If you read the About Us page you might recall that my favorite expedition was a road trip through the beautiful countryside of New Zealand. I want to use this post to tell you a little bit about how awesome it was and maybe convince you to check it out if you are ever in the area. The trip starts off with two friends (we’ll call them Doug and Chad) I had met through studying abroad at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia.
We had met earlier in the year and quickly decided that since we were so close to New Zealand we would have to plan some kind of trip to see what it was all about. If you don’t know me, I like to be semi-organized when it comes to traveling. Casey is always more than willing to hop on the next plane to anywhere, which makes for some really awesome adventures, but I like to have my travel plans a little more structured. So I set out a loose itinerary just to make sure we could hit all the key spots: pancake rocks near Greymouth, Franz Josef glacier, Mount Cook, Wanaka, Queenstown, and Christchurch. Of course I included plenty of time on the side for mischief.
I was very proud of how well our trip turned out. We did it right and slept in the car almost all of the eight nights. The only exclusion was our stay in Queenstown where we bathed and re-charged in a hostel. This was well needed seeing as Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world and the birthplace of bungee jumping (from personal experience I would highly recommend the Nevis).
Out of everything I saw and experienced on the south island of New Zealand I can easily pick out two of my favorite moments. The first one would be the sunrise on Mt. Iron in Wanaka (pictured below).
We got up at 5:30 in the morning and hiked 2 miles to the top, which didn’t feel worth it at the time as the temperature was barely above freezing. (Since I hadn’t planned on being cold in tropical north Queensland, Australia I was quite unprepared for this type of weather. Luckily my friend, we’ll call this one James, was kind enough to lend me some of his cold weather gear before we left.) But when we got to the top we had an amazing 360 degree view of the lake and town below, covered in a mystical fog. As the sun slowly rose, the fog literally lifted off the land and glittered gold. It was the second most beautiful thing I had ever seen (Casey definitely takes the top spot ).
My second favorite moment: stargazing. We had just finished up our day hiking Franz Josef Glacier and drove about twenty miles out of “town” until we could find a place to sleep. We eventually found a little campsite next to the beach and decided this would suffice. We pulled up and used our headlights to set up our 2-person tent for the 3 of us. After assembling the tent we decided to journey to the water and check out the beach. As soon as the car lights went off our eyes adjusted so we could see. Stars filled the sky like I had never witnessed in my life. Wilmington, NC lies on the coast but is quite a bit city with beach houses filling the coastline. The stars are cool, but mostly drowned by the residential lights. Your best chance at seeing the stars back home is to look straight up. But in New Zealand, we were miles from any power source and you could literally see stars from horizon to horizon. I’m not sure if it had to do with how clean the air is over there, but I have never seen such an amazing skyline. We could actually see the cloudy, glimmering band of the milky way galaxy. Absolutely stunning.
It’s moments like these that I enjoy the most; moments like experiencing the beauty of a new place with close friends. But words only do so much justice to a trip like the one we took. So if you are ever around New Zealand, I definitely encourage you to rent a car and some camping supplies and spend a week just driving around, exploring the country often deemed ‘the most beautiful in the world’.