travel

A whole lot of National Parks and Hikes…

The South of New Zealand is one glorious National Park after another and if you’re on a backpacker budget the best way to see all the beautiful NZ scenery is by hiking, lots and lots of hiking!

I should, having climbed Kilimanjaro (did I ever mention that before?!) be able to take on a hike or two reasonably easily but apparently I cannot and whilst every walk we did was worth it, I still seem to be the same unfit person I have always been. After the cruisey coastal walks in Abel Tasman and Kaikoura and a day or two wandering around Christchurch we headed off cross country to Arthur’s Pass and the hiking commenced.

The drive cross country through the pass is another of New Zealand’s idyllic routes (she just keeps chucking them at us)! And from here on it out it really got wild, showers of any kind were a thing of the past, my painted nails abandoned and for most of the west coast, phone signal is not a thing and WiFi hard to find. We were truly disconnected and at some points quite literally in the wilderness. Our first campsite at Arthur’s Pass was 6km down a gravel track in the middle of nowhere, there were perhaps 4 other campers there and a toilet shack that looked like something from a horror film. For a night there, I really thought we might be murdered!

(Creepy as hell but you can’t beat a bed with a sunset view)

But who cares about being murdered (!) because Arthur’s Pass is beautiful and full of hikes of all lengths. Whilst we didn’t take on the hardest we spent the day (after spending our first day in the car hiding from the rain) trekking our way through the pass to see great waterfalls and of course stunning views!

(And to be those cliche instagramming travellers who take this bloody travel photo!)

Once we hit the west coast Franz Josef was our first stop. And if you can’t quite splash out on the helicopter rides up onto the glacier you can take a 45 minute walk up to the face, or if you fancy a five hour hike up to Roberts Point for an even closer view. The sign heading into the hike warns that it is for experienced hikers only (which I’m not so sure I can be classed as) and I ended up taking this one on solo.

(This sign’s not daunting at all)

It was without a doubt the most fun of all the hikes. Crossing huge swing bridges and rivers, scrambling up rocks and taking on a narrow wooden staircase hanging on the side of a cliff is all part of the fun. And yes I was a little terrified that I was going to slip and smash all my bones but did I love every second of it? Hell yes I did! The walk ends at a platform which gives you a fantastic view of the glacier and you can eat lunch watching all the helicopters landing and taking off from the glacier as the slightly richer tourists go play on it. Absolutely killer and my legs paid the price, but absolutely recommend!

(So many fun swing bridges and rickety stairways)

As we made our way down the West Coast there were so many places to stop and take on a little hike. First up was Lake Matheson where you can walk around the lake and if you’re lucky get a perfect mirrored reflection of Mount Cook (we were not) but we did get some pretty good views of the mountain and the Fox Glacier. From there we made our way down the coast stopping at a few stunning beach walks along the way.

(I definitely recommend Ship Creek, just look how pretty it is)

Then we were heading through the Haast Pass which is waterfall paradise. Every few minutes we were stopping and making our way along little trails to view waterfalls and probably the bluest river I have ever seen!

(Seriously the most insanely blue, although a little freezing, water ever seen)

We took a little detour further down to Cromwell for a couple of days and found ourselves some more hills to climb, and a particular favourite stop of mine Bendigo ghost town. An abandoned gold mining town up the hairiest steep, winding dust track of a road that gave me a minor heart attack, but nearly deserted by all but us and a group of nudists we stumbled upon (New Zealand is just one fun story after another)! There are heaps of walking tracks up here and walking around this ghostly town was a great afternoon adventure not to mention the of course great views.

(Just hanging around on top of a hill as per usual)

Then we hit up Wanaka and with it Roy’s Peak which was the big one. It is at the top of the list of hikes to hit in New Zealand and you can see why. The highest peak in the area you can literally see for miles and miles, but it is HARD. A constant uphill slog and it was hot hot hot! Too in love with our sleep to try and a climb for sunrise and miss the heat of the day we started climbing mid morning and boy did we sweat! We took four litres of water each along with a speaker pounding out the motivational tunes, and I am so very glad we did, because we needed it. Reaching the top though I probably felt the most accomplished I had in the whole time I’d been in New Zealand! And that combined with the very welcome breeze and the killer views put it at the top of my list of recommendations.

(New Zealand just chucking them stunner views at us)

And thus ended our weeks of walking as we headed for Queenstown and all the thrills, food and alcohol it offers (seriously we deserve it)!

(Our happy hands atop Roy’s Peak for no more hikes)

Till next time xxx

travel

How to (or not to) camp your way around New Zealand…

With the season over at the ski slope and a few dollars in the bank it was time to leave the mountain behind and head off exploring New Zealand and the best way to do that? A roadie!

