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personal - Singapore, new Zealand & HONG KONG Tour - 2012

Day Ten

We followed the Thermal Explorer Highway through the heart of the North Island, travelling through green countryside, beautiful native bush and some of the largest alpine forests in the Southern Hemisphere. We viewed Wairakei Steam Valley, where thermal energy is harnessed in the world's second largest geothermal power plan. Due to the illness of Laurie we were guided by a new tour guide - Karen. She told use that each Maori tribe has it's own haka - which is an ancestral warcry - and that the word for ancestors was Whakapapa.

We travelled past two lakes on either side of the highway - one was hot - Rotohero - and the other was cold - Ngahewa. We visited the Huka Falls and tranquil Lake Taupo, the water filled crater of an ancient volcano. I actually bought an over-priced All-Blacks shirt for my nephew at Lake Taupo. We saw Mount Ruapehu which featured as part of Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings. We took the Waikato road, through what appeared to be a desolate area. There was evidence of volcanic sand. We continued past Waiourou, with it's military camp, past Taihapi and Utaki Villages, past the Rangitikei River and Gorgem, past Hunterville and stopped in Foxton to see the windmill there. After Kiortaki town, we went past Waikanae, which we were told was felt to be one of the first outer suburbs of Wellington. The last part of this long long journey included Pykockerikie, Parapara Oono, Lindale and then Wellington itself, New Zealand's capital city, bound by it's magnificent harbour. We arrived at the Amora Hotel, incredibly tired.

Day Eleven

This day was a day of choices for us and we decided to take the Lore Tour - a tour of areas where Lord of the Rings was filmed. Now don't get me wrong. I love the film. But alas we had to use a lot of our own imagination. None of the areas were the same as in the film. The guides were knowledgeable but this tour was nowhere as good as the earlier Lord of the Rings tour to Hobbit Land. On a good note, the scenery was spectacular, especially Mount Victoria.

After the tour we took a tram ride to have access to some brilliant scenery and the Carter Observatory, which we viewed from the outside. Time constraints and price prevented us from going inside. Jabeen decided to go to the hotel and I took a solo tour of the city which was absolutely fantastic. It made the day!

I walked through the botanical gardens, with it's unusual variety of plants ranging from native bush to herb gardens. Some parts of this walk were extremely steep, so I took the walk slowly. I followed the Tinakori Road - the main artery of Thorndon, a suburb where the first European settlers ended up in the 1840's. There were some interesting wooden houses on either side of the road and I got to see Premier House, just past the junction of Upton Terrace. This served as the prime minister's residence from 1865 until 1935.

I went to the National Archives hoping to see the place where the Treaty of Waitangi was located but could not get in. (I wasn't sure if the building was closed or I just couldn't figure out how to open a door. So I console myself with a few external pictures of the building.) From there was a bit of a walk to Old St Paul's Church. This church was designed by parish vicar and architect Reverend Frederick Thatcher in 1866 and was an all wood church built entirely using natural timbers. I got a little tour within the church and was told that it was an example of the Gothic Revival style adapted to wood. I managed to take some great pictures of this church and bought a few religious items from the souveniers shop. I did continue to walk the streets ( in the non- prostitute sense of that phrase) and took pictures of municipal buildings - including the parliament buildings and churches - in particular the Sacred Heart Cathedral. The Bee-Hive (the common name for the Executive Wing of the New Zealand Parliament , was particularly interesting as a building. I made my way back through the gardens and walked into the centre of town, before taking a taxi the final few miles back to the hotel.

The day culminated in a Chinese meal with most of our fellow group of travellers. The meal was excellent and it gave me a chance to say final goodbyes to people we had grown to like very much.

Day Twelve

The was a day of goodbyes. We waited for our transfer to Wellington Airport. We took a flight to Sydney Airport, where I bought a souvenir boomerang. And from there we went onto Hong Kong where we were eventually picked up at the airport to be taken to our hotel - the the Harbour Grand Kowloon. This hotel was ostentatious. Incredibly grand! I'd definitely stay here again for the sheer opulence, views of the harbor, food and general feel of overindulgence.

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