Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New Zealand

Greetings from Sydney! Well it's been a long time since I've updated this and I feel like I've squeezed 4 months travel into 1 while in New Zealand. As I sit here, its really hard to sum up the last month. I had great intentions of writing a little each day but we didn't have a whole lot of down time which was really great actually. And if there was downtime, it was just nice to sit around and chat with my new found on-the-road family over a few beers. This trip has really been one of the best ever, largely due to the people I met along the way, and of course due to the beauty of New Zealand. I didn't really have any expectations going in, I just knew I needed a good break and I wanted to be outdoors a lot. I also have to admit I didn't know a whole lot about NZ before going so it was nice to go with an open mind. I was a little worried about going with an organized bus tour but I really couldn't have asked for a better bunch, with people from all over the world and ages ranging from 18 to 60.

The trip was 27 days around the north and south islands of New Zealand on a bus with a group called The Flying Kiwi and they're very different from the usual bus tours. Mike and Avril were our driver and guides. They're both Kiwis and quite crazy which was fantastic. They couldn't have done any more for us and were really knowledgeable, fun and helpful in every way. We camped almost every night, we shared cooking duties (we had a trailer at the back of the bus stocked with food and stoves) and we hiked and cycled our way around the country. Almost each day we'd have some extra optional activities we could do such as kayaking, hand gliding and for the crazy people, skydiving and bungee type stuff. It was great to meet so many like minded people and it was nice to see I'm not the only mad fool who has quit a job to travel. As I said its too hard to go through each day so you can check out the itinerary and map here. But these were the highlights for me.

- Food was fantastic! Mike's BBQ's were my favorite, perfectly cooked steak.
- Beers around a campfire on the beach, then going back to our tents, falling asleep to the sound of the waves
- Kayaking in Hahei and Abel Tasman, clear blue water, seals, golden beaches
- Tangariro Alpine crossing, great day hike on the north island
- All the cycle rides into camp but my favorite was into Kaikoura on the south island
- Only spent a few hours in Christchurch but I liked what I saw and want to go back
- White water rafting on the Rangiata River, some cool class 5's. My first time but hopefully not my last!
- Walk around the base of Mount Cook
- We had a fancy dress competition one day, we had to find something from a charity shop in Dunedin and wear it all the following day from breakfast. I dressed as a pink super hero and won the prize for best dressed! You have to see the pics to appreciate it
- Cruise through the Milford Sound, the dolphins playing alongside our boat, stunning views
- 7 of us did the Routeburn track which takes 3 days. Probably one of my most favorite things, amazing weather and very rugged scenery
- A big night out in Queenstown where we put on our best duds, dressed up, went for dinner and lots of drinks and dancing. Loved that night!
- Jet boating at 8.30am, that woke me up. Going 80km/hr on a river
- Glacier walk on Fox glacier, pretty cool. They let us slide down an ice hole, I still have the bruises
- One of my favorite camps was at Okarito, beautiful beach camp.
- Bushman museum where Peter, the owner showed us a video of how they used to jump out of helicopters to wrestle red deer to the ground in order to capture them. This was both a scary and fascinating place!
- Pancake rocks at Punakaiki, another great camp by the beach
- Abel Tasman, we stayed at a cool camp for 2 nights, stunning beaches, went kayaking and handgliding!! LOVED handgliding. A plane towed us up to 2500ft and then we released from it and flew for 15 mins. Very serene. I included a video of it with the pics. We also had a pirate party that night since it was our last night with Mike and Avril :(
- Bay of Islands, beautiful bikes rides and beach swimming for 2 days. We had a different guide and driver for these last few days though and even thought it was beautiful, it just wasn't the same without Mike and Avril.
- At the end of the tour instead of spending 2 days in Auckland, 3 of us spent 2 days and a night on Waiheke Island, 40 mins ferry ride from Auckland. Some great wine tasting and chill out time before coming to Sydney.

Anyway, I would highly recommend NZ. I really want to go back now and spend time at some of my favorite places. It couldn't have been any better. Madagascar and South Africa had better bring the goods to beat this trip!

Here are my New Zealand photos.

I'm leaving Sydney on Sat for Madagascar via Johannesburg and will be there for over 3 weeks so I should be able to update you all on that trip at the end of April. Hope everyone is well and keep writing to me! I love hearing from you. Even if I don't get a chance to write back, I definitely get to read your mails.

Love Jen