Celebrating your birthday while on holiday with your family leaves lasting memories


  • Asia & Oceania
  • Friday, 24 Apr 2020

A reader shares her experience celebrating her birthday while on holiday with her family in New Zealand.

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New Zealand has always been on my family’s travel bucket list, so last December, we decided to go on a trip there together.

It was summer there and unusually cold. We rented a car, which I highly recommended, since you can travel at your own pace and have better mobility. We started our road trip in the North Island, and the view along the way was wonderful; we had never seen so many sheep and rolling, green hills before this!

Our first stop was Rotorua, famous for its sulphuric pools which give off a strong smell... kind of like rotten eggs. We visited Blue Springs at the Te Waihou Walkway where the waters were so clean. The spring supplies 60% of the country’s bottled water.

   Stirling Falls is a majestic waterfall.Stirling Falls is a majestic waterfall.We also visited the Hobbiton movie set. It was such an exciting visit for my siblings and I as we love the Lord Of The Rings films. We felt like giants walking through the Shire and sipped beer at the Green Dragon Inn.

Afterwards, we trekked the Whakarewarewa Redwoods Forest amid giant and shady centuries-old trees. We stopped briefly in Wellington, where we visited Mount Victoria and admired the luxurious hillside houses.

We took a ferry to the South Island, where the flowers bloomed and the hills were golden. We picnicked by a lake in Christchurch, eating fish and chips. For breakfast the next day, we found an organic salmon farm and enjoyed some fresh sashimi.

In the next leg of our tour, we visited the snow-capped Mount Cook in Twizel, where I spotted some wild rabbits and birds. We stayed at a quaint farmhouse, located far from civilisation. Roses and poppies bloomed around its garden. At night, the air was really cold and it was pitch black outside.

This holiday coincided with my birthday and Christmas and to celebrate, we had a simple meal of instant noodles and a chocolate cake from Pak’n’Save, an affordable supermarket.

We stopped by Arrowtown, an idyllic location famed for its pies. Visiting its historic Chinese settlement was a poignant experience for us, as we were humbled by the squalid housing and mistreatment the Chinese immigrants had to endure many, many years ago.

Just 20 minutes away was my favourite destination – Queenstown. Here, we woke up to the amazing view of Lake Wakatipu and the mountains right outside our window.

   Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua is filled with gigantic redwood trees.Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua is filled with gigantic redwood trees.For lunch, we went to a fast food outlet called Fergburger. Their burgers were worth waiting 30 minutes in line for, though perhaps some would consider this place a “tourist trap”. We burnt off the calories by hiking up and down the steep Queenstown Summit for three hours each way. We paused to admire the many stacked stone sculptures and wildflowers scattered along the trail.

As soon as we hit the peak, however, it started to rain so we had to descend quickly!

To take things easy after that, we went shopping for souvenirs as they were affordable in Queenstown and watched a group of daredevils bungee jump and go on the flying fox challenge.

My brother, who has a keen eye for photography, managed to find some beautiful spots where we could take pictures. Among them were Huka Falls and the lakes in Tepako and Te Anau. He also found a “secret” location – a field filled with pink and violet lupins!

We stopped at small towns and parks like Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lake, The Divide and Lake Marian before hitting the Milford Sound fiord, a major highlight of our itinerary.

Once we arrived at the Milford Sound cruise terminal, we were “attacked” by pesky sandflies! They’re really tiny so you usually can’t see them, but when they bite, you will get a terrible itch.

We quickly hopped onto the ferry and stayed on the deck to soak in the sights of the fiords and sapphire seas. Our ship captain pointed ou the Stirling and Bowen waterfalls for us to take photos. He also showed us a spot where some juvenile seals were simply lazing on the rocks, without a care in the world.

On our final night in Queenstown we bought some New Zealand beef and Dad grilled it. Delicious!

The next day we took a flight back to Auckland and spent another two days there. We feasted at the Auckland Fish Market and strolled around the marina and city area. We also managed to visit Mount Eden and Devonport town, before meeting up with Dad’s old friend for dinner.

We were sad that our holiday had to end but we were very happy that we made the trip together, especially since we did it just before the Covid-19 crisis started to escalate.

The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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