New Zealand – 45 Days and 5.300km pure Adventure

South Island

8.2.17 – 8.3.17
From many many people we heard that the South Island of New Zealand is nicer, which is why we planned more time for this part of NZ. We started in Nelson, known as the sunshine city where we strolled along the center and planned our hike in the Abel Tasman National Park for tomorrow.
The following day we drove straight to our water taxi pick up point, because the hike would take us along the tropical North coast of the park. To be fair, it was more a comfortable walk than a hike (no mountains to climb, no rocks to slip on and break the neck ;)), but in total we walked 25km this day, passing beautiful bays, waterfalls and cool forest paths.


We returned to the car and drove an hour to the next campground – 1 hour and we passed 3 cars, saw 6754 cows and sheep, otherwise nature and us. 🙂 That’s what everyone was talking about when describing this island as deserted…it got even lonelier when we ended up in our camp for the night (which was more a picknick area than a camp), and except for one more car no one but us was there. 😀 Oh, I forgot: of course our enemies awaited us & our blood…these damned sandflies.

For our next hike we planned on doing the Mount Robert Circuit, a nice day trek in the Nelson National Park. The drive to the parking was spectacular already: Lake Rotoiti begun to awake, covered in morning mist, surrounded by mountains….magical! 🙂 The path led us through a forest part, then in a zigzag line up to the summit where we enjoyed a great view and a special moment…;)


The West Coast was our next destination, where we saw the Pancake rocks and a lot of rain…you can only imagine how happy we were having a camper van we slept in and not a tent in a cold and rainy night. 😉 But the weather seemed to get better the next days, which was crucial for our next adventure: a skydive at Fox Glacier, OMG! But first we stopped at Franz Josef Glacier, where we did a challenging day trek (Mount Robert Track) to the glacier view point, which was amazing to see. We got so close to actually see the people who did a hike on the ice! Returning to our camp we barely find a free spot because obviously, this is the only free campground around Franz Josef and so everyone tries to get a spot here…although it’s basically only a gravel pit 😀


No way back…nervousness…excitement…fear….I’m-gonna-shit-in-my-pants-feeling….this basically sums up what we went through before our jump out of an airplane in 3.900m (13.000ft). The scenery however seemed already perfect from the ground – at Fox Glacier, we were surrounded by green forests and snowy mountains…we could only imagine what it looks like from above! But first we need to get some suits, goggles and a helmet. „When I crash on the ground the helmet would probably crash with me …“ we thought. Our skydive instructors tried to do some smalltalk with us, but at some point we were so nervous that we just didn’t wanna talk (Jakub) or talked to much (Ellen). The worst part was the waiting for the jump…the first groups returned, grinning and full of adrenaline and finally it was our call. In the tiny airplane we fit 6 people in total, 3 jumpers and 3 instructors. Full speed we started off the ground and the view was really cool. But also, there was no way back anymore…Jakub needed to get out first and in a second he was out of the plane, oh god!! Then Ellen followed, legs already out, hanging like a baby on her instructor and – FALLING FALLING FALLING 🙂 Everything happened so fast, air pressed in our faces making it hard to breathe, but the view was spectacular – on the one side the snowy mountains and glaciers, in the middle green grass and forest, on the other side coastline beaches. Man, New Zealand indeed has everything to offer! Finally, oír instructors pulled the parachute and we glided slowly down to earth, just happy that we survived and saw this beautiful spot on earth from high above 😉 Our reactions differed a lot after the jump – Jakub would immediately do it again whereas Ellen could imagine to comfortably glide with a parachute, but not jump anymore. 😀 But we wanted to to try new things and this was definitely an experience we would never forget!


Pumped with adrenalin we drove to Lake Matheson close by to cool down a little bit and indeed found ourselves in a group of retired older people, slowly walking around the mirror lake. 😉 We then decided to drive to Wanaka and camped on a spot close to Lake Wanaka, where we enjoyed a chilly bath in the lake. What a day!


