Visiting New Zealand

Last month I wrote about my trip to Australia two years ago. Leaving Sydney, we flew to Auckland, which is the most populous city in New Zealand. Located about 1,200 miles east of Australia, New Zealand consists of two large islands, the North Island and South Island.

In Auckland we embarked on a Tamaki Hikoi, a walking tour led by David and his grandson, who are Māori from the Ngāti Whātua tribe. The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of mainland New Zealand. We began with a Maori prayer ritual including bumping noses. David spoke about the Māori being displaced to the bottom of a hill they wanted but waited years to get back. They have built housing, housing for the elderly, schools, and buildings for meeting and dining. However, like in the Outback of Australia, there is a high rate of suicide and alcoholism.

In Auckland I enjoyed the New Zealand Maritime Museum with its history of the Māori, shipping, sailing, and America’s Cup exhibits. I recognized many of the boats having lived in Newport, Rhode Island, and attending the 1983 races, also from the Whitbread around the World races.

On our way to Rotorua we stopped in Waikato at the beautiful Hamilton Gardens where I wish we had more time. It’s Waikato’s most popular destination, attracting one million people annually. The site features 21 gardens representing the art, beliefs, lifestyles and traditions of different civilizations or historical garden styles.

We lunched with Ray and Dorothy, owners of a large cattle farm. Lunch consisted of delicious cheese squares, sandwiches, rhubarb muffins, Asia pears, and Nutella bars. Later many of our group exited the bus to see the kiwi birds, which don’t like light. I gather you could barely see them, so guess I didn’t miss much. Rotorua is the center of the Māori culture that dates back at least a thousand years. There are about three quarter of a million Māori living there today.

In Tororua, I wandered through the Government Gardens to the lake, but could not enter the museum or bath house. Due to a large earthquake that caused damage in the area, some locations were closed to the public. Our tour was altered due to the closings and in fact the only time we got to Christchurch was our departure for home as only four hotels had opened and no space for us travelers. The hot tub offered a nice respite from our travels, and you could certainly smell the sulfur from the thermal springs for which Rotorua is noted. The region is replete with bubbling mud pools, geothermal geysers, and steam vents because of volcanic activity.

The Waimangu Volcanic Valley was created by Mount Tarawera’s eruption in 1898. We hiked down to thermal pools and even saw a blue pool. Back in Rotorua we saw thermal fissures, a very nice jade store, the Māori Anglican Church and meeting house, and the beautiful lake. In the evening we were introduced to more of the Māori culture in the village of Mitai with an opening ceremony; a carved wooden boat; performance with the chief and warriors; followed by a hangi, the traditional Maori feast that is cooked underground. We ended the evening visiting the famous New Zealand glow worms, creatures that attract flies and only live for two months before becoming flies.

Queenstown on the South Island brought us to one of the most beautiful places in the world. There were the most incredible views as we flew down the coast – mountains, Mt. Cook, glaciers, and crystal clear water. The Nugget Point Hotel overlooks a lake and high mountains, some snowcapped. Our luggage arrived late that night and I am thankful as it is much cooler here. What a change from some of the 90+ degree days back in Australia. The next morning, we headed for Milford Sound, a long trip but the snow-covered mountains, lakes, peaks, sheep, deer, and cattle farms, the Horner Tunnel, and windy hairpin roads kept us wide awake. Our driver was good. We toured Milford Sound on board Sinbad viewing snowcapped peaks and numerous waterfalls. Everywhere you look is more spectacular than the last view. Joining us on the boat are a group of UNC alumni.

Katie tours Milford Sound on board Sinbad.

We head out to the Tasmin Sea and then back through the fjord. I can’t believe I’m here. The next day some of our group go on a jet-boat safari on the Dart River. I opted to tour the Botanical Garden – a variety of roses, huge sequoia, monkey trees, a beach and an old America’s Cup boat, then go for a boat ride on the lake. I am surprised by the many very modern homes, the mountains as a backdrop, and willow trees sprouting in this very shallow lake. We learn the pine trees growing on the hillsides are being eradicated with canola as they are pests, grow too quickly, have no strength, and no use. Being slightly hungry I head to Fergburgers. There’s a long line for their burgers, but well worth the wait. I got the Fergi Deluxe – a huge meat patty, bacon, cheese, onions, lettuce, and tomatoes with aioli. I sat outside, people watched and ate this monster! Little old me! What a treat! Somehow, I waddled around to the shops and lucked out in the Ivan Clark Gallery. Some of you may know his dog pictures. Wish I could buy some of his paintings but decide on a few cards instead.

We set off for the west coast of the South Island, stopping at a fruit stand and winery. The Haast Pass is named for geologist Sir Julius Von Haast, who explored this region on foot. Stopping at a river with a dam and falls we are told the bridge is the oldest bungy jumping bridge in the world. A snack along the way were whitebait fish patties, cooked by Glenn, the owner. On to Ship Creek with lovely views of Mount Cook and the area of the Westland Tai Poutini National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Park. There are many detours along the way due to landslides and most bridges are one lane. We were told it was too expensive to construct wider ones. The next morning dawns rainy but off to Franz Josef Glacier Valley, very fast moving and disappearing just as fast once at 17 feet per week, but in 2003 changed course and is now in slow retreat.

Two of the people on our tour had been here only two years ago but had seen a major change in the size of the glacier. The Pancake Rocks and Blowholes date back 30 million years and were created by an underwater land mass, then thrust above the water’s surface. Reefton reminded me of our old West – an old mining town with miners’ houses where we were shown how to make tea (Blue Bell) and Manuka from the bush right here and served scones with butter and Manuka honey.

