Travelogue: Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park, on the northwestern tip of the south island, is one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks”, hosting a multi-day trek through the wilderness.
NZ South Island - Able Tasman venturing out

This was the real deal!  We paddled a double kayak, complete with skirts to keep waves and water out of the where-we-are-sitting compartments, and neoprene hatch covers over our gear compartments, where we carried food, sleeping bags, tent, clothing, and all the other gear we needed for a 3-day trip.
NZ South Island - Able Tasman beached kayak

Continue reading Travelogue: Abel Tasman National Park

Travelogue: South Island, New Zealand

The South Island of New Zealand is quite different from the North Island – whereas the north has a good balance of beautiful natural scenery and civilization, the scales of the south island are quite lopsided in favor of nature.  More often than not, I had zero bars of reception on my cell phone – and no radio stations either!  (Though I didn’t mind the lack of radio coverage – as it turns out, my travel partner and I have zero overlap in our music tastes).

From Picton, a tiny town on the top of the South Island, we drove down the western mountainous coast of the southern island, taking hikes and climbing glaciers, before visiting the breathtaking fiordlands to the southwest corner of the south island.  Then, we followed the southern scenic route down the southern edge of the south island, and traveled back up through the eastern coast to earthquake-shaken city of Christchuch.
NZ South Island - scenery 3

My route plotted on Google Maps!

Continue reading Travelogue: South Island, New Zealand

Travelogue: Waitomo Glowworm Caves

During my time in the north island, I visited the town of Waitomo, famous for being the only place in New Zealand (and one of the few in the world) to have glowworm caves.  But of course, just seeing the glowworms would be rather dull, especially in a land with so many outdoor activities, so some inventive kiwis came up with a new sport – black water rafting.

The glowworm caves are actually caverns slowly carved out by underwater rivers, so somebody had the bright idea of rafting this underground river – so not only do you get to see the glowworms, but you also get the excitement of rafting!  Plus, the guide companies can charge a lot more for ‘black water rafting’ than just a ‘glow worm cave walk & tour’.  Clever.

Glowworms are insect larva that behave somewhat like spiders – they lay down a trap of sticky lines hanging down from the ceiling, start glowing – luminescent poop!  Fortunately the poop stays in the larva, and doesn’t drop down into the mouths of awestruck tourists.  This light attract insects that fly towards the false moon, the insects get caught in the sticky lines, and the glowworm enjoys a delicious meal.
Waitomo Glowworm Caves - glowworm lines of Footwhistle cave, Caveworld

Continue reading Travelogue: Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Travelogue: Wellington

After a week and a half on the road, we reached capital city Wellington, at the southern tip of New Zealand’s north island!

Once I got oriented in the city, I went on a whirlwind 2-day tour of the attractions, visiting the Wellington Museum, the Te Papa Museum, the cable car & cable car museum, botanical gardens, and Weta Cave.

Oh, and the Wellington moon / death star.  Notice how the rainclouds followed us all the way from Auckland.
Wellington - death star

Continue reading Travelogue: Wellington

Travelogue: Rotorua

I really want to know, what would possess a country to build a city over a geothermal hotspot that makes the entire place smell of rotten eggs?  And then make that city a tourist super center?

So far, Rotorua has been the low point of my trip.  Take some foul smells, mix in bad traffic jams (the only traffic jams I’ve seen in New Zealand), subtract out parking spaces, sprinkle with a boatload of tourists, and add a library that charges for wifi on top, and you’ve got Rotorua.
Rotorua - thermal vent

Continue reading Travelogue: Rotorua

Travelogue: North Island, New Zealand

From Auckland, I found a travel mate (Juan, 29, from Costa Rica), rented a campervan, and set off on a 38-day tour of New Zealand, starting with the North Island!  Renting a campervan is quite cheap too – When I get more time, I’ll do a business analysis on the costs of traveling by campervan.

On the North Island, we first toured Northland, the northernmost bit of the north island, looping along the Twin Coast Discovery Highway.  Upon returning to Auckland, we drove south and saw some tourist attractions along the Thermal Explorer Highway, before finally heading down to the capital of New Zealand – Wellington.
NZ North Island - vantage point portrait

My route plotted on Google Maps!

Continue reading Travelogue: North Island, New Zealand