To get a birds view on Wanaka, our plan for the day was to hike the Roys Peak Track – indeed, within the dirt 10 minutes the view was wonderful and we saw beautiful summits. It was however very hot this day and additionally, the level of fitness was indicated as „easy“ – what the heck was easy on this hike?! It went steeply uphill for like 4 hours! 🙂 Anyway, afterthis trap we treated ourselves with coffee and apple cake, mmmh.


Queenstown was the next place to be, where we filled our grocery boxes and our tank. The city itself was, let’s say, a touristic spoken well established and developed city…to be honest, it was packed with tourists! 😉 And sadly, the library was very not well developed for tourists: Internet restricted to 30min, no charging options for laptops, bye bye bye. Our luck was that the next campspot, which was free, had free WiFi from the library next doors. 🙂
The next days we wanna spend in the very south to discover Milford Sound! Read more about this natural attraction here:
Bounded by steep cliffs and dense rainforest, Milford Sound is by far the best known of all of the fiords in New Zealand, and the only one that can be accessed by road. Rain or shine, Milford Sound continues to captivate even the most experienced traveller. At the pinnacle of Milford Sound is the iconic Mitre Peak – standing a proud 1,692 metres above sea level, it is certainly an impressive sight to behold. It is approximately 16km from the head of the fiord to the open sea, which means visitors can comfortably travel the length of the fiord to open ocean and return on one of the many cruise options.

Milford Sound History & Legend
Māori are believed to have discovered Milford Sound more than 1,000 years ago, returning seasonally to the fiord to collect precious pounamu (also known as greenstone or jade). These treks from the east used traditional pathways across passes such as MacKinnon Pass on the Milford Track. In Māori legend, Milford Sound was formed by Tu-te-raki-whanoa, an atua (godly figure) who shaped the Fiordland coast. Chanting a powerful karakia (prayer), he carved the towering rock walls with his adze.
The Māori name for Milford Sound, Piopiotahi, refers to the piopio, a long-extinct native bird said to have flown here in mourning at the death of legendary hero Maui. In 1912 European settler John Grono landed there and named it Milford Sound, after Milford Haven in Wales. Tales of the region’s untouched beauty began to spread – British writer Rudyard Kipling declared it ‘the eighth wonder of the world’. Today Milford Sound is New Zealand’s most famous attraction and frequently tops lists of the world’s most beautiful places [http://www.milford-sound.co.nz/about-milford-sound/%5D.

In Te Anau, the basis for trips to Milford Sound we retrieved a brochure and saw for the first time how huge the area is. The plan was to drive along the highway to the end point Milford and do one of the countless walks and hikes along the route. We started our drive around noon, stunned by this vast environment we saw. During a short break close to a river (seriously, all the rivers in NZ are cristal clear – how is that possible…) we had a nice chat with an elderly couple from Canada. Funnily, they asked us how we had managed to be still together after such a long time of travelling, because they had retired recently and tried to get along with each other while being together 24/7. 😀
We then decided to go all the way to Milford already today. No problem for our Aby…secretly she used to be a race car we assume. 😉 In the afternoon we arrived at the end of the road and could have not picked a better time – all the tourist buses left and we had this breathtaking view almost for ourselves. Again, a magical moment. And we met the very curious Kea parrot, the only alpine parrot in the world, biting plastic parts off our car. 🙂 We ended our stay in the South West of NZ the next day with a hike to the Key Summit, surrounded by huge mountains and enjoyed the great weather.

Further along the South East Coast, we stopped at the Curio Bay where we saw the tiny Héctor Dolphins, swimming very close to the shore and then head to Dunedin, named after the Scottish capital and the 2nd largest city in South NZ. A walk through the city revealed beautiful old buildings and a nice arranged university area. Afterwards, the Otago Peninsula is our next goal – we met up with Philipp and Bio, a couple we got to know already at the airport in Honolulu and stayed in contact with. 😉 At the very end of the Peninsula, we saw huge albatross flying around the cliffs. Unfortunately, the penguins which inhabit the beach were only to be seen in the evening because they come home from their hunt – cute.

