Instead of talking about Mordor and the Shire and Hobbits and revealing my true nerdery, I'm going to try to show how incredible our road trip through New Zealand was through photographs and minimally descriptive itineraries. I will not be talking about how giddy I was to see the Hobbit in Queenstown, or that I pretended to race the riders of Rohan or that I'm 100% certain that a particular creature's eyes watched me deep inside the glow-worm caves in Waitomo. No, this will be a very adult, unimaginative portrait of our 2400 mile trek in a campervan across as much of New Zealand as humanly possible. Check out Ashley's video at the bottom of the post for MOVING pictures, and her post about the trip here. Photos with the Fuji x100, Nikon D600, and a Holga film camera (still being developed). Day 1: Auckland. Flight arrives at 5:30am, no hotel until 2pm. Walk Auckland, crash a graduation ceremony, eat fish n chips.
Day 2: Pick-up Maui campervan, learn to drive completely opposite, head out on the road. Drive to Waitomo Caves for a cave-tubing adventure into deep caverns with waterfalls, inner-tubes, and thousands of glowing maggot parasites hanging from the ceiling in the shape of the Milky Way Galaxy. Drive near Matamata (where Hobbiton is), and camp in an empty parking lot watching the sunset reflect off the waterfalls, with the cows of course.Day 3: Tickets to Hobbiton, the fully restored movie set of The Shire, complete with Hobbit holes, a working garden, and drinks at The Green Dragon Pub, in the middle of a privately-owned sheep farm. I would live there in a heartbeat. Then we drove to Rotorua for Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, where colorful geothermal activity bubbles up out of the ground at temperatures above boiling. Drive to Tongariro National Park in hopes of hiking the Tongariro Crossing, one of the best rated day hikes in the world (and site of Mt Doom). Day 4: Mt Ngauruhoe is an active volcano and half the trail is closed. We do a part of a different trail (Northern Tongariro Circuit) and Mt Doom is covered by clouds. Oh well, still beautiful... Time for Yummy Mummy's Cheesecake and then insanely drive down to the southernmost part of the North Island, almost run out of gas and camp on a beautiful spot right on the ocean with a ridiculous sunset. Day 5: A mistake in my detailed itinerary leads us to have to skip a full day in Wellington, but we stopped by Rivendell (Kaitoke Regional Park), dove in and swam in icy cold waters because of an elvish dare. Stopped at a viewpoint in Wellington before getting on the Ferry to Picton across the channel of the Tasman Sea. Camped near Abel Tasman National Park on an empty beach full of beautiful sea shells.Day 6: Abel Tasman National Park kayaking. Green blue water, paddling through caves, and open beaches. Afterwards, we drove south and camped near the Nelson Lakes area. Many, many bugs. Slept with the windows closed.
Day 7: Made the drive down along the western coast, stopping along Paparoa National Park to see the Pancake Rocks and do a jungle hike. We camped along a glacier river, hoping for a heli-hike on the Franz Joseph Glacier the next morning. Day 8: Alas, fog and rain cancelled all helicopter outings, so we cut our losses and hit the road, driving to Queenstown. A beautiful town, we took a break, camped at a real holiday park, took real showers, and had one of the most delicious dinners ever (lamb shanks), before watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on the big screen. Day 9: AJ Hackett Bungy jumping on the Kawarau Bridge, a 140 ft jump. Awesomeness. Ashley screamed, I didn't. Onward to a valley infested with lupine and alpine views just outside of Milford Sound.Day 10: A gorgeous, early-morning boat tour of Milford Sound, in Fiordland. Dolphins came along to play. Afterwards, we went for a day hike along part of the Routeburn Track up to Key Summit. Even after that, we decided to go crazy and drive all the way to the eastern coast near Dunedin, seeing both the Tasman Sea and the Pacific in one day. Day 11: A nice leisurely drive through Dunedin and quiet coastal towns with seal and penguin sanctuaries before heading towards Mt Cook National Park, along the beautifully blue Lake Pukaki.Day 12: Clear skies with billowy clouