While getting to explore the wondrous sights of a new country is quite a privilege, being named the first Indian tourism ambassador for that country is a totally different experience. Such was the case for the young Bollywood actor Sidharth Malhotra and New Zealand. From learning about this picturesque nation’s traditions to embarking on adventurous activities like sand surfing and walking the famous Auckland bridge, this month You & I gets a sneak peek into the actor’s trip, highlighting all that makes New Zealand a fascinating holiday destination.
After Sidharth was named the first Indian ambassador for Tourism New Zealand, what followed was an extremely well-planned trip that showcased the best of both the north and south Islands of the country. On this workcation, the actor visited Northland, Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington, Queenstown, and the Canterbury regions.
At the beginning of this long yet exciting tour, Sidharth was welcomed by a traditional ceremony called the powhiri at Te Puia. The powhiri is a formal Maori welcome bestowed upon important guests before they arrive at the Marae (meeting house). The ceremony begins with a wero (challenge) where a warrior from the tangata whenua (hosts) challenges the manuhiri (guests). This is followed by a karanga (call of welcome), speeches by elders, and songs that support their speeches. The beautiful ceremony then concluded with the hosts and guests greeting each other with a hongi, the ceremonial touching of noses, which Sidharth performed with poise.
One of the premiere Maori cultural attractions in the country, Te Puia is also the centre for native Maori experiences, geo thermal valleys with well-known geysers, specially planned guided tours, and so much more. Te Puia spans an area of 70 hectares within the historic Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, which is on the edge of Roturua. Also found in this tourist town are the native Kiwi birds and the national schools of wood carving, weaving, stone and bone carving.
Next up was the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where Sidharth learned about the historic site where the 1840 New Zealand founding document was signed. Other interesting sights that one can witness while at the grounds are the Museum of Waitangi, the Treaty House, the carved Meeting House, and the giant Maori waka – the world’s largest ceremonial war canoe. Taking it a step further in giving their many visitors an authentic experience of an age-old ceremony, the tour also includes a challenge by Maori warriors, followed by a waiata (singing) performance, and the Maori weaponry display.
On the other end of the actor’s adventure spectrum was his gliding trip down the Te Paki sand dunes. The largest sand formations in the southern hemisphere, the giant sand mountains of Te Paki are perfectly designed for thrill-seekers, and are more specifically known for the sand-surfing. Heading back to the greener side of New Zealand, Sidharth was awe-struck when he visited the rich Waipoua Forest and stood in the towering shadow of Tane Mahuta, the giant kauri tree, estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years of age. The name stands for ‘Lord of the Forest’ in Maori. A special tour called Footprints Waipoua then enthralled visitors with stories and chants from the past that have been passed down through generations.
Taking the journey up north, the spirited actor even managed to make his trip on the TranzAlpine train a fun one. On this ride between Christchurch and Greymouth, Sidharth enjoyed the striking views of the farmlands of the Caterbury Plains and the mighty Southern Alps. But just taking in these picture-perfect views wasn’t enough for the actor’s adventuresome spirit, so he convinced the driver to teach and show him what it takes to control the train as it smoothly runs between the beautiful alpine surroundings, with breathtaking sights on both sides of the tracks. “It is very easy to lose your heart to these serene views as the journey begins. It indeed is one of the most peaceful and relaxing train experiences,” he commented.
Sidharth’s first trip as the country’s tourism ambassador to New Zealand was nothing short of spectacular. From learning about unique traditions of different civilisations to taking helicopter rides over the Tasman Glacier, bungy jumping, zip lining, and cooking traditional Maori meals and donning their traditional garments, it all added up to a remarkable experience. At the end of his journey, the actor said he’d be sure to repeat the adventure and ready to explore more the next time he visits the island nation. –Roshni