We decided to stay at the same campground as Philipp and Bio (who travelled with Philipps brother + girlfriend) and it was actually nice to have a group of people we could talk to instead of only each other. 🙂 Since Philipp group had the same route as we did, Mount Cook area, we started driving together and stopped shortly at Oamaru. The center of the city looked amazing, because it was maintained in a Victorian Style Of Living And additionally, there was a Steampunk museum with a ton of crazy stuff to see.

The closer we came to Mount Cook the emptier the region became…dry lands, a couple of houses, some massive dams, nothing else…our camp for the night was basically a forest next to Lake Pukaki. The color of this lake was turquoise blue, a sharp contrast to the mountains and the forest – simply a beautiful piece of land. We hopped in the water, saw the sunset and decided to do a small hike around the area together the next day. Strange noises in the night made us wake up – did we just hear someone or something walk around the car…? Brave as he was, Jakub got out of the car and tried to catch the nightly intruder, but it was gone by then…Ellen however thought it was probably some spooky figure of the endless horror movies she has seen and expected the girl of „The ring“ to stand next to the car…aaaaahhhh. Or maybe it was a small possum living on our supplies of food in the car?! We found out in the morning that there was no possum in the car, no signs of scary horror movie characters, but some bitten pine cones. 😉 The following hours we spend with group Philipp on the Hooker Valley Track until the afternoon, headed back to the camp where we had a serious Uno-match – Philipp lost and needed to jump in the lake – and went to sleep.

We were about to make our last kilometers here in NZ, because the next destination would be Christchurch, where our flight to Australia would departure. But beforehand we’d sadly have to sell Aby…honestly, we would have never thought that camping could be that much fun, but it was! The freedom we had choosing how long we wanted to stay where, always having our closet, bed and kitchen with us was perfect. We would do it all over again. 🙂

We drove to Christchurch and were super disappointed from the first visits at car dealers, who would have payed us less than a third of what we had originally paid for Aby. A late afternoon meeting with a guy who had seen our post on Facebook however completely changed our situation: he had serious interest in our van and wanted to buy it now. Like at this day….what?! 😀 And before we’d end up like a hundred other backpackers trying to sell their car desperately to someone, we sold Aby that day, had our last night in a camp, packed our backpacks and off we were to our AirBnb place. For Aby, a trip around NZ started all over again. 😉 May she drive the next 300.000km safely and secure.

Our last week in NZ was very lazy – not only did we enjoy unlimited WiFi and electricity AND a shower whenever we wanted, we also made some trips to the city centre. It really surprised us that the earthquake in 2011 destroyed such big parts of the city and that the Kiwis still build and construct many buildings.

The week passed by quickly and all of a sudden it was time to say goodbye to NZ. We discussed what we really liked about NZ and our list got very very long… 🙂 As a sum up:

  • The variety of natural attractions: ocean, beaches, mountains, lakes,…everything combined in one country
  • Most of the hikes can easily be done self guided and really show you the natural beauty of this country
  • There’s something for everyone: either if you are a sports freak and very active or a sun loving beach girl, NZ offers plenty of things to do: skiing, hiking, rafting, kayaking,…
  • While we were there, the temperature was mostly perfect – warm sunny days and cool nights
  • Camping here was super easy and camps/apps were very user friendly. Once you download both CamperMate and WikiCamps, you’re settled and good to go!

What a wonderful time we had here! Thank you, New Zealand for being so magical 🙂

Advertisements

New Zealand – 45 Days and 5.300km pure Adventure

North Island

20.01.17 – 7.2.17

Setting foot on ground in Auckland was pretty – magical! Especially Ellen was super excited to finally explore New Zealand, a country which was the top one of her places-I-wanna-go list. 😉 As always we headed to the city centre and had WiFi in the shuttle bus, impressive. Particularly because New Zealand is known to not offer free WiFi in hostels, haha.

