of pools. Each valued in Maori culture for healing powers and therapeutic benefit. I’m limp with pleasure.
Five Unmissable Places Kiwis Would Like to Keep to Themselves
Waitaki – Hokianga – Golden Bay, Nelson – Whakatāne – The Catlins
Take that, you Kiwis! Your secret is so OUT! The WanderLuxe website offers an intriguing description of each.
I like the look of Golden Bay on the map. Phrases like “stretch of coast,” “fine golden sand,” “flourishing artistic community,” coastal hiking trails,” and “picture-perfect beaches” were enough to draw my mental compass to the very northern tip of the South Island. Not ready for the long drive, I’ll fly into the charming port of Nelson. I’ve still got a supply of Napier’s Chardonnay, but the hamper will see additions of a much-touted Sauvignon Blanc and, my favorite!, Pinot Noir. Still room in the hamper for another chunk o’ cheese and some homemade pretzels. Nelson, itself, is a charming destination, but I am just too eager to rent a car and drive to Golden Bay. As road trips go, this has got to be one of the finest. Curvy and up-y and down-y, the road over Takaka Hill is just plain fun to drive. Passengers may want to keep their eyes glued to the horizon, but wheel-in-hand, the driver is immune to motion sickness.
I like hiking, don’t get me wrong, but I’m happy with some multi-hour treks along the Abel Tasman coastal Track or any of the multitudinous hikes within the national park bearing that Dutch seafarer’s proud name. “Huts, camping grounds and private lodges provide accommodation” and are plenteous and atmospheric.
Once again, I pause to reflect on how lucky I am to be here, if only in my mind!
As long as I’m on the South Island, let me at least name and briefly illuminate a couple more dramatic …
Highlights of the West Coast:
Pounamu, greenstone, and mountain jade are names for the verdantly lustrous stone. Pounamu is a Maori word. Aptly named for the importance the stone has in native culture. Most often found in rivers, the stone can also hide in stones and boulders. It is only found on the South Island.
The green stone is a popular gift among Maori and their visitors. It’s beautiful!
Largest town on the west coast, Greymouth is home to many galleries specializing in Pounamu. It’s also the jumping off site of the two-hour Point Elizabeth Walk. I’m going. With my delicately carved, translucent pounamu tapping gently on my chest, I’m styling now! On another day, perhaps some rafting or caving. One must grab for the gusto.
I know that you know that I have barely tapped the surface of all New Zealand has to offer. My small mental journey, though, has been enough to make me think maybe, just maybe, if I set my heart to it I can make this dream a reality.
So can you! I know you can!
WANNA GO? You can find more details on New Zealand Tourism.