New Zealand (Fall 2008)
New Zealand has often been described to me by friends and travel books as a limitless outdoor playground. Well, now that I’ve spent time exploring both North Island and South Island, I have to wholeheartedly agree with this estimation. If scenery is what you seek, New Zealand has no rival. We spent 6 weeks in the country’s great outdoors, while covering a tremendous amount of ground in our Volvo station wagon. In the north, we hiked through temperate forests near the Bay of Islands and began getting accustomed to site of the oversized exotic fern frondes that the country appropriately uses as an icon. We also visited ancient Kauri forests, including Te Matua Ngahere, Maori for “Father of the Forest,” a massive Kauri tree with a girth of over 52 feet and estimated to be 4000 years old! In the south, we saw a great deal of countryside and seemingly untouched landscapes. We went on multiple hikes near the quaint town of Nelson, including a three-day trek on the Pelorus Trail through forests and hills and over mountain passes and swing bridges. We continued down the west coast, where one of my favorite sights would have to be the Pancake Rocks, a very impressive coastal rock formation that gets pretty intense when the tide comes in! As we headed further south, we had many side adventures as we hiked up ice-covered mountain trails to alpine waterfalls, camped next topristine streams, and explored glaciers and the moraine they’ve left behind after centuries of recession. We were fortuante enough to have favorable weather while exploring the mountainous, snow-covered fjordlands and the world-famous Milford Sound–internationally acclaimed as the most scenic location in the world (I may have to agree with the hype). After getting hit with an abrupt snow storm while driving through windy mountain roads in the fjordlands, we witnessed the unique sight of storm clouds rising off of the icy peaks that rose up directly from the waters in the sound–it was incredible! In the far south we explored the wilds of the Otago Penninsula, complete with a variety of seal and penguin sightings. The most memorable landscape in this area for me was Lovers Leap–a spectacular cliff at the edge of the bright green countryside. Before heading back north to sell our car and reluctantly fly home, we made one more stop in beloved Nelson for a few more peaceful romps in the rustic countryside. I can’t wait to go back! If not soon, at least as an old man in an RV!
For a much more detailed description of this trip (including more photos and some videos), check out my old blog.