To travel is to live -H.C.A.
This was one of those journeys that we will never be able to duplicate. We had been talking about this trip since our first date. We had both been dreaming of going to this country since we were kids. We worked on the details the entire time we had been dating. All of the planning, searching, and organizing came down to the day we left Michigan with our backpacks on, our tin cups rattling, and our tent folded up perfectly, ready for adventure.
The two main islands that we explored were packed with experience, beauty, diverse landscapes, and the most beautiful scenery I have ever been a part of. We met the kindest people, and saw what seems like millions of sheep. We spend days in rain forests, hiked up mountains, walked the beaches, explored caves, marveled at glaciers up close. There is more than enough to see packed into this country, it is one of the richest experiences I have ever had. With our time there, we were able to appreciate a few things that we did to make this trip easier and memorable.
Here are my top five tips for traveling in New Zealand:
1. Rent a car. I don't know what we would have done without our rental. We were able to see so much by doing it this way, and we were able to make a lot of impromptu stops with a very flexible itinerary. This was actually an affordable option, as was the car ferry between the North and South islands.
2. Camp. We were able to afford a month long stay because we used our tent. There are free camp sites as well as cheap "glamping" sites with everything from showers to laundry rooms and pools. This was also an awesome way to meet a lot of amazing people from all over the world. When we came home I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking I was still in that little tent before my eyes adjusted to the dark, and I realized I was in a space that was much larger than I actually needed. I miss living in our tent, setting it up in the craziest weather, and counting on it to keep us dry. There was something so special about the simplicity of camping for a month.
3. Download the "camper mate" app. This was a tip we got while we were in NZ and we used the app for everything! Upcoming bathrooms, restaurants, camp sites with listed amenities, things to do, and for all of the LOTR nerds (like me) it listed different filming locations all over the islands. It is free and works without wifi! A must have.
4. Book a "Great walk." There are seven of these in New Zealand, and we completed two of them on our trip: The Milford track and the Routeburn track. We had no idea what to expect, these were hands down the best experiences we had while we were there. Stunning scenery, and many moments that truly took our breath away. These are permit hikes that you book ahead of time, so not many people on the trails, which was wonderful. Many times it would be just the two of us, then we would meet up with everyone at camp for the night. We bonded with friends from other countries and made memories that I think of fondly, and often. Both hikes were absolute adventures with crazy weather. We hardly slept some of the nights in our tent, drenched and freezing, waking up to keep hiking on in the angry wind and rain. I have never seen anything as amazing as those landscapes being beaten by the storms. Our Routeburn adventure ended with our engagement, and our Milford hike with a helicopter evacuation because of the conditions. Absolutely wild, amazing, stunning adventures. Book one!
5. Pack for every kind of weather, every day. We always dressed in layers on our hikes, with plenty of options for rain, sunshine, or anything in between. The weather changed fast and it only took a day of that for us to figure out that we had to be prepared. We also just disregarded the weather forecast because it was so incorrect. One day was suppose to rain without a break, we prepared for that and hiked up to Roys peak in Wanaka, making it the entire day without a drop of rain. We also got caught in the opposite scenario as well ;) Best to be prepared.
New Zealand is a country that I feel lucky to have visited. I saw more than I could have hoped for, I explored the breathtaking land with the love of my life, and our trip ended with him down on one knee. This journey, really, truly changed the course of my life and I can not say enough about it, I also can't encourage you enough to book a ticket and just go.
"It was a meadow that we were in, on top of a mountain with those higher mountains surrounding us. The satisfaction of finishing the hike and getting up here was about as sweet as it gets. The sun was shining and the clouds on the mountains were moving to expose different peaks, like curtains opening and closing for a grand act. I set my camera on a boulder, had Riley stand about 50 feet in front of me and once I got the focus right, I set the timer for 10 seconds and ran for it. We had two pictures like that and then I asked for 'one more.'
He said 'ok' and with my ten seconds I ran over to him. It seems like a dream now but he got down on one knee and opened a box holding the ring.. we were both pretty stunned.. this moment, so far is the best moment of my entire life." -journal entry
The life you have led doesn't need to be the only life you have -A.Q.