This was actually my first big trip and woke up the traveller in me. One month with a campervan exploring the North and South Island. My first impression of New Zealand was already an epic one. Watching through the window of the plane, being surrounded by cotton clouds and seeing the green landscape, mountains, rivers and actually a rainbow. We started in Christchurch and I remember that the air was full of sweet flowers. And there is something else with the air in New Zealand. It’s like there is a really calm vibration, which connects you to the earth and the coutry’s beautiful nature. Christchurch is a relaxed and fun city and a nice way to get an impression of it, is by taking the old tram which goes through the city. You can visit the university, there is an artmuseum and a small river is flowing across the town, giving some romantic scenes.
Driving through New Zealand with a campervan is the best way to explore the county and I was so amazed by it’s wonderful landscapes. It was like there was a new painting in front of me, everytime I looked out of the window. The South Island has more nature and on the North Island you’ll find more culture and thermal activity. The diversity in nature on the south is very big. While driving south of Christchurch we found ourselves around the Scottisch place Dunedin in the beautiful Portobello area where we watched penguins and albatrosses (they are huge). Further on, while we drove to the west, we crossed dense and foggy rainforest with waterfalls and their famous treeferns.
Another great highlight was Milford Sounds. It’s a fjord and it’s truly breathtaking. Clouds are curling themselves a way around big mountain tops, waterfalls are everywhere and there are hidden beaches where de indigious Maori people used to find their precious greenstone. Seals are relaxing on big rocks and it’s a place really worth visiting. After this, we drove to Queenstown and Queenstown is just fun. There’s a kind of hippie atmosphere and just wathing normal life puts a smile on your face. It’s actually a place where you can do a lot of extreme sports and it’s also the place where the first bungy jump took place. I decided to go for it and I always thought it would be a moment of letting everything go and experience a feeling of freedom. To be honest, it’s true in a way but everything goes so fast that you actually don’t have time to feel a lot.
One of the next destinations was the Franz Josef Glacier. It’s a huge ice river descending from the Southern Alps and it’s one of the few places in the world where a glacier meets the rainforest. You can also climb this glacier so that’s what we did. After a walk through the rainforest we arrived at the big wall of ice. Small rivers were coming out of caves in the ice and it was time to put on our crampons and start climbing. The beginning of the glacier looks a bit dirty because of all the rock grit but after a while you’ll find blue and white colored ice in wonderful shapes. You can only climb to a certain level because the ice is moving and unpredictable so it would be too dangerous but the view is quite rewarding.
While driving to the north, we passed Hokitika which is the greenstone capital of New Zealand. Greenstone is a stone which is of course green and looks a bit like jade. The Maori people used this stone to make weapons and jewelry and you can make all shapes out of it. Nowadays they call it the green gold of New Zealand. Further up north we arrived at the Abel Tasman National Park which is almost at the top of the South Island. You can choose to hike there for a couple of days but we didn’t have much time so we decided to take a one day walk along the coast. The scenery is great. You walk through lush forest, past golden beaches and blue water. There is an extreme difference between the ties in this area and if you ever decide to walk here, keep in mind that parts can be flooded once you reach it. But if the tie is low it’s also a great oppertunity to collect some cockles from the sand and steam them with a bit of white wine. We did it and it was delicious.
Saying goodbye to the South Island was a bit hard because of it’s beauty but I was also excited about exploring the North. The ferry took us through Marlborough Sounds, which is by the way a great wine area, to Wellington on the North Island. Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand and has a nice vibe. We didn’t spend much time here but we did visit the enormous Te Papa museum which has a fantastic collection and is a great way to learn more about the country and the Maori culture.
Still one of the best things I ever did in my life was walking the Tongariro Crossing. It’s a track where you cross the still active Mt. Tongariro which has multiple craters and Mt Ngauruhoe which is used for Mount Doom in the movie ‘Lord Of The Rings’. The track takes you through an amazing landscape en to get to the craters, you first have to climb the devil’s staircase which is, well, quite steep.
But if you finally reach the crater, it’s probably the closest feeling you’ll get to walking on the moon besides actually being on the moon. Nothing grows here and it’s a barren landscape with next to you the even bigger Mt Ngauruhoe peak. When I had crossed the crater I came to the Red Crater where the ground still feels hot and the air smells like sulphur. But the real surpise comes after this crater when you suddenly find three drops of emerald lakes which forms a beautiful contrast with the yellow/brown soil. On the way down I came to a point where I had a great view on three craters, I crossed steamy grasslands and at the end forest again. A great experience!
We found more thermal activity in Rotorua. You’ll know when you arrived at the city because of the rotten egg smell but just take it and you’ll get some nice and hot thermal baths in return. This was actually also the place where we could really get in touch with the Maori culture. There is a Maori village with the simple name Whakarewarewa where we could see some Maori houses. They showed us how they cooked food in the hot thermal water and how they kept their youth with mudpools. A bit touristy but quite fun.
After this, it was time for a little tanning on the beach in coromandel and dolphin spotting in the Bay Of Islands. Yes, we saw them and there were a lot. The main reason we drove further up north were one of the great things of nature’s design, the Kauri trees in the Waipoua forest. I knew they were supposed to be big but what I saw was beyond Imagination. When you’re standing in front of it, it’s like a wall of tree. It’s just bizarre. The biggest one is Tane Mahuta which is the Maori name for ‘Lord of the Forest’. It’s girth is 13.77 m and it’s more than 50 meters high. It claims a natural respect when you look at it. After seeing this we headed back to Auckland, our last destination. It felt sad to return our campervan which became our home for the past month but everything needs to come to an end, otherwise you won’t appreciate it anymore. Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest city and has a very easy going atmosphere. We finished our trip having wine and good food in the harbour, wandering around the city and visiting some high lights like the big sky tower. New Zealand is an amazing country and there’s a lot more we saw like glow worm caves, a hot water beach and the mouraki boulders. The country’s nature is so divers and breathtaking, they have and interesting Maori culture and the people are extremely friendly. Driving around with a campervan is a lot of fun and a great way to see the country. There are a lot of campsites where you can stay for the night. They all have a shared kitchen and are provided with tools to cook dinner and while cooking, you can have a nice chat with some fellow travellers. From the countries I’ve seen so far, it’s still my number one!