I successfully exploited the fact that my birthday was rolling around to convince my remaining friends in the country that they needed to accompany me to the first stop at least. And two days after the ski slopes closed on a bright, sunny spring morning with a car full to the brim of stuff and three of us somehow cramped in we set off on the longest most roundabout route to stop one; Raglan, via the forgotten highway and, of course to make it a proper road trip, Mcdonald’s for breakfast!

Top tip number one New Zealand roads are (like the weather) very variable and you will often find yourself on a gravel road as we did on our very first day. They are, however, also very stunning. And the Forgotten Highway is one of these stunners, it’s a beautiful, remote drive through rolling hills, forested gorges, mysterious tunnels and you can even get your passport stamped at the self-declared Republic of Whangamomona! It is everything I wanted New Zealand to be and that first day I really felt as though I’d stepped right into Lord of the Rings. Just brace yourself for a bit of a rough ride.

(An actual passport stamp from the Republic of Whangamomona’s passport office aka the pub)

Top tip number two springtime will still be a wee bit chilly so it may not be wise to down a load of beers go skinny dipping and jump into bed soaking wet. Our roadie (and my birthday celebrations) started true to form with a few drinks. After succeeding in putting up the tent for the first time the beer was cracked open and giddy on the high of freedom from our jobs and a new adventure we got “a little bit lairy!” And in the spirit of a new adventure I decided that it was the time to tick another item off the bucket list and take a dip in the, pardon my French, fucking freezing sea at midnight. As exhilarating and hilarious (we may have had to climb over the very tall locked gate to get back into the campsite and I am very not tall) as the experience was, once the excitement and the alcohol coat disappeared boy did we feel the cold. Just one word when you’re camping people, Layers! And lots of them.

Top tip number three get an air mattress that does not deflate. As well as dealing with the sudden shock of not being in a warm bed we also woke up to the realisation that we were sleeping on the floor, it turns out our air bed had a very well hidden hole in it. Within one night we had gone from a warm comfy bed to sleeping on the floor in the cold, and we had a whole six months of this to look forward to!

Top tip number four get used to the fact that complete cleanliness is not a thing. To be honest I always feel a little bit grubby. Camping by beaches, everything very quickly gets full of sand and even if the nights were cold to start with, the morning sun is hot especially the closer summer gets, and it gets sweaty fast (sorry gross I know). If it isn’t sunny it is raining and then, well then, everything is damp.

(It takes a little ingenuity to try and keep as dry as possible. And to make sure the coffee gets made!)

After our first four nights of camping topped off with 24 hours of rain, we’d had enough and convinced ourselves that economically it was better to get an air b&b during our time in Auckland and treat ourselves to some luxury. But alas when you’re on a backpacker’s budget Air b&bs are a one off luxury and despite a few days of living it up once our numbers dwindled we were back to the good old camping.

Top tip number five campsites come in all shapes and sizes. There are the more luxury holiday parks and there are the more wallet friendly DOC sites. The department of conservation campsites are cheap and varied, some have a wide range of facilities, some just have taps and drop toliets and some have nothing! But when they’re $10 a night and when you can go to sleep with views like these do you really care? Plus the lake makes for a pretty good bath in the morning and well, it’s all part of the adventure!

Top tip number six make sure your car is fully equipped. By this I mean it is probably a good idea to make sure you have a full puncture kit, some oil, water, perhaps even road side assistance. Because if by some chance you’re driving along a particularly bumpy gravel road and you get two flat tyres and then discover you have no tools to change the tyres anyway you can very quickly (or actually slowly) find your car on a tow truck and a hefty price to pay!

(My poor baby)

Top tip number seven if you don’t like the tent you can always sleep in the car. Just under one month into our travels and we were down to just the two of us and this meant we could set up the car and make it our home. It may be a little on the cosy side but as both of us are short we make it work. Bonus it saves time on setting up, all we need to do us pull up at our spot for the night, shift the bags into the front seat and settle in for the evening. Sure it may not be a fancy jucy camper but we’re on a budget. And let’s be honest the zombie repeller makes for a pretty cool home for the summer!

(Home, cat unfortunately not included)

Top tip number eight try and make a little bit of a plan. Yes it is awesome to just go where the wind takes you, to change plans and directions depending on what you fancy and who you meet but it is probably best to have rough idea of where you want to visit and what you want to do otherwise you can very easily find yourself aimlessly cruising down the coast, dodging the rain and wandering around townships spending your money on coffee and pointless purchases. And times like these will make you miss home and all its comforts and have you wondering what the hell you’re doing with your life BUT…

Top tip number nine roadies are fun! You may wind up soaked to the skin, burnt to the crisp, sweaty, dirty and with chronic back pain. You may sometimes get sick of the endless wandering, particularly when the weather is crap. You may run into troubles and you may end up in some weird ass places. But you will also end up in the most beautiful places, go on the most ridiculous adventures and have some of the best experiences of your life. Could there be a better way to see New Zealand? I don’t think so!