What I learned from my time in New Zealand
Lessons Learned from my brief seventeen days spent on the South Island of New Zealand:
- New Zealand roads are different, believe what they say. Things take time to get to and every road has about a dozen more turns than it most likely needs to. Plan time accordingly and don’t gauge the time off of the said distance. Leave early and drive safely.
- Learn to love Espresso, everyone and their cousin orders a "Long Black" or a "Flat White" one being the darkest of the dark espressos and the other being a simple milky creation. The Americano coffee is laughed at in this country.
- There are in fact more sheep than humans on the islands. Driving around you will be excited to see these large flocks, but as your time on the islands increase they will become just another feature of the scenic landscape.
- Consistently remind yourself where you are and love and enjoy every minute of it. Smile and take in each and every moment. New Zealand is an incredible place and will change how you view the rest of the world.
- It is a very expensive place, make your own food and be sure to close your eyes when you check out at the grocery store. Things add up very quickly over here, so if you plan a visit make sure you budget accordingly and don't blow all of your coin simply on one bungie jump or boat tour.
- Wake up early to beat the flood of tourists, the earlier hours will be worth it.
- The West Coast, Hokitika in particular is the place to buy and love the New Zealand Greenstone or Jade. The Jade is mainly found in the West flowing river beds, but can only be collected by the native people who own the rights to the land. Check out Mountain Jade a museum / retailer for a mini lesson and tour about Jade and Jade carving.I recommend purchasing a piece to take home with you, after leaving Ryan had regretted leaving a piece behind.
- If you're looking to save money you can surely live in an SUV, you don't always need a camper van, although if you plan on staying longer than two weeks we advise spending more and getting a campervan, don't get a Jucy brand one as those look ridiculous. If you do sleep in the car you will have more opportunities to get caught less in areas where Freedom Camping is prohibited. Don't let anyone know I advised you to do so, as it was impressive we didn't get caught a single time during peak season.
- Climb Roy's Peak in Wanaka because anyone and everyone does it, well we didn't technically do this. We sunrise summited the peak right below Roy's and it was well worth. Be prepared to bushwhack, dress in layers, and take allergy medicine if it is the summer and you have allergies. I was sniffling for the remainder of the day.
- We recommend going to Milford Sound one of the top destinations in New Zealand, but again leave early to beat the tourist buses and caravans. Make sure you fill up your tank of gas in Te Ano the last town before a two hour drive through Fiordland and into the sound. If you go to the sound be sure to sign up for a Sound Cruise. We went on one through Southern Discoveries which provides a smaller boat and prides itself on natural encounters and up close glacial facials with the waterfalls.
- WiFi is very difficult to find on the island and expensive, so a good rule of the thumb is the more commercialized (i.e. Starbucks or McDonalds) the better chance they will give you more WiFi. We frequented Starbucks for our internet planning periods, but also found out that grocery stores occasionally provided 45 minutes of internet daily.
- Always pack in layers and bring waterproof shoes, like Colorado, New Zealand can also experience all four seasons in the span of a morning and you never really know what you are going to get. I didn't invest in good gortex lined hiking boots before and I wish I had done so.
- The sun is incredibly bright in New Zealand, so pack quality eyewear and ALWAYS have them with you. Also, sunscreen is a must. Thirty minutes out in the sun could have you fried.
- Chocolate and most sweet treats are particularly delicious in New Zealand. Because of the proximity of goods everything seems tremendously fresh and "local" which has become synonymous with "good." Whittakers Chocolate which comes in a big bar with a gold wrapper is delicious, everyone must try it.
- New Zealand does not have any of the creepy crawly critters that are found across the Tasman Sea, the only pests they do have are sand flies and the Australian Possum. Wear bug spray or tough it out, but be warned that these bites turn into dark bruise like circles on your legs.
- For our two week stay we focused our time and energy on the South West part of the Southern Island entertained by a loop from Queenstown up to Christchurch through Arthur's Pass and then down the West Coast. We felt that we had enough time to see what we planned for, but could have benefited with another three months on the island. It is even better than you imagine.
- I loved the esthetic of Queenstown, but hated the level of tourism it was smothered by
it was extremely busy. There is a lot of expensive activities and shops that will gladly suck your money.
- If you're interested in a scenic view take flight out of Wanaka (just north of Q Town) to see a birds view of Mount Aspiring National Park. It will take your breath away for a full 60 minutes and some of your best photographs will come from this. We went to Learn to Fly and Ryan was able to use his own Pilot's license to take the metal bird up.
- If you have time plan on doing one of New Zealand's great walks. Ryan and I did half of the Routeburn Track a three part trek through Fiordland National Park. We started at the great Divide and then made it to Ocean's Peak just above the MacKenzie Hut. We completed a whopping 23 miles that day, but was not too difficult with the amazing views. Remember to bring lots of water and snacks although at the huts along the route you can replenish your water supplies.