Once we moved in our 14 bed dorm (along with 2 teenage girls from the USA who basically lived on the floor…shoes, dresses, jeans, shirts, food everything around the bed, omg) we made a plan for the following days. Our mission was to find a good looking, cheap, totally equipped, comfortable and nice camper van…sounds easy! 🙂 First we went to several car rental stores, but the offers were either for cars and not vans or terribly expensive. Our next chance was a car fair where typically backpackers sell their vans to other backpackers. One Toyota Estima Van looked exactly like what we had imagined, only the price didn’t…we left and decided to try one more car fair. Sunday early morning we made our way out of Auckland to find our van for the next weeks. Several cars were already there, many of them from dealers who seemed everything but trustworthy. 😉 strolling down and up the lines of offers we saw a silver Toyota Estima…1996, awesome built in kitchen and bed, super nice owner and when Ellen saw the registration expiration (22.05.2017), her birthday, she whispered in Jakubs ear: „That’s a sign!! This is our van!“ 🙂 And she was right, after doing a pre-purchase check which was positive, we drove to the next post office with Pauline (the previous owner) to change owners and done! We just bought a camper van named „Aby“, yaaaay!! Adventure, mountains, lakes, endless highways, nights in the nature, here we come!


Okay okay, Jakubs responsible voice spoke up and demanded an insurance for the car…so, insurance done, finally we can hit the road. 🙂 Going straight North, our first stop was „Pak’nSave“, a huge grocery store where we spent a horrendous amount of money and got gas. The first campground was close to Whangarei, in the middle of nowhere. We couldn’t wait to spend the first night in our van and when we woke up in the morning, we grinned at each other and were so happy about Aby – the night was comfortable and we slept like rocks. The campground also had a kitchen area, where we had breakfast and talked to 2 girls from Germany (Germans everywhere again!!), travelling for 6 months, 19 and 20 years old – how brave it is to buy a car and travel around in their age!
The Abbey caves were our first destination – they are supposed to be so dark that you see glowworms everywhere. We climbed in with our headlamps, because it was indeed really dark and at one moment switched off the lamps…oh my…small stars everywhere on the ceiling, that’s what the glowworms look like! What an amazing view. So beautiful!

Yep, it’s dark 😉

Our next stop was a waterfall in Whangarei, easy accessible and we had a picknick in the park. Thanks to the App „CamperMate“, we easily found our camp for this night and headed to this calm campground located directly at the water.


We decided to relax here and stayed for 2 nights – one night, when it was really dark we checked the night sky and saw millions of stars, no light pollution to be seen…that was definitely magical.

Further north we visited Russell and Pahia, 2 cities which belong to the Bay of Islands, a beautiful area on the North East Coast of New Zealand. We crossed the country then from East to West and stayed at a farm campground, where we enjoyed breakfast with our new friend the horse…idyllic.

Possum living in the shed on the campground – hello!

Our next stop was the Waipoua forest, which makes up the largest remaining tract of native forest in Northland. Most of Northland’s ancient forest cover has been lost to saw and fire, plundered for the precious timber of the kauri tree or cleared for farmland. However the forests are now under the protection of the Department of Conservation. Waipoua is home to the kauri, one of the world’s mightiest trees. The largest kauri reach more than 50 metres tall, have trunk girths up to 16 metres, and sprang from seed as long as 2,000 years ago [http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/northland/places/waipoua-forest/]. The biggest of these trees is a short walk inside the forest – and all of a sudden it stood right in front of us, the Tane Mahuta. Never have we seen such a huge tree, emitting so much power and history….we’re impressed and enjoy the silence in the forest, when suddenly a native Maori guide started to sing in Maori. Magical.

