This post is inspired by chats that I have had recently with the lovely San at Alive and Trekking about New Zealand. San has a passion and love for New Zealand and you’ll find great tales and photos of the magnificent country, and beyond, on her fantastic blog!
We got chatting about our experiences and talking about it brought the memories flooding back of my travels there way, way back in 2004.
I spent 6 weeks travelling around the islands with one of my best friends and we there in winter, just because it fitted in with our year long travel schedule.
We had spent the previous 9 months in hot and sunny climates, so we found New Zealand cold, cold and did I mention cold?! It did rain quite a bit too, but we were also blessed with some bright (and when I say bright, I mean bright!) blue skies along the way, so we had a bit of everything!
We managed to cover a lot of ground during our time there (we were not known for staying in one place too long!), flying over snowcapped mountains into Christchurch, travelling around the South Island by car, bus and the kindness of fellow backpackers, taking in fjiords, mountains, and glaciers, before catching a rather hair-raising ferry trip to the North Island to see volcanoes and mud baths, ending our trip with an impromptu visit to the Bay of Islands, before flying out of Auckland to Fiji.
We stayed in an assortment of accommodation, but were really impressed with the hostels in the country, they were so much better than any others we had stayed in. There was a good range, some quirky, some cute…and of course the odd one which was a bit weird!!
Funnily enough New Zealand was not somewhere that I was too bothered about visiting…looking back I can’t believe that I thought that way! And whilst it’s certainly true to say that we were both feeling very travel weary by the end of our time there, I absolutely loved it! It totally surprised me and in a wonderful way!
It was beautiful, fun, welcoming, dramatic and energetic.It does seem to be the adrenaline capital of the world, but the most extreme thing I did was nearly catching hypothermia whilst swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura (which was amazing!)! The water was so cold and I was wearing a bit of an ill-fitting wetsuit, the shock of jumping into freezing cold water actually disorientated me to begin with.
But it was so worth it. We were surrounded by a huge pod of dolphins, who were so curious and playful – it was definitely one of those once in a lifetime experiences!
That was about the extent of my daredevil activities – is it safe to say I am no adrenaline junkie!! There was no way I was going to be throwing myself off, or out of anything!
We also went whale watching in Kaikoura (there was a lot of sea sickness on that boat by some poor souls!!) and we were so lucky to see many whales that day. It was so hard to get photos of them though – most of the whales just look liked logs in the ocean in my photos!
We did manage to pack in a lot of other activities as well, we went skiing (twice! It was my first time so I didn’t progress further than the nursery slopes!), we trekked one of the glaciers, we hiked, we saw albatross, sea lions, penguins, dolphins, whales…the list goes on! It was a full-on, action packed portion of our trip.
I have one particular memory from my time there though, I was sat on a bus (another bus!) staring out at the very green, lush landscape, dotted by sheep, my headphones plugged firmly into my ears.
I was listening to Ian Brown’s F.E.A.R. whilst taking in the scenery passing before my eyes.
That song became the anthem for my trip. Whenever I hear it, even now, I am reminded of the extreme feeling of happiness, confidence and freedom that was running through me at that moment. We had been away for about 9 months and it hit me whilst I was staring out at that beautiful scenery, that I had realised my dream of travelling the world… I had finally done it and I was bloody loving it!! It was the best feeling in the world!
It was everything I expected and so much more that I didn’t and it was fantastic.
I don’t think I had ever been so active as I was during my time in New Zealand! I came to understand why so many people fall in love with the country and the memories will stay with me forever.
Photos: my friend and I travelled with one digital camera between us and shared it (don’t judge us, it was a long time ago!). I therefore have no idea which of us took these photos, so I must give her credit for the photography as well! She’s an excellent photographer by the way!