David Rich 1000 Words
$1NZ=70 cents US
S h r e d O f f i c i a l N Z B u c k e t L i s t
The wild and crazy folks at New Zealand’s Automobile Association, (affiliated with AAA USA, CAA Canada, RAC UK and AAA OZ) list the 101 MUST-DOS FOR KIWIS, the attractions the locals are not to miss, the basis for their bucket list. See www.aatravel.co.nz. The AA top ten (and indeed the entire list) deserves public shredding and shedding, excluding the first and sixth:
1. Mitre Peak and Milford Sound: I’ll give AA this one, undoubtedly the leading attraction excepting sufficient sand-flies to carry off not only battalions of tourists but also the innumerable tour buses they ride in on.
2. Doubtful Sound: Not in the top ten because it can’t be visited independently and most visitations consume two hours on the most boring dam (damn?) tour in the hemisphere; and check out number four!
3. Bay of Islands: I vote the Bay of Islands relatively boring though a visit to Russell and the local oyster farm is mildly interesting, and everyone should visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds (which I rank tied for 11 with a dozen others), smack dab in the area, ranked a lowly 85 by AA.
4. Fiordland National Park: What exactly are numbers 1 and 2 except the jewels of Fiordland National Park? I sense duplicitous repetition, unless the sand-fly union is buying someone off at AA.
5. Abel Tasman National Park: Hikers are enveloped by trees and kayakers by bland rocks, excepting for a few caves and split-apple rock. Ho hum, though Torrent Bay is spectacular from above, assuming the tide is in. Maybe tied for 11th, near the end of that baker’s dozen.
6. Aoroki Mt. Cook: I rank the hiking around New Zealand’s highest peak, along with gorgeous Lake Pukaki fronting it for 50 kilometers (30 miles of turquoise), as clear number two, and no sand-flies! Mt Cook, along with brilliant fronting Lake Pukaki may actually be No. 1.
7. Coastal Kaikoura: Not a chance though AA touts the whales, dolphins and seafood. Other bays and coast lines are far more spectacular, from East Cape down through Hawke’s Bay, over in Raglan and the Bay of Plenty, especially around Mt. Manganui. AA, get out of the office and go see New Zealand!
8. Hanmer Springs: Lovely springs and pools but hardly superior to Marlborough Sound, Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, Tongariro Crossing, White Island, Akaroa and Banks Peninsula, Otago Peninsula and a dozen others. Plus all so-called hot pools in New Zealand are relatively tepid, almost all under 40C, which is definitely not hot. Hanmer offers a single pool above 40C, and that one sulphur.
9. Camping Country: AA lists camping in Waikato and Waitomo as the ninth top activity in the country, a claim too cockeyed to rate more than an extended scratch of the noggin.
10. Tutukaka (Poor Knights Islands): This is the single place out of AA’s 101 listed that I haven’t visited. Apparently the public is also barred, according to Lonely Planet, 14th Ed., page 164, though dive tours flourish.
The rankings for the balance of the list are so bathetically hapless that AA New Zealand can legitimately be suspected of being an Aussie branch operation! Instead, check out MY TOP TEN plus the baker’s dozen tied for 11th along with the photos illustrating the real New Zealand pin-ups:
1. Mitre Peak and Milford Sound, notwithstanding vicious sand flies.
2. Mt. Cook and Lake Pukaki.
3. White Island: New Zealand’s only active volcano, with spewing steam jets, a simmering green-acid lake, rivulets of corrosion and boiling sulphur, ranked 17 by AA.
4. Tongariro Alpine Crossing, perhaps the world’s top one day hike with emerald lakes and mystic volcanoes, ranked 20th by AA, while its accoutrements, Mts. Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro are ranked 13th.
5. Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, a monumental experience of neon-blue ice, up close and in your socks, ranked 12th by AA.
6. Marlborough Sounds, constituting 20% of the New Zealand coast line with innumerable of everything from resorts, celebrity hideaways, mail boat experiences, Captain Cook’s favorite Bay on earth and the cutest personal motor boats for knocking about the nooks and crannies, ranked 11th by AA.
7. Akaroa and Banks Peninsula, fabulously photogenic from the incredible ridge road, offering old French ambience, dolphins and more, ranked 33rd by AA.
8. Otago Peninsula, similarly photogenic and also offering tragic Larnach Castle, Albatross and tons of penguins, ranked 27th by AA.
9. Waitomo Caves numbering 800 with 350 explored, offering rappelling, rafting and sheer terror over 50 square kilometers, ranked 14th by AA.
10. Farewell Spit, 26 kilometers of dunes, arctic wading birds, whales, a lonely lighthouse and Farewell Arch, ranked 35th by AA.
Those tied for 11th begin at New Zealand’s northernmost tip with Cape Reinga where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide in front of a spiffy lighthouse with world-distance signposts and photogenic bays (AA rankings in parenthesis: 30th);
Waitangi Treaty Grounds, historically significant and utterly photogenic with a grand Maori canoe, the treaty house, wide-ranging exhibits and colorful flower gardens overlooking a scenic bay (85th);
Mt. Manganui and its incredibly scenic track to the top overlooking sweeping bays of magnificence (50th);
Lake Waikaremoana with tracks set on high cliffs over the huge scalloped lake (41st);
Napier’s Art Deco downtown, rebuilt after the 1931 earthquake leveled the city, and its great waterfront on Hawke’s Bay, though the library offers no wifi (unranked);
Mt. Taranaki, the Fuji look-alike with great climbs up three sides and the quaint town of Stratford to the east, beginning the Forgotten World Highway (24th);
Orakei Karako’s sprawling geothermal park with shimmering pools and out-croppings in gold, green and ivory (45th);
Arthur’s Pass National Park with excellent hiking, waterfalls, climbs, cheeky Keas and abundant ambience (19th);
Punakaiki Rocks with stacks of gray pancake, sweeping surf, gnarly rock heads and at high tide, an explosive blowhole (29th);
Lake Tekapo’s aquamarine stretching to the horizon similar to Lake Pukaki fronting Mt. Cook with a great overview atop Mt. John and its kicky observatory (25th);
Oamaru with its historic buildings, quaint artist’s colony and stacks of penguins (unranked);
Pupu Springs, clearest in the world with 1400 liters per second flow (unranked) and the Otago Rail Experience through Taieri Gorge including the most photographed building in New Zealand, the Dunedin Railway Station (16th) and one of my favorites, Puzzling World, a world of illusion in Wanaka (71st).
Thus do I throw down the gauntlet to AA New Zealand, perhaps an OZ saboteur in sheep’s clothing. Join me to help reform these obviously office-bound pedants who appear firmly in the pocket of the sand-fly lobby.