Pancake Rocks is a popular area in Punakaiki where the sea bursts through several vertical blowholes during high tides.

Traveling to the Rubicon Valley via Arthur’s Pass we arrived at a farm to watch the teamwork of sheepdogs and sheep, and enjoy a delicious lunch of lamb patties, beef sausage, salad, potatoes, slaw, cookies and fruit. There are also three alpaca in the paddock. Following a sheep shearing demo we are taken to the high pastures where the owners have sheep and cattle with a rushing river below.

Wellington, or “Welly” as it’s known, is situated at the crossroads of the two islands, on North Island across the Cook Strait from South Island. It is the country’s capital city. Our bus tour took us around Wellington Harbor to Miramar where we stopped at the Roxy Theatre. Oh, what a treat to have a personal tour with Jamie Selkirk, the producer of “The Hobbitt,” “Lord of the Rings,” and many other famous movies. We watched a film on old movies through today, and then were treated to tea and muffins. Even got to see his Oscar! Then on to the Weta Studios (Weta is a grasshopper prehistoric like creature).

We drove up Victoria Peak to the Wellington Botanical Gardens and ended up along the waterfront. The city is made up of numerous hills, Victorian homes, and lots of new homes built into the hillsides. The New Zealand Portrait Museum is outstanding, but the Parliament Building “the BeeHive,” is a sight to behold. It truly looks like a beehive. Other buildings I visited were St. Paul’s Cathedral, The New Zealand Library, the Wellington Museum, and the Wellington Art Gallery.

There was another 2.9 earthquake the day before but thank goodness not in Wellington. The fault runs right through Wellington, across Cook Strait and down South Island. Before leaving Wellington, I took the cable car to the Botanical Garden and then visited Te Papa Tongarewa – the National Museum of New Zealand. The exhibit on Gallipoli (World War I) highlights those who served from New Zealand (and Australia), and it’s so tragic that so many died.

I am amazed at New Zealand – so gorgeous, 45 million sheep and only 4.5 million people. Once again, we had a great guide, Anna, who was also a guide for friends from Centreville, Maryland several years ago and a wonderful group to travel with. I would happily travel there again and now know why several acquaintances have bought property there.


“Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian dancer Anna Pavlova. Colloquially referred to as “pav” it has a taste and texture similar to a cross between meringue and chewy marshmallow. The dessert is believed to have been created in honor of the dancer either during or after one of her tours to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. The nationality of its creator has been a source of argument between the two nations for many years, but formal research indicates New Zealand as the more probable source. The dessert is a popular dish and an important part of the national cuisine of both countries and is frequently served during celebratory or holiday meals such as Christmas dinner or New Year’s Day brunch.”

6 egg whites, at room temperature

Pinch salt

1½ cups superfine sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. malt vinegar

Heat oven to 350º and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the salt and whisk to soft peaks. Continue mixing and slowly incorporate the sugar 2 tablespoons at a time. Beat for 15 minutes or until mixture is shiny and glossy and very thick. Whisk in the vanilla, cornstarch and vinegar.

Spoon the mix onto the baking tray and spread with a spatula into a six-inch circle. Bake 5 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 250º and cook for 75 minutes and leave to cool completely with the oven door slightly ajar.

To serve: Pavlova is traditionally served with whipped cream, kiwi fruit and fresh berries although you could use any fruit of your choice.

Recipe courtesy of Nathan Bates, New Zealand Embassy, Washington, D.C. 

Braised Lamb Shanks

“Braised lamb shanks are extremely easy to make. Anyone can follow this recipe and have it turn out with succulent lamb that falls off the bone. It’s basically a throw it all in the oven recipe but with stunning results. The recipe doesn’t require exact amounts either. Great for a low fuss hearty meal in winter.”

Serves 3.

3 lamb shanks (a shank per person but just add more for more guests)

5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 cup red wine

2 cups beef stock

2 tbls. tomato paste

1 large carrot, roughly diced

1 large stick of celery, roughly diced

1 large onion, roughly diced

4 tbls. oil

1 tbls. rosemary leaves, finely chopped

1 tbls. thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 325º. Place oil in a pan and heat until mid-high. Brown lamb shanks on all sides, remove from pan and put to one side. In the same pan add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until the vegetables start to brown then add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Add the tomato paste and then deglaze the pan with the red wine. Transfer the vegetables to a casserole dish then cover with the lamb shanks, herbs, and beef stock. Cover and place in the oven for approximately three hours or until the meat starts to fall off the bone. Serve with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables.

Recipe courtesy of Nathan Bates, New Zealand Embassy, Washington, D.C.

Kiwifruit Caprioska

“It’s so simple to make so you can’t really get it wrong. It’s tangy and refreshing and perfect as a summer cocktail.”

1 lime cut into 8-16 pieces

1 kiwi fruit peeled and thickly sliced

1 tsp. brown sugar

8 cubes ice

60 mil of 42 Below Kiwi Vodka

1 tbls. sugar syrup (equal quantities of water and castor sugar heated until sugar is dissolved)

Place the lime, kiwifruit and brown sugar in a cocktail shaker then muddle with a rolling pin. Add the ice, vodka and sugar syrup, shake vigorously. Serve.

Recipe courtesy of Nathan Bates, New Zealand Embassy, Washington, D.C.

Katie Barney is a local author and loves to travel. She is the author of The Enchanting World of Food. For more details, visit or call 410-820-9915.

The Frank Joseph Glacier is unique in that it moves faster than the average glacier. Currently, it moves 20 inches a day.
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