Ever wondered how it feels to walk the mountains like Frodo, watching ancient glaciers or swim in milky crystal water? You can find all of these out here in New Zealand.
This far away land was always a question mark, so far away from everywhere that I never really expected to actually being here. Luckily, as they say, “our stars aligned” and we managed to bridge the gap between Asia and South America, with relatively cheap tickets and extend our One Year Of Life into a bit more, including Australia and New Zealand.
Tramping is not what you think
Everyone is talking about tramping and it takes a while to understand what they mean, in New Zealand, tramping is trekking or hiking, and it's the best in the world. This compact island has neverending paths to walk, all signaled pretty well, with maps, and public toilets.
In most of the towns, you'll find the offices of the Department of Conservation (DOC), where well-trained rangers will advise you about anything there is to know about the area, weather, difficulty of the paths and facilities available. All you have to do is walk.
It's said that the most spectacular treks in the world, dubbed "The Great Walks", are a set of multi-day treks that involve overnight staying in huts or camping grounds. These are very popular and the amount of vacancies is very limited, sometimes as less as 12 beds in a hut per night. Due to the great demand and the relatively short season, these are sold very fast, sometimes even six months in advance.
Now you need to find the place you want to spend the night in a 3 or 4 days trek, knowing the exact dates and place. This is no easy feat, and therefore we failed at it, by the time we checked (a month ahead), no places were available.
Don't panic, we were content by taking day trips to some of the most amazing views. The only downside is that you have to walk up to 23km and return the same way you came.
There are countless adventures to be had in New Zealand: helicopter trips to glaciers, bungy jumping, canoeing, cycling, jet ski and on and on… none of them for the independent traveler on a budget.
The only one excursion that we didn't want to miss was Milford Sound, an ancient path carved by the glaciers all the way to the Tasman Sea.
The winding road there goes through magic beech forests coasting lakes and waterfalls, the trip was worth by itself.
We woke up early to catch the first boat that would take us through Milford Sound (Sound meaning sunken river). Surrounded by beauty, waterfalls spraying water from 130 meters high and limestone mountains falling from a 1600m height straight down to the sea, minimizing massive tourists boats to miniature toys. Breathtaking.
We've met people traveling in New Zealand for three months, this is crazy for us, but I guess they have a different pace. There's so many tracks, lakes, glaciers, and forests to see, that you could actually spend six months here. We've found that doing a bit of everyone is good for us, and every now and then chill with a different experience: wine tasting, reading by a creek or even just sunbathing by a lake.
Feeling good about buying organic vegetables in the supermarket? Try the NZ way: all around the countryside (this is about the whole country) there are little huts outside farms, you'll find the finest products they produce for half the price you'd pay in the shops: Honey, veggies, fruits, and eggs. You just pick a bag and put the money in a small "honesty box", just like that.