When you start planning a road trip through New Zealand you know you are in for ultimate adventure.
It took us months of planning, calculating distances taking in consideration weather conditions, altitudes and passes, making sure we reach camping sites before dark and at least have a warm shower before we lay our tired bodies in our soft, cosy campervan.
We started our adventure in the city of Auckland. Bustling with interesting coffee shops, souvenir shops and tourists flocking through the busy streets we made our way up to 51st floor of the Sky tower in the city centre and what a beautiful 360 degree view. Sipping on a flat white we studied the maps overlooking some of the islands including Waiheke (great for wine tasting tours!), Rotorua island, Motutapu island, half moon bay just to name a few! Ferries are regular, cheap and easy accessible from the Auckland Waterfront area.
The best way to get around the beautiful island of New Zealand is definitely by car. They drive on the left hand side so it was super easy for us Saffas to navigate around. No need for an international license, if your license is printed in English it is acceptable – bonus!
We hired a super nifty car and made our way down to Waitomo which took us approximately 3 hours – that was navigating through Auckland traffic. Waitomo is a village situated on a cave system which is obviously a major tourist attraction. This is also where you will find the incredible glowworms! Only found in Australia and New Zealand these glowworms, well, glow! These mosquito like insects gives off a bright blue light from stored energy in their larvae or maggot stage of its cycle.
The girls from Inspired Women decided to take the bull by the horns and embarked on a 7 hour Lost World tour which included 100m free abseil into the Lost World. If you are afraid of heights we highly and strongly suggest you do not attempt this! You also need to have a bit of muscle and strength to complete this challenging tour. After a shuttle ride we gather on top of a hill in a old barn shack where we started gearing up. They supply you with a very snug fitting wetsuit, a wetsuit jacket, gumboots, helmet and full harness. For the next couple of hours you will hike, swim, jump and crawl through water, waterfalls, over rocks and against strong currents through a deep, dark and humid cave dodging some eels and big, hairy spiders.
After the abseil decent you gather on the cave floor to enjoy a warm cup of coffee and a sandwich to build up energy and just take some time to realise where you actually find yourself! With super experienced (and super funny) guides tagging with you all the way we never felt scared. The highlight of the trip was switching off all the lights and watch as the glowworms lit up the cave roof like a fairytale wonderland.
At certain stages the walk got very challenging as strong currents and climbing through waterfalls required some much needed strength. During the walk we encountered some whale fossils and pearls embedded in the limestone rock which was formed millions of years ago.
As you make your way towards the exit and the sunlight starts beaming through the dark mist, you start looking forward to taking off all the wet, cold and heavy gear which has been grasping onto your body like a obsessed octopus, but this will only happen after a 2km hike over fast hills back to the old barn shack.
Back at the barn shack the friendly guides surprised us with a full on Kiwi BBQ, scrumptious salads and fresh, cold glacier water straight from the back yard. We felt, tired, our bodies pushed ,our muscles aching but a complete and overwhelming feeling of accomplishment just settles in your soul knowing that not a lot of people has or could do what we just conquered!
The Waitomo Lost World tour comes HIGHLY recommended from Inspired Women. Visit their website for more info! www.waitomo.co.nz
As we made our way to our accommodation for the night, which was located a mere 5 minutes away, we had to glance twice at the entrance and exterior of this well.. historic hotel. Historic indeed as we walked into the reception area greeted by antique old Maori paintings, old dusty furniture and cracking wooden floors. Did we just walk into a Scream movie set?
Sue curiously and over hastily asked the receptionist lady if the place was haunted where she replied with a laugh and an eye roll “Don’t be silly” all part of the act or serious, we will never know. The dark, stuffy corridors decorated with peeling floral wallpaper (probably installed in the late 1920’s) gives this place an icky, eery feeling of creepiness. In our room we had to consult our BFF – Google – and find out if this place really had Maori spirits practising the HAKA in the corridors. To our not-so-complete-surpise it was true, we found ourselves in the most haunted hotel in New Zealand. (And the 4th most haunted hotel in the world). Paranormal activity filmed an episode there and 39 sightings have been reported. Feel free to check our credentials on www.wikipedia… )Our hotel was build on a Maori burial ground. I repeat, our hotel was built on a Maori burial ground, this was apart from a few suicides and a boy killed in the kitchen of the hotel.
There we found ourselves in the middle of a Blair witch project, still suffering from severe jetlag and aching sore muscles from completing an epic 7 hour cave exploring trip. What to do…. all the other accommodation around us was fully booked and the 3 hour trip back to Auckland seemed to much of a mission at 9pm. We decided to stay, but on one condition. We were never to leave each other alone – ever – even if we had to go to the toilet, you do your business with the door open. We had to spoon, we held each other tightly throughout the night and we both agreed if we hear or see anything we would leave – IMMEDIATELY.
We managed to sleep for about 6 hours – at 3am we both woke up and decided we felt rested to make the journey back. We quickly packed and made our journey to the reception area to drop the keys. Not a single soul in sight, at least what we could see.. or not see we just left the keys on the desk and made our way out. As Murphy would have it, Sue decides it is a good time to do some ghost hunting. With only a flashlight on our phones to light the way through the scary corridors Sue made her way up the stairs to room 13 – the most haunted room in the hotel. Behold a door bangs! No wind, no breeze and no people could have been held responsible for this sick joke. That was enough evidence that it was time for us to leave. And so we did, loudly, running and screaming until we reached our car. Maybe leaving a trail of tails and stories for neighbouring guests that they heard Maori ghosts running and screaming down the corridors..