As always we searched for a campground on CamperMate, but when we arrived there the owner didn’t have any vacancies for us (weekend and last vacation days for kids), neither the next one…damn it. We ended up on a super expensive Holiday Park camp, but learned our lesson. 😉 Luckily we so far had great weather and usually enjoyed warm evenings, but cool nights – good for our groceries which need to be kept cold and hang in a plastic bag outside every night. 🙂
With no big plans for the next day we accidentally ended up on an American Muscle car gathering and enjoyed some time at the beach.

I’m too CUTE4U,boop boop bee do 🙂

For the first time, we planned to stay at a free campground, zero costs and zero luxury. 😉 There were already 3 cars parked and guess what, the people were from Germany! 😉 We talked to one guy who has been travelling for 4 months already and he mentioned the app „WikiCamps“ – basically, we thought, just another camp search app. He stated that he didn’t spend a single dollar on camping because WikiCamps finds all the free camps and additionally public showers, free drinking water refill stations and so on. Awesome! We downloaded the app and from this day on, except for 3-4 nights spent 0$ on camping. 😉 Cheers mate!

On the following day we drove Aby up the Coromandel peninsula, where we went to the Hot Water beach – here we received the explanation for the shovel in our car! 😀 There are subterranean hot water sources which you can dig out on low tide – and wow, that water was hot! All around us it was steaming and people digged their holes, so funny. As mostly we saw at least 6 dead possums on the road…nasty.

Obviously, being in New Zealand you truly feel like in a real time Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movie set. This is why we decided to visit „Hobbiton“, the area where the Hobbiton village was filmed for both movies. Did you btw know that the first part of Lord of the Rings was released in 2001?! That’s 16 years ago!! Holy s#!%. 🙂 Additionally we learned that the movie set appears in total for only 30 minutes in all the 6 movies of LOTR and Hobbit…or that the tree behind Bilbo Begging house was a fake tree with fake leaves, each one painted individually…crazy!

Our next stop was Rotorua, the „sulfate“ city – yes, we smelled it from far away already, like rotten eggs. 😉 We visited the Whakarewarewa native Maori village, where we learned a lot about their way of living and how to use hot springs and steam from underground to cook dinner! Further south we explored the volcanic Valley Waimangu by foot and it seemed so surreal, almost like from another planet! This area is the worlds youngest geothermal system, consisting of steaming volcanic crater lakes and geysers.

Before we headed further South to hike the famous Tongariro Crossing, we stopped at Lake Taupo, enjoyed the beautiful lake view and visited the Huka Falls, a stunning tunnel of water where 200.000l a SECOND are pushed through!

The mountains are calling, Tongariro Crossing is on the list. 😉 Close to the starting point of the walk we stayed on a campground and met our new personal evil enemy: sandflies! These small beasts can be so annoying and bite you everywhere, grrrr.
After we linked together with 2 other girls to organize our transport (you start on a different point where you end up, hence you need 2 cars on the 2 spots) we started early in the morning – the weather was supposed to be great! Oh wow, and surprisingly all Asian tourists heard of the hike as well and were at the ready. 😀 The first 20min lead through stony areas, then a steep path winds its way up. Here the hikers can decide whether to ascend the famous LOTR Mount Doom or walk further. Of course Jakub was thrilled as well as the girls, whereas Ellen took it easy and stayed down. The views from the summit were stunning, although the way basically consisted of stones and slippery rocks and was very strenuous. The further we walked the better the hike got – we crossed emerald lakes, volcanic craters as red as a the lava itself and beautiful blue lakes. In the end and after 23km and 10hs we were all happy to be back at the car!

Our last stop on the North Island was Wellington, where we went to the Weta Caves. It’s the special effects company for several movies, of course also for the Hobbit and LOTR.

In the night, we took the ferry to Picton and continued our adventure on the South Island, which will be summed up in our next article – stay tuned, amigos. 🙂