Between the thousands of kilometers of driving, two broken down vans and heck a lot of hiking the in Southern Alps, my trip to New Zealand has come to a close. It was an unforgettable experience that will leave me with fond memories and have me anticipating my next visit. (Next time in summer!)
Here are my biggest takeaways from my 2 1/2 months travelling in New Zealand
Kiwi’s are arguably the most genuinely nice people on the planet
Whether is was being broken down on the side of the road or sharing conversation with a complete stranger, the Kiwi’s always found a way to make you feel at home. Sharing a home with a couple Kiwi families my first 2 weeks abroad instantly showed me the lifestyle down here. Laid back, no worries, be cool and you will be treated like family.
South Island takes the cake over the North Island
Bias maybe playing a role due to the never ending rain that we experienced while traveling on the North Island, but the South Island had all the activities I loved. Hiking, biking, camping, etc. If you want to experience the outdoors and adrenaline this is the place to be.
And the landscapes, oh the landscapes. The snow covered peaks and the turquoise rivers flowing through the valleys make you feel like you are in a dream world.
Travelling during winter is completely different than summer
Travelling is about seeing the wonders of the world and joining in on conversations with like-minded people. Winter in NZ gave me more of the former than the latter. Living in the van limited contact with other travelers to only hiking trails or those brief moments cooking outside. Hearing stories of travelers who were in the country during the summer had me wishing I could redo my trip for December through February. Social gatherings at the campspots, sharing of meals, festivals by the beach, theses were just a few of the tales told about during the warmer months.
The other problem was the sun was only up for 10 hrs a day. Being in bed by 7:00PM isn’t how you become social with others. Bars aren’t a place where local young people go either. The only way to absolutely get social contact was via hostels. This is how we were able to stay sane by mixing in with other travelers.
It wasn’t all bad. Winter travel allowed us to save major dollars on the Great Walks. What would be upwards to $50 a night in NZ’s huts became only $15 a night with limited amenities. Campsites weren’t full which allowed us to show up at any hour without having to worry about having to find another site.
I was extremely comfortable living inside of a van.
Telling your parents that you are going to live out of a van might not be your proudest moment but there really is no better way to see the country. Zero traffic and just the open road was so freeing. Taking in the landscapes as you climb yet another hill makes the drive never boring. Having all our food and supplies in one spot made for easy cooking and eating during those rainy and cold days. Not to mention sleeping in a real bed instead of my blow up camping pad kept me waking fresh each and every morning. I loved our van(s)!
Watching the sun go down never got old, even at 5:00 PM
Sunrises and sunsets come and go everyday, but in NZ they show themselves on a grand scale. Seeing the sunrise at Cathedral Cove was a major highlight of my trip. Running up and down the beach shore trying to capture the moment, onlookers might have thought I was a crazed lunatic. Perhaps I am 😉
Sunsets weren’t hard to take either. You’re never to far away from the coast to miss a spectacular sunset.
Walking through the changing landscapes of the Kepler Track was the epitome of NZ
Starting at sea level, you begin the journey in a jungle like setting. Screeching birds fly through the canopy welcoming you to the forest. As you begin the ascent in elevation you begin to see the changes of the flora. What was once green dense vegetation has turned into the mossy wizards beard whisping from the trees. This very much reminded me of the Kings of Rohan from LoTR. Once you leave the mossy forest you enter alpine terrain with the tussocked covered rocks leading you to the Luxmore Hut. The changing diversity of plant life showed you how the country changes as you climb higher into the air.
Each town had its own distinct vibe from Takaka to Bluff
While you’ll find that most people of NZ are the kindest folk around, each town has its own little quirks. There is a place for everyone. Queenstown: the party capital, Wanaka: the more laid back little brother to Queenstown, Auckland: the bastard child that nobody wants in their family, and Takaka: the place where you will find yourself among the chillest people on the South Island.
Mountain biking will be apart of my outdoor arsenal
Zipping down the single track, I bee-lined straight towards a boulder. Hitting it dead on, I flung over the handlebars and landed softly in the tussock grasses. Not the way you want to start your downhill experience but it didn’t matter, I was hooked. Mountain biking reminded me of skinning up a mountain and skiing down. No better thrill than skirting the edge of a steep drop off while trying to avoid rocks that will most certainly take you off your bike. Can’t wait to try this out in Moab and the tracks in Colorado.
Hiking in NZ is a unique experience not to be forgotten
Colorado officially showed me what mountains truly had to offer. Taking that same passion for hiking to NZ had me appreciate the Southern Alps that much more. The lush green giving way to exposed granite, these mountains maybe the prettiest in the world. Each track had waterfalls and plant life leaving you to think you are in Jurassic Park. I may or may not have played the theme song 5 or more times… 😉 And not need to worry about snakes or beasts looking to chow on your body. NZ has no poisonous or venomous animals.
I wish I could take all my friends to NZ to share the same experience that I had
NZ should be on the list of any person who loves the outdoors. What was supposed to be just a drop in trip because it was along the way to SE Asia turned into a full on exploration and love affair. I fell deeply in love with NZ, so much so I need to come back for a return trip some time in the near future. I know others would feel the same way if they came here as well. I can’t speak more highly of a country and its people. Don’t be shy, take the plunge and experience NZ for yourself!