We were young. We were broke. But we were eager for adventure.
2005: Our very first road trip as a couple.
Now just happily married, the memories of our trip to New Zealand resurface as an unforgettable moment in our life together. The beginning of a lifetime love of travel.
We were backpacking on a very tight budget back then. But this trip to New Zealand was truly enriching.
I mean, how does living in a car for 4 weeks, taking freezing cold showers in public parkings and eating nothing but bread and peanut butter can be nothing but memorable.
I still remember our faces when we first discovered that the super micro campervan we had booked on the Internet – what was going to be our transportation by day and our accommodation at night – turned out to be just a small Nissan stationwagon equipped with old fashioned curtains, thin mattresses and a small portable gas stove.
If our New Zealand campervan expedition started with apprehension, it actually soon screamed total freedom and made us smile every time we were hopelessly trying to prepare for bedtime without the cold air from the outside coming in. Flipping around a few boards, moving our backpacks on the front seats and voilà!
We drove around New Zealand for 4 weeks, from Auckland to Wellington before hopping the ferry down to the South Island.
With far more sheep than human inhabitants, New Zealand is a remote gem for nature lovers.
Here are our 10 highlights:
1. Witness the meeting of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean at Cape Reinga as they battle it out in a salty spray spitting contest.
2. At Cathedral Cove, secluded coves unveil unruly rock formations splashing about in crystal-clear water.
At low tide, dig a hole in the warm sand of Hahei and enjoy a naturally hot spa bath.
3. Smell it up in Rotorua, centre of earthly flatulence and famous for its spouting geysers, bubbling mud pools and warm geothermal ponds.
Make sure to visit Wai-O-Tapu, the “Sacred Waters” volcanic park.
4. Dance with the clouds as you sky dive on top of the turquoise Lake Taupo.
5. Venture into Mordor’s untouched moonscape filled with volcanic craters, emerald lakes and steaming vents as you hike New Zealand’s Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
6. At Abel Tasman National Park, feel like Robinson Crusoe as you walk through deserted beaches.
7. Discover nature at its boldest in Milford Sound as you take a scenic cruise through this fiord nestled in the World Heritage Fiordland National Park with stunning waterfalls thundering down granite cliffs, towering mountain peaks reflected in mirror-like water and luxuriant rainforest…
8. Get amazed by undisciplined rocks which look just like stacks of pancakes in Punakaiki.
9. Be awed by the icy slopes of the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers protected by hairy mountains.
10. Experience the alpine and rugged beauty of Aoraki Mt Cook National Park with skyscraping snow-capped peaks, glaciers and a romantic touch of colourful lupins.
From secluded beaches and lush rainforests through to geothermal wonderlands and snow-capped mountains, New Zealand is one of those rare places that will make you fall in love at every turn.
So now you know why New Zealand has a piece of our hearts forever.