New Zealand

Windy Wellington

Before arriving in Wellington I was told it rivals San Francisco for just how windy it gets. I zipped up and put my hand on my head to keep my hat on. I saw women in dresses and wondered if I was overdressed.

Te Papa Museum

Every list for things to do in NZ include this museum. The admission is free, has free wifi and open until 9pm on Thursday. The museum is nice but I didn’t stay long.

Cable Car to the Botanical Gardens

It’s $7 NZD for a return trip. I took a ride up to see the city from up top. It’s not the best view because it’s blocked by trees but you get to see the city as a whole.

Cuba Street

I looked up places to eat and Cuba street came up. Duke Carvell’s came up on a couple lists. It’s tapas style, good for group dining but I figured I was hungry so I could tackle a few small plates. I tackled 3 and they were delicious.

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Tongariro Alpine Crossing

In early September it looked like the snow was melting away, winter had gone and spring had arrived. That all quickly changed as multiple storms passed through and covered the mountains in snow. I ended up waiting 3 days to hike. The day before and the morning of they said we would only get halfway because of possible avalanche danger. But as quickly as the snow fell it melted away and we were able to hike straight through!

We started the hike layering up as much as possible. They were concerned with the high winds that were expected but about 20 minutes in I wanted to shed all my layers and the strong winds never came. It was
a wee bit nippy at the summit but nowhere near what was expected. In NZ the sun beats down strong and it was quickly warming us up. I regretted the thermals I had chose to wear earlier this morning. The start of the hike was all dirt and then about 20 minutes in we hit snow. We carried crampons the entire way but ended up not needed them. It was a bit slippery at times but we were able to get by with boots and an ice axe. We happened upon a young family carrying a baby. While we were perched along the mountainside ice axes firmly planted in snow they shuffled below us with no ice axes or trekking poles. I began to wonder are we over doing it or are they just crazy?

The area we were hiking is still considered an active volcano so there are areas that are closed off. The hut on the mountain is closed to overnight guests since the last volcano eruption. The mountain is covered in black. You can also see steam rising and as you get closer you get a strong whiff of that geothermal activity.

After hiking up I was a bit worried about going down since it was slippery on the way up but we had crampons and maybe those would help. I was at the back of the group so I missed the first part of what the guide said and the next thing I knew the guide slid down the mountain! I thought he was instructing us how to walk down the steep section of the mountain. Instead we were planning to slide down the mountain! The kid in me jumped for joy. I quickly rearranged my clothing and backpack to turn myself into a human sled. I whipped out my gopro and got read to take some epic footage. We were able to get in a few runs and then there was no snow left to slide down so we had to return to using our legs to walk.

The hike is not a return hike so out shuttle met us at the end. I thought since it was not a return hike it would be more interesting but it’s not. At that point I just wanted to get down and not stop so my muscles wouldn’t cramp up. We still had another hour to go and we hurried down as quickly as possible. We were rewarded at the end with beverages and a grassy lawn to lie on. I noticed they also have outdoor lounging benches built at the ends of the Great Walks.

In the image they use for the end of the Routeburn hike there’s people lounging everywhere, relaxing after a long hike. When we did the Routeburn it was deserted because it’s still winter and not prime hiking season. This time since I was with a large group it looked just like the image I had seen. I took off my boots, dried my wet socks in the sun and drank my can of sprite as if it was a ice cold glass of water.

The best part of the hike is reaching the summit the second best part is reaching the car park.

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New Zealand Great Walks

New Zealand goes to great lengths to maintain the natural beauty of the country. They realize early on on it’s one of he greatest treasures. There are various multi-day hikes around the country which are called Great Walks. You can choose to hike just a portion of the hike which I had to do since it’s still winter and many tracks are still under avalanche watch. These Great Walks are well maintained by the Department of Conservation. There are shelters built just off the trail so you don’t have to pack any sleeping gear. That makes the Great Walks accessible for more people since you don’t have to carry as much stuff. The trails are well marked and the signs look like they are hot off the presses. The information on the Great Walks is widely available and they detail out how much you should plan to hike each day if you’re planning to do a multi-day hike.

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Busing through New Zealand

A cheap way to travel through New Zealand is by bus. I discovered two companies in New Zealand, Naked Bus and Intercity bus. Not all buses look the same or come in the same size.

For example you might be staring at the back of the bus that says Johnston and on the side there’s a small sticker that says nakedbus.com. Next thing you know you stare as the bus pulls away only to come around on the other side by way of rotary (thank god for New Zealand rotaries). That’s when you grab your bags as if your Hercules and you sprint across the street and flag that bus down.

So make sure to thoroughly check all sides of a bus to determine if it’s yours.

I rode buses on both companies and didn’t notice a difference. Naked does charge extra for more than one large bag.

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New Zealand Facts

So these are facts I’ve heard from others that I didn’t fact check with Google or Wikipedia.

Population

New Zealand has 4 million people and 40 million sheep. 1 million live on the South Island and 3 million on the North Island. In the south the ratio of sheep to acre is 1:5. In the north the same ratio is 5:1. If I said that correctly for every 5 acres of land in the South there is 1 sheep.

West Island
If you haven’t heard New Zealand also has a west island and it’s called Australia.

