Chris & Alwena share their New Zealand holiday story
Chris & Alwena travelled on our Grand New Zealand self-drive tour. Here's what they had to say:
We’d talked about touring New Zealand for years – 19 years to be exact, which is when our friends first moved to Auckland and invited us to visit. We wanted the freedom to do our own thing, but at the same time we wanted the advice and experience of experts on the ground. New Zealand Sky seemed a straightforward and down-to-earth outfit, with a helpful adviser like Jordan who responded promptly to our enquiries. Jordan put together a bespoke self-drive itinerary, involving stopovers in Hong Kong, Sydney & Singapore. They were flexible enough to let us arrange our own accommodation where we had local contacts and then pick up the scheduled itinerary when it suited us. We had so many reasons to be grateful for having professional support when the Kaikoura earthquake played havoc with our original itinerary, and our route and accommodation had to be quickly re-arranged; and then later, when a fire on a bridge put the Franz Josef Railway out of action, we were grateful to have Salli and Amanda on the ground to re-arrange transport for us.
Our friends in Auckland showed us round Northland and Bay of Islands, which was a wonderful way to introduce ourselves to New Zealand. After that we picked up the hire car and headed off to Hobbiton to start our adventure.
Driving in New Zealand was very easy going, even though many of the rural roads are unsealed (which means rough and dusty). The speed limit (equivalent to 60mph) is quite adequate, and on most of the roads you can average this for hours on end. Nearly all the drivers seemed happy to stick to the limit and, although 3-400 miles was quite a slog on some days, it was manageable and did enable us to get right round the country in three weeks. The very comprehensive trip documentation was personalised and of a very professional standard - although the SatNav was much more help than the printed travel directions (despite a fondness for minor roads and correspondingly over-optimistic ETAs).
There were many “Wow!” moments, not all of them predictable or expected. In Rotorua we looked at the map and thought we’d take a short cut from our motel through a park to the town centre. It was quite an experience to be walking through this ordinary public park and seeing columns of steam rising up from fumaroles, and bubbling mud-pools as we wandered in search of a restaurant for our evening meal.
We found restaurant prices more expensive than we expected, but the meals were very good – there is no tipping culture in New Zealand but the service was universally excellent. All New Zealanders we met seemed naturally friendly and helpful without affectation. The motels were always apartments with bedroom, lounge and cooking facilities, so self-catering, at least for breakfast, was always an easy option, with supermarket prices being very reasonable. All our motels/hotels except one were within easy walking distance of eating-places.
There were many times when we had to pinch ourselves that we were really there, and wondering why it had taken us so long to make the trip: Milford Sound, the Glowworm Caves in Te Anau, the millions of stars in the crystal clear skies over Mount Cook and the iconic Southern Cross and an upside down Orion, the helicopter landing on the Tasman Glacier … the incredulity of our friends back home at the video on Facebook of my wife ‘speeding’ down the Luge in Queenstown – the list goes on.
The itinerary was well-designed by people who know their country. The planning fitted around what we wanted to do, and the backup was there when unexpected events (like earthquakes and fires) happen. The accommodation was superb without exception. The flights were all conveniently timed; in fact, all connections, meetings and transfers ran like clockwork – very impressive. Overall, our impression of New Zealand Sky was a professional, well-organised team aiming to provide us with what we wanted. Everything worked. Thanks to all concerned.
We would like to thank Chris & Alwena for sharing their story with us and hope to welcome you on another holiday soon..
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