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January 2017

Roadtripping New Zealand

High and low – sand and snow. A short but perfectly fitting description of how it is to road trip this country. You can start the day by the sea and end up in the mountains, or vice versa. When you read this, I’ve been driving from Auckland on the north island, down via Tongariro,  taken the ferry from Wellington to Picton on the south island and from there pretty much all over the south island – and back up to Auckland. Many hours, kilometers and podcasts I can assure you. Also, a lot of beautiful sceneries and a Red Bull or two to not get tired behind the wheel.

My biggest tip in you ever travel to New Zealand is to rent a car. I would say it’s totally waste of time and money going here and not get a car. The distances sometimes can be pretty long and the flexibility of a car is priceless. Even greedy backpackers should rent a car or a camper van, because the bus tickets are really expensive and, of course, offers no flexibility what so ever.

Roadtripping is my favorite type of holiday, simply because you are so free and can do and see many things. I’ve been lucky doing many good ones in Europe, the US, Canada and South Africa to mention a few. New Zealand is the perfect country for road tripping due to it’s many attractions, scenic landscapes and cosy small towns. It’s also a very safe country, which was good to know as I slept 18 of the 23 nights in the car. No problem what so ever and 15 of those 18 nights I slept like a baby. Two nights were really cold and one night I’ve had a little too much coffee in order to stay awake behind the wheel – and you can say it did the job, perhaps a litte too well. There were three reasons I slept in the car:

  1. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING was sold out. Not a single hotel, cabin, camping spot, hostel available. (Due to NZ holiday and record number of tourists, early January is the high season)
  2. Save some money. Since I went here alone the car was pretty pricy.
  3. To live a simple life, in order to appreciate sleeping in a bed and have comfort when that day comes. Goes hand in hand with my over-all reason for this trip; learning to find happiness in less.

However, there are some things that can be good to know when road tripping here:

  • First of all: they drive on the left side of the road. Takes 10 minutes to get used to and it’s not as hard as people think.
  • They drive FAST down here. Most roads here have 100 km/h as a max limit where I can bet my long blonde hair on that in Europe it would NEVER be more than 70 km/h. Even small, narrow and winding mountain roads have 100 km/m.
  • The gas price is the same as Scandinavia, expensive!
  • I’ve never seen as many roadkills as down here, luckily enough the animals are small though.
  • Want to eat dinner? Make sure you get to a restaurant at latest by 8.30 PM, everything closes 9 PM.
  • If you decide to take the ferry from Wellington to Picton (or/and back) make sure you book in advance in order to save a lot of money.
  • I would advice NOT going to New Zealand from the 20th of December to the 20th of January. This is when the Kiwis (NZ people) have their Christmas holiday, children out of school and also the peak for foreign tourists. The weather says to be as good in late January and February.

Wonderful Wanaka

Do you know what I like best about surprises? They come without waiting! Definitely comparable to Wanaka, a small mountain village located in between some scenic mountains and lakes. So far my favorite place in New Zealand where I easily could spend both summer and winter. And it wasn’t really on my list, I just drove by and liked it instantly.

I chose to pick up the subject surprises, because on the other hand you have plans and expectations. Before I went to Wanaka I went to Queenstown. A place everyone is hyping, talking about and say is the best place. And perhaps it is for 21 year old German back-packers who has never traveled before. For me, it was just the most busy, overrated and non-pleasant place so far in NZ. And the sad thing is I really was looking forward to it, but it turned out I didn’t like it at all.

So then I was really glad that Wanaka shows up out of nowhere. The place is not big at all, 6000 people living here and it’s a mecca for outdoor activities. I did some hiking, biking and beaching – in addition to a lot of relaxing and my new hobby: reading.

During my travels in in NZ I’ve met some other people also sharing my thoughts on both Queenstown and Wanaka, so I guess there is something about it and not just me being a weirdo (which I might be anyway though). Next time I visit NZ, I will definitely spend more time here.

The highlight (both literally and mentally) in Wanaka was hiking Roys Peak. A 16 kilometer hike to a summit on 1578 meters with beautiful surroundings. I did it with a girl from Hawaii and on the way down we took a 10 minute rest to gain some energy and also admire the view. After a minute, a sheep showed up 10 meters in front of us and apparently admired us for a couple of minutes posing like a supermodel in front of my camera. Somehow my deep senses come to think of a “parallel universe”. Ok, I do understand that you might think I’m really drunk now or maybe have been traveling with too many hippies, but the thing is I haven’t had a single drink so far in 2017 and the hippies haven’t influenced me at all. Anyway, to the point, what I mean with a parallel universe is that for example when you look at a girl/guy and think: “Damn, she was nice! And it would have been ever nicer to get her phone number”. There is actually a big chance she/he looks back and thinks the same thing, but no one dares to act. Especially in today’s society when talking to people you don’t know would be considered as braindead. Let’s say you are camping and lie awake watching the stars and gaze out into the universe thinking: “Maybe there is something out there…”. There is also a big chance someone or something does the exact same thing – far out there in the universe. Now, to travel out in to space is a pretty big deal. But to ask someone that you like for her/his phone number is not a big deal. I mean, what’s the worst thing that can happen? That he/she says no – but probably it will be a yes. So, would you ask? Would you capture it or let it slip?

The mighty Milford Sound

Ever heard the expression “cross the river for water”? I’ve heard it recently, and yes, I did travel to the other side of the globe in order to find something I have in my “backyard”; mighty fjords and mountains. New Zealand and Norway are almost the exact opposite side of the world, yet they are so similar in many ways.

Milford Sound, is not actually a sound, it’s a fjord. From the ocean it’s entry is hidden, so even perhaps the biggest explorer of all time, James Cook, sailed pass it several times without noticing this impressive and stunning piece of art from mother earth. However, it was eventually found and has now become perhaps the most popular “must go” destination in New Zealand. That being said, it’s pretty remote so getting here can take some time – but trust me – it’s worth it.

I wanted to do two things here: hike and take a cruise. I ended up “only” taking the cruise, since I found out that you have to book the big hikes about one year in advance. Yes, you read right: one year! Perhaps it was better in the times of James Cook after all.

Anyway, I went on the cruise which lasted about 2,5 hours from the most inner point out to the open ocean and back. If you have ever been to New York or Hong Kong, you perhaps know that you often walk the streets looking up at the skyscrapers. It’s pretty much the same here, but you are not looking up on 200 meter skyscrapers – but 2000 meter mountains. I felt somewhere like Di Caprio in Titanic and Frodo in the end of The Return of the King, standing in the front of the boat.

So how would I compare this to the Norwegian fjords? Really hard to pick a winner, they are both amazing and Norway has many fjords but my favorites for sure are Geiranger and Nærøyfjorden. Milford Sound is bigger, higher and in that way more powerful. On the other hand, the Norwegian fjords are narrower and curves more. Also the Norwegian ones goes through many climate zones starting with some forest, then bush, rock and snow/glaciers on the tops. Here it’s a little warmer and VERY rainy so it’s very green and only the highest peaks are covered in snow. If I have to choose: Norway.

Though, being number 2 in the world when it comes to fjords is not bad, not at all! 🙂