Looking back, it was hard to believe that we decided to stay. Read The Article Local Magazine HUISGENOOT shared about our Ghostly Adventure.
Tip #2 when planning a trip: Make sure it is not haunted.
We made our way to the beautiful little town of Taupo, located next to Lake Taupo and from there to the Thermal Wonderland located in Wai-O-Tapu, also known as the sacred waters. This is New Zealand’s most colourful volcanic area due to the geothermal activity. Boiling mud pools, Lady Knox Geyser and the Champagne pool can be easily accessed by foot and makes for a great family outing.
Just outside Wai-O-tapu hides a secret spot nestled in a lush forest called “Kerosene Creek”. This is a natural hot spring that runs through a forest making it Mother Nature’s very own spa bath! Free entrance and accessible 24/7 this was well worth a visit.
Our second part of the trip was exploring the South Island, this also the “most beautiful” side of New Zealand according to locals. Well, we had to go see for ourselves.
Arriving in the cold, historic city of Dunedin, we made our final preparations to start our 5 day Road trip. We hired a car and made our way to Queenstown, AKA the Adventure capital of the World. We picked up our camper van from a company called Jucy. The best way to explore New Zealand is in a camper van if you are feeling adventurous! The other option is to hire a car and book over night accommodation as you drive along. The camper van was a great option as it is equipped with bedding, towels, cutlery, crockery, a fridge, a stove and even a DVD player.
The camping sites are great, they are clean, facilities are great and the views.. incredible! Freedom camping is allowed in New Zealand as long as you have toilet in your van, we spotted a lot of freedom campers along the way, feeling a bit jealous when you see them waking up next to a turquoise lake overlooking Mount Cook!
Our first activity for the day was a speed boat ride through the Shotover canyons, “boring” Shireen mumbled, until she got in and I “forgot” to tell her that this is the only boat in the world designed to make full 360 degree turns in the narrow canyons! Worth every cent! Check them out at www.shotover.co.nz
From Queenstown we drove to Te Anu situated in the famous Doubtful Sound. We started our second adventure at 6am in a 50 min shuttle ride, followed by a 50min boat ride, another bus ride, another boat ride and onto our Kayaks. Tourist or public can’t enter Doubtful Sound unless you have a permit, hiked a very, very long way or entered with a registered company that holds a permit. Therefore Doubtful sound is much more quieter and isolated that Milford Sound. Having done both Milford and Doubtful sound, Milford Sound is much more smaller and busier than Doubtful Sound. Doubtful sound is more more “unspoiled” but do watch the weather forecast when you make your way into the arms of Doubtful sound as turning back is not an option and you are left having to face rough waters, strong currents and hectic winds.
Kayaking though the gigantic mountain peaks of the Sounds, being so close to the water and only hearing waterfalls and birds chatting away made the whole experience so much more intimate, real, deep and intense.
For our final BIG adventure, Shireen convinced Sue to take her first skydive (This was Shireen’s Third Time Skydiving and Sue’s First time) – Lets just say this experience has two sides:
From Shireen’s Point of View: This is the ultimate adrenaline experience you can do in Queenstown. Skydiving is something Shireen enjoys tremendously and with no fear of heights this is something that she will do over and over any day of the week! The thrill is amazing, the views are spectacular and apart from the Skydive in Plettenberg bay (South Africa) the Skydive in Queenstown takes first place when it comes to the views and overall enjoyable experience. So if you are brave enough and enjoy the thrill…this is a MUST DO!!
Sue’s Point of View: I am glad I did it….but NEVER AGAIN! The jumping from the plane and the feeling of nothing to hold on to, no safety, no guarantee you will safely put your feet back on the ground was a bit too much. (Can you hear Shireen giggle in the background – I think she is a bit crazy that one)
We booked our tickets online www.nzoneskydive.co.nz , and you have 3 altitude choices 9000/12 000/15 000 ft. We opted for the 12 000 ft jump.
Once at the office in Queenstown you are transported via a bus to the DropZone and given a group number. With 10 jumpers per group, you are called into the hanger and you are assisted with putting on your flight suit, harness, helmut and gloves. Make sure you are dressed warmly with comfortable shoes.
Once everybody is ready, (your camera man) – Yes, you can purchase a photo/video package that involves another jumper filming you, this cameraman films everything and then you get the footage afterwards. (amazing memories and highly recommended)
This post will not be complete if we did not mention food – Be sure to try the Famous FERG BURGER when in Queenstown. It is not hard to miss as the queue’s are always outside the door. It is however worth trying out! Just make sure you are very hungry!
After Queenstown, we started traveling North to Lake Tekapo.
Lake Tekapo is absolutely beautiful and this is also where we did one night of Glamping under the Stars.
Lake Tekapo has a world famous spot for stargazing and this is exactly what we did that night. We spend a few couple of hours photographing the stars at the Church of the Good Shepard (Which as subsequently become the most photographed church in New Zealand)
After Lake Tekapo we headed for Fox Glacier which is a beautiful little town, however it sports the most famous glaciers in New Zealand – Quite a few actually. We decided to stop and admire the adjacent glacier called Franz Joseph Glacier. It is spectacular to witness.
On a clear day, you can hire a helicopter to take you to the top which we really wanted to do but the weather did not allow clear visibility for landing so we had to be happy with the view from the ground.
Taveling New Zealand was a life long bucketlist item that got ticked off. This country is not only beautiful but it is the ultimate destination for trail hikers, nature lovers and adventurous with a free spirit!
We will forever treasure our time here and if there ever comes an opportunity to do it all over again, we will jump at it!
Till Next Time!