South Island

After arriving in Picton, Stacia, Larry, Kaitlin and I drove to Nelson before stopping and making lunch in town. The drive was diverse with mountain peaks and wineries lining the road. Nelson was a very quaint town with many pubs and cafes. We enjoyed free parking and Wi-Fi all over town before moving on to Motueka, the gateway of Abel Tasman National Park.

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The Abel Tasman Coast Track is 72 km of ocean views traditionally hiked over 5 days. We decided to spend 2 days hiking the most scenic 45 km with Larry and Kaitlin going the opposite direction to the shuttle our van back at the end. The first day went perfectly with sunny weather and idyllic views of craggy green coastline. Stacia and I had to time our hiking in order to arrive at the Awaroa Inlet at low tide to cross. We arrived with enough time and crossed in knee-deep water and met Larry and Kaitlin at Bark Bay for camp. We enjoyed a pho dinner and jumped in our bags early to avoid the cold.

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Abel Tasman Hike

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The next morning we soaked in the beachfront view before continuing our hike. We waited for Larry and Kaitlin past dark and began to suspect something was wrong. I hiked to cell service and received a message stating that they’d been in an accident. Thankfully no one was hurt, however a new driver took out the front side of our campervan. After changing our plans, driving to Christchurch, switching out multiple vehicles and paying for the damage, calling it a nuisance would be an understatement.

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Beachfront property

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Drive to Christchurch

Stacia took the 3 days we needed to wait for a new van to visit an old friend and do some MBA work. She explored Christchurch and said the city’s recovery from the 2011 earthquake was still very present. Larry, Kaitlin and I drove west to hike Fox and Franz- Joseph Glacier.

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Lake Matheson
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Mt. Tasman & Mt. Cook

We returned to Christchurch to pick up Stacia and our new van. We were snowed in for an evening, however eventually made it to Otago. We Couchsurfed in Dunedin and had a blast. We watched NZ movies with our host and she shared with us her library on NZ food, beer and culture. We spotted multiple sea lions and 2 yellow-eyed penguins at Sandfly Bay.

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Campervan keys, couchsurfing keys & possum ball (threat to NZ)
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Can you spot the penguin?

From Dunedin, we drove to touristed Queenstown, which reminded Stacia and I of any posh Colorado ski resort town, like Breckinridge or Beaver Creek. I took a day to ski at Treble Cone and Larry and Kaitlin hiked around Wanaka Lake.

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Lake Wanaka

Our last stop in New Zealand was Stacia and I’s favorite. After working for Point6, a merino wool outdoor clothing company in Colorado, Stacia made friends with their wool supplier in NZ. Stacia and I had both brought 2 pairs of Point6 socks on our yearlong backpacking trip and they are still in perfect condition. We were thrilled to see where the wool came from and visit Kirsty, Simon and their 3 boys at Glenbrook Station. We were shown not only their 7,000+ sheep, but also their cattle, chickens, dogs, fields, garden and wool shed. The evening light lit up the snow-covered mountains and it felt like we reached utopia. We were taught about different breeds of sheep, micron, burrs and rots. I was admiring sheep, while wearing their wool and later that night, eating their meat. We were thankful for Kirsty and Simon’s hospitality and sad to leave but excited for our last adventure, Australia.

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Getting ready to feed the dogs

Reccomendation:

Best pies in New Zealand: Fairlie Bakehouse – Fairlie, NZ

North Island

Arriving in Auckland, NZ was a big change. After traveling in South Asia for 9 months, we had become accustomed to the disorganized traffic, warm weather and cheap eats. Immediately upon arriving I changed from my flip flops and shorts to boots and pants. Stacia and Larry’s boots along with our tent had to be thoroughly cleaned in a lab before being allowed through biosecurity. We were quickly picked up by Lucky Rentals and given our new home, a 2005 converted Toyota Hiace campervan. With two double beds, stovetop, sink and fridge, this was the perfect NZ road trip machine. After stocking up on groceries, we walked around Auckland and enjoyed the view from One Tree Hill. Auckland was a manicured, green, and surprisingly large city. To escape expensive accommodations, we left town and freedom camped (parking in unpopulated areas) on the way to Hamilton. The night was a surprisingly warm 42 degrees.

In the morning, we explored the Hamilton gardens which was repurposed from an old landfill and represented a dozen countries. Their was a Japanese, Chinese, and Indian garden, all of which well represented the gardens Stacia and I have seen on our travels. Hamilton was one of a half dozen small quaint towns we drove through with many coffee shops and small markets on the way to Waitomo. Waitomo is one of a handful of places in NZ you can see glow worms. We spent 45 minutes exploring a cave, culminating in a boat ride under thousands of luminescent worms. After the caves, we took a scenic drive passing caves, a natural rock bridge and waterfalls to camp on the west coast.

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Ngaru Pupu Point

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In the morning, we explored a beautiful black sand beach connected to our camp by a 100 meter pedestrian tunnel. After walking the beach and making our feet thoroughly numb we drove the 3 hours to Lake Taupo. This lake is a hotspot of geologic activity. A geothermal and hydropower site produces %15 of the electricity for the entire country. We spent the afternoon bathing in a hot stream and viewing the Huka Falls.

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We woke up early at the base of Mt. Ngauruhoe to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This popular day hike enjoys views of a apocalyptic volcanic landscape over 20 km. We stoped to enjoy views of Tongariro National Park, the emerald lakes and various craters. After hiking, we started our drive to Wellington which zig zagged through lush green farm land dotted by sheep.

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Emerald Lakesa

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The next day, we drove directly to Mt. Victoria to enjoy views of Wellington before going to the Te Papa Museum. Larry and Kaitlin enjoyed a day at some wineries near Wellington while Stacia and I did some work at a coffee shop. We camped on the coast south of the city.

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Wellington

The following day, we woke up early to take the interislander ferry to the South Island. This was by far the most beautiful ferry I have ever taken, moving from open ocean to a mountain lined bay on the way to Picton. The ship resembled more of a cruise ship then cargo ferry. We were eager to explore the South Island.

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First impressions:
– Wellington is a less crazy version of San Francisco
– New Zealand is a more organized version of the States
– Unlike the U.S. the cops are no where to be found
– Free public restrooms can be found on every block
– Most towns offer free wifi
– Freedom camping is easily accessible

Food:
– meat pie
– Fish and chips
– Feijoa
– Vegimite
– Flat white
– Yams
– Kumara