Rotorua

Polynesian Spa

The water in the outdoor pools are from an actual hot spring. I went around 7:30pm since it closes at 11pm and they have free wifi at the cafe. Unlimited free wifi is hard to come by in New Zealand and I’m down to about 300mb of data on my mobile plan. I picked the $45 Lake Spa. The hottest pool was 42 Celsius. I didn’t last very long in that pool. I enjoyed my time in the pool that was deemed too cold by a Chinese woman at the spa. I’m pretty sure I was hanging at the spa with an entire Chinese tour group. I tried to listen in to practice my listening skills but most of their accents were too strong.

It’s called the Lake Spa because you get views of the Lake but you can’t see anything at night.

Hobbiton

They created this fictional village for the LOTR movies and then rebuilt it with permanent structures for the Hobbit movies. It feels a bit like Disneyworld where no detail is missed. Most of the trees and plants are real. The structures were all built and then severely distressed. I want to re watch the movies when I get back.

Zorbing

Zorbing and New Zealand have always been synonymous for me. I don’t even remember why. I really wanted to go zorbing but it wasn’t going to fit our original itinerary since there’s only one place in New Zealand you can do it. But then weather happened and it changed everything. We decided to leave National Park and then I had to figure out if I could leave with them or stay behind. Since zorbing was #1 on my list I wanted to make it happened. I was able to rebook/cancel some things and had to pay rebooking fees and lose deposits but it was all worth it. My cousin had recently gone zorbing and she raved about how awesome it was. Zorbing is loads of fun and after the first ride I bought two more! My YHA Hostel in Rotorua recommended Ogo instead of the Zorb company because they have a longer track. At first I wasn’t sure what to do since I hadn’t looked at the other company but I decided the longer track would be more fun and it’s closer to town. It’s same inventor, he just started a new company. When you look at it it doesn’t seem that long but once you’re in it it feels long. I tried both the straightaway and the sidewinder and both are fun. I can now understand why hamsters love their hamster balls.

Naked Bus

Yes there’s a bus service called Naked Bus. It’s like a Greyhound or a Peter Pan. I got to the bus stop 20 minutes early and still ended up running across the street chasing the bus. I failed to notice the sticker on the side that said Naked Bus and instead was looking at the name on the back of the bus which I’m not sure what it refers too.

This is the second time this trip I’ve had to run with all my bags at the last second.

Geothermal Activity Day

We decided to leave National Park since it was a bust. The hike we wanted to do was under avalanche watch and there was no sign it would be safe to hike tomorrow. Even our backup plan to snowboard failed.

We headed towards Rotorua and made stops along the way suggested by out guidebook, NZ Frenzy. This area has heaps of geothermal activity. You can pay to see steam rising from the ground and you can see it off the side of the highway.

At this point we’ve had our fill of waterfalls, suspension bridges, one lane bridges, rainbows, cows, and sheeps. Today we got our fill of steam rising from the ground.

We arrived in Rotoura just after sunset. There’s not much to do here after hours expect head to the Polynesian spa and enjoy the hot springs which is what I’m doing now. I’m sitting in a lake spa and typing away while hoping I don’t drop my phone.

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CLOSED

It seems winter has finally caught up to us. We had planned to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing today but weather conditions are unfavorable. A few weeks ago we thought we might be able to do this on our own, then in the recent days we decided we would need a guide and yesterday we found out no guides would be going up.

The backup plan was snowboarding but even that is closed today.

So now we need a backup to our backup. I wanted to go to Rotorua to go zorbing and thermal pool dipping but that’s a 2 hour drive from here and it’s raining cats and dogs. If I was driving on the right side I would be fine but I would rather no driving on the left.

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Day 16

It’s been a whirlwind. Everyday has been packed. We did have a day or two to sleep in but once we are out the door we are on the move. One week in South Island wasn’t enough to see the entire island. We were probably a bit ambitious attempting to drive around the entire island.

I joke that I’m planning to move to Queenstown next year but part of me wants to. It would probably be the smallest city I have ever lived in and going home would be more of a hassle than it is now but none of that matters to me right now.

I recently booked my tickets back home. I was a little sad to know my world tour has an end. I’ll be back two weeks later than I had originally planned but what has gone according to plan this year. This is the year of big and it’s go big and go home, and I’m not ready to go home right now.

We flew from Christchurch to Auckland this morning. We spent about an hour in the mall shopping. I didn’t buy anything since I packed so much there’s not much I need and I also don’t have the space to pack it. We went through a bit of culture shock, not used to the hustle and bustle of cities. Traffic lights and multi-lane roads are also new to us.

We are driving down to to National Park to do another hike tomorrow. We booked our flights before we knew our plans or else driving north from Christchurch could have been another option.

Arthurs Pass

The night we arrived in Greymouth we were told Arthurs Pass was closed due to snow that day and there was a chance it would still be closed.

Lucky for us the weather got better and it reopened. We are not sure what part exactly is Arthurs Pass but there were a couple mountain roads that would have been difficult to navigate in snow due to low visibility.

We stopped along the way to check out the area. I enjoyed Castle Hill rocks. Parts of ‘Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe’ were filmed here. They are gigantic limestone rocks that look like an adult playground. We ran into lots of boulderers in the area. We would have stayed longer but the sun was setting and we could feel static electricity in the air which we thought was a sign of lightning. We haven’t experienced any lightning storms but we didn’t need this to be our first.

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