Chapter 10 – New Zealand
Can’t wait to come back – 2 months wasn’t long enough!
New Zealand was everything people said it was going to be and a whole lot more. For a country that is about 1/15th the size of Canada with only 4 million residents, it is packed with more diverse terrain, landscapes, and beauty than we could have ever imagined.
We spent exactly 60 days touring by car (7,500 KMs) following a figure 8 route (touring support provided by Debbie and Bruce – thx). We journeyed to the top of the North Island, the most southern tip of the South Island and everywhere we could fit in between. We stayed in 18 different places (10 in the North and 8 in the South) with Abel Tasman and Golden Bay our favourite.
We kayaked multiple times, bungee jumped (really), white water rafted (only raft of 6 that capsized at the top of a class 4 rapid, so we could experience what food feels like in a blender as we were tossed thru 3 subsequent class 3 rapids before being rescued into the other rafts), zip lined, luge’d, splunk’d thru glow worm caves on inner tubes, body surfed multiple times, jet-boated over rapids, and tramped (kiwi word for hiked) on some amazing trails including the Tongariro Crossing (regarded as the best day hike in NZ and one of the top 10 best day hikes in the world – it’ s also where Mt Doom was filmed for Lord of the Rings!). We toured vineyards on bicycles (once on a tandem bike – now that was and experience especially after sampling numerous wines and filling up our bike basket!!), dug a large hole in hot water beach for our own hot pool, walked thru thermal pool parks, visited Hobbiton (really cool in a nerdy kind of way) and toured the Weta Film Studio (2nd only to Pixar) where they did a lot of the special effects for the Hobbit movies. We also visited a few pubs and restaurants along the way, had some amazing seafood and lamb…and… of course the odd pint or two.
So many crazy highlights to reflect on — here are but a few:
- We loved the Kiwi people – they are friendly, warm, generous, have a quick dry sense of humour, and are casually direct in their conversations
- The North Island has 3 million residents with the South having a lot less with only 1 million
- It is more expensive than we thought it would be – a litre of gas is on average $2.00
- It is a great country to travel as a backpacker or by camper van!
- 2 months is not enough to see this country – we met folks who were trying to see it all in 10-14 days – crazy!
- Driving in NZ – first there are no straight roads, cruise control is for show only, drivers are unusually courteous (they actually move over to let you pass), there are multiple one lane bridges on major highways on the South Island (one lane as in only one car at a time – on 100km per hour highways) and driving is actually fun as you really do drive with 2 hands on the wheel (sometimes on the edge of cliffs with no shoulders) but it is still fun!
- Possums were introduced to NZ years ago for the fur industry – they have multiplied like rabbits as there are no natural predators other than cars which is why there is so much roadkill – everywhere! Out of all the KMs we drove we never saw a live one!
- Every area in every region of the country is different – majestic mountains, breathtaking ocean vistas with crashing waves, soft rolling green hills, desolate barren landscapes, lush forests and cascading waterfalls – every turn brought something new – it was never boring
- While having a quick swim in the Doubtful Sound Fjord following an amazing day of kayaking, Steve proved cold water shrinks absolutely everything – including his wedding ring finger – his wedding ring (designed and fashioned by none other than our daughter Britt – from Anice Jewellery anicejewellery.com– is this an obvious plug hee hee?) slipped off his finger and is now at the bottom of the fjord (lord of the rings experience – you can almost hear the music). We are now wearing twin “Lord of the Rings” ring as our new wedding bands! – NERDOIDS!!!
- Dairy, ranching, forestry and tourism are obvious drivers of the economy – they are everywhere (as Fran says, “the sheep look like sea salt sprinkled across the landscape”)
- Some interesting Kiwi words we picked up were “tramping” (hiking), “togs” (swimsuits), “jandels” (flip flops), and our favourite which you’ve got to wonder who came up with this one “budgie smuggler” (men’s speedo) – Fran says they should be outlawed!!
- Kiwi’s truly love their country and know how amazing it is and frequently express how fortunate they are to live here – we agree!
“This isn’t goodbye – until we meet again”
Below is our updated ratings for the countries visited.
GALLERY – ADRENALINE!
GALLERY – NORTH ISLAND
GALLERY – SOUTH ISLAND
Onwards to Chile,
Making it So,
Fran and Steve