So that was it. 63 days after flying into New Zealand, I flew back out again. In the meantime I’d driven from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South, and pretty much everywhere worth going in between. I’d abseiled into a cavern, dived with stingrays, jetboated on two rivers and hiked some of the country’s greatest walks. I’d hung out with sea lions, sprinted down sand dunes, visited a steampunk museum, slept in a railway caboose and so much more.
More importantly, I’d had a chance to reconnect with the country I’d grown up in, seeing it through new, less jaded eyes than when I lived there. Blessed with the best summer weather I can ever remember, I was able to see what so many other visitors do in this remarkable little spot at the bottom of the world.
Here, then, are a few of my favourite things about my two months back in New Zealand.
27 of them, in fact.Continue Reading →
While I was much more impressed with the quiet solitude of Doubtful Sound than the tourist-filled buzz of the more famous Milford Sound, the drive into Milford was one of the absolute highlights of my South Island road-tripping.
The aptly-named Mirror Lakes lie just a few metres off the road, but hidden behind the dense treeline it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. Fish twisted and turned in the transparent waters, sunlight piercing the dark, weed-filled depths. Lazy insects searched for tiny morsels of food, buzzing haphazardly along the surface. And us? Well, we just stood and took it all in for a few minutes, enjoying the beauty of this quiet spot.
Oh New Zealand.Continue Reading →
Our time in New Zealand was rapidly coming to an end.
We’d been in my homeland for two months, travelling from north to south and east to west all over this small but diverse country. Now, with only a few days left before heading back to SE Asia, we found ourselves at the appropriately-named Farewell Spit.
This long, fragile sandbar at the top of the South Island lies literally at the end of the road, a lengthy, winding drive from pretty much anywhere. Not lengthy and winding enough to deter the local police, mind you – after successfully avoiding them for thousands of kilometres, a bored cop parked half way up the Takaka Hill decided to give me a ticket for ‘crossing the centre line’ as I rounded a corner.
Apparently having two wheels a few inches over the white paint was an unforgiveable risk to all of the other non-existent traffic on the road. Nice one, buddy. Try driving in Vietnam some time…Continue Reading →
We could hear it long before we could see it, the thunder of millions of litres of raging water slamming into the flattened rocks. Spray filled the air, drenching us in seconds. I could understand why those that chose to go over these falls in flimsy wooden barrel so rarely made it out alive.
One of the great tourist attractions, Niagara Falls is justifiably famous all around the world and makes it onto many bucket lists. And now, the day had come, and there we were, cowering in front of its magnificence.
Although, I have to admit, I wasn’t quite as impressed by this waterfall in the Catlins region of New Zealand as I had expected to be……Continue Reading →
Like many of the drives in New Zealand’s South Island, the trip from Wanaka over the mountains and up the west coast is, quite simply, stunning. The scenery changes dramatically, with the high rainfall of the coast making itself known in the dense green forests and regular signs pointing to a waterfall a few minutes off the main road.
And, of course, the rivers. Shallow, stony creeks are very common in this part of the world, and it’s almost always worth stopping the car to check them out. The splash of the gently flowing stream and birdsong in the trees made this an especially calming spot, but there were many more like it as we drove. On a hot day like this, even the chilly water was appreciated…Continue Reading →
New Zealand is a pretty underpopulated place. Slightly larger than the UK with about one-fifteenth of the people, nowhere outside Auckland ever really feels crowded.
That said, even in this relatively human-free country, some parts are much more isolated than others. These are the kind of places where you can drive for half an hour without seeing another car, where town sizes are measured in hundreds rather than thousands, where power from the national grid has only arrived in the last decade … if it’s arrived at all.
Places, in other words, like the southwest of the South Island.Continue Reading →
After three chilled-out days in Queenstown that consisted mostly of eating ridiculously large hamburgers, afternoon drinking and riding on jetboats, it was again time to move on. I’d been surprised by the place – my memories from previous trips were of an over-priced tourist trap, but this time it didn’t feel like that at all.
The rest of the country seemed to have caught up cost-wise, and while there were plenty of backpackers and other visitors around, this time I was one of them. As always a change of mindset made all the difference, and as we drove out of town I found myself regretting that we hadn’t stayed for longer.Continue Reading →
It was a glorious day as we followed the trail up from Childrens Bay. We were only a couple of minutes from the northern end of Akaroa township, but as we walked along the shaded track, insects buzzing lazily around us, it seemed as if we were miles from civilisation.
Emerging into the sunlight, we continued along the fenceline, through a farmer’s fields and past the menagerie of sculpted metal animals (!) until we stood on the top of the hill and gazed back in the direction from which we had come.
Yeah, I guess it wasn’t a bad view……Continue Reading →