Kia Ora (good day) to you all. I am writing this piece after wrapping up our 14 day group South Island tour of Otearoa (New Zealand) — which means the land of the long white cloud in Māori.
It’s hard to write about a 14 day trip that covered 2,000 miles of driving, 100 miles of hiking and 30 miles of kayaking and biking, 7 different accommodations and 40 meals in a short post but I’m going to try.
There are so many ways to experience New Zealand and my husband and I decided we wanted to be immersed in nature, travel with a small group and use a local tour company. We signed on for a 2 week road trip, staying in “moderate” accommodations, with a physically challenging itinerary and hiking level.
That said, the magic ingredients of a successful trip include research first and foremost but, no amount of research can guarantee a great trip. Travel requires optimism, a positive attitude, faith and luck. Our trip to New Zealand was amazing for all those reasons, some in our control. Once we decided on which company to go with — New Zealand Trails, which was a friend’s recommendation from 6 years ago, we were not in charge of too many other decisions. From that point on, it was luck that took over. We were lucky to get a great mix of upbeat interesting people on the tour from 3 different countries, 2 incredible New Zealand Trails guides — Emily and Ross, and atypical weather for New Zealand, perfect sunny 60 to 70 degree temps. And, in the time of Covid…no major health issues or Covid spreaders. And, that’s why our trip was an incredible success.
We love to say during the trip, “There are no flaws in New Zealand except for the faults 🥰.” There are lots of fault lines in this geologically fragile country whose beauty rests on shifting tectonic plates. The respect New Zealanders have for their country shines through everywhere.
You can’t go wrong in New Zealand…rich forests, perfectly maintained treks, glaciers that meet pines, Mauri culture rich with tradition and language. There is so much to see and we were explorers in a land that has been respected. (There is no litter at any rest stop…no garbage pails either as you take out what your bring in…and every public bathroom is beyond clean with automated flush toilets).
New Zealanders are happy people who love and respect their land. Their beer is great as is their coffee, and the water is so fresh we drank from the tap everywhere Also, on our travels we never saw traffic except in Queenstown.
We learned so much about what’s unique to New Zealand and fell in love with this country. I fell in love with the birdsong of the Tui…the Hazy IPAs, walking with the Wekas, the Māori staccato, moss beds, cinnamon sprinkled new zealand cappucinos , glacial blue rivers and lakes, sunsets at 10 pm and sunrises at 5:30 am.
Swimming with the dusky dolphins in the open sea.
The boils of water that danced like breathing lungs along the river and the bush and the tussock grasses, ferns, flax reeds and Fjords. A place where Wop Wops, (which are walks in the middle of nowhere are a thing). You can always count on finding a long drop (latrine) when you are hiking or tramping through time in the prehistoric rain forests. The New Zealanders are a happy lot and their playful accents are cheery and always make you feel they are about to tell you a joke or a good story.
Bill and I were thinking about which of our friends would enjoy this trip and as much as we loved our 2 week adventure …it is not for everyone.
Here’s why….Despite the 60 and early 70 year olds in our group, everyone was in great hiking shape and could effortlessly do 10 mile hikes. Van rides of 4 hours a day are not for everyone. Motels aren’t for everyone and I did sassily coin this trip “Everything But The Tent.” We were nomadic and changed lodging 9 nights out of 14 but most lodge locations felt like camp grounds with rooms.
Our first two nights broke us in as we shared bathrooms, college style, and some slept in bunk rooms. The rest of the places were motel efficiencies. None had Air Con. So this trip isn’t for everyone but when you’ve hiked 10 miles a day sleep doesn’t get finicky.
Food was basic and provided everyday, camp style breakfasts made by our guides, and sandwiches eaten on the trail or by the side of the road . Dinners were pre-ordered in moderate local restaurants.
Bill and I have loved our trip as it was an adventure like we have never had together.
I was jealous when I dropped my kids off at camp all those years ago… organized activities all day long, meals prepared, endless sports and friends. No responsibilities but to be a team player.
Well Bill and I went to camp in New Zealand and had no idea that we would love it this much.