New Zealand Adventures

After a swift decision to travel through New Zealand instead of Australia, Cameron and I made our way to the youngest country in the world. We hired a car, starting in Auckland, and headed around both the north and south island.

We brought a 3 season tent with plans to camp around the lusciously green country for 3 weeks, but ended up staying in hostels half the time due to the cold and wet Spring temperatures. After departing Auckland, we headed north to camp on some beaches and swim in the ocean. The Pacific doesn’t feel nearly as cold down there as it does in California or Oregon. One of the campsites required driving an hour off the main highway on a dirt road, passing through grazing sheep, finding the remotely stationed ranger, driving through a couple grassy fields with no real road, opening and closing big gates and parking under some random trees by a beach. From there, we had to grab our packs and hike through a beach, over a mountain and onto another beach with a grassy clearing. That was the campsite. In the middle of nowhere. A beautiful nowhere all to ourselves. It was worth the effort.

Later that week, we found ourselves on the Coromandel Peninsula to the east of Auckland. We went on a kayak tour through rock caves and tunnels out in the ocean and paddled with dolphins for a few minutes. The peninsula was beautiful, but catered to tourists with money and was a little to expensive for our tastes, so we headed south through the middle of the north island. We bypassed opportunities to go Zorbing (if you’ve never heard of this giant plastic inflatable ball adventure, check out ) and went straight into the heart of geothermal activity. We stayed at a campsite with man-made hot spring pools sourced from the largest single-source hot spring in New Zealand. We even took a short hike to see the actual hot spring bubbling from the ground.

We continued down to Wellington, the capital and hop off spot for the ferry to the south island. Not the greatest city, but then again I’m not the biggest fan of cities to begin with. We drove our car onto the ferry and headed up to the viewing deck to watch the boat navigate through the Cook Strait. On the less populated but larger south island, we picked up fish n chips in Picton, got a nail in a tire in Blenheim and tried to find a highway that didn’t exist. We pre-booked a hostel by phone (rare on this trip) and made it to Franz Josef Glacier that night. Early the next morning, we began our 8 hour tour of Franz Josef Glacier and spent 6 hours actually hiking around on the ice. The tour company provided all the clothing and equipment and our tour group only had 10 people. It was challenging and we were exhausted, but how often does one get the opportunity to hike a glacier? Plus, this is one of the only glaciers in the world surrounded by a tropical rain forest. Most glaciers, like the one on Mt Hood in Oregon, are too high in elevation to be surrounded by foliage.

Off the glacier and into the car for a 7.5 hour drive further south. We wanted to go on the world famous 4 day trek through the Milford Sound, but it was too snowy and we were ill prepared for potential avalanches, so we took a boat cruise around the sound. It wasn’t quite the same, but it did give us 3 extra days to see other things. We hiked around the Southern Alps and saw a few more glaciers around Mt. Cook. We even had a whole mountain chalet to ourselves. Many places seem deserted in the off season, which was actually better for us. More room. Less noise. From the mountains we headed north, up the west coast, to a set of some of the most beautiful bays. We stayed in what seemed like a tree house straight out of Robinson Crusoe and used their free kayaks to paddle around a bit. Cameron turned 29(!) during our adventure, and we ate some carrot cake in celebration at a gas station/rest stop. We took the ferry back to the north island, headed up the north island and back to Auckland for our departure.

This trip was about 20 days and just right. We saw amazing things and met the friendliest people in the world. What more can I say? Photos will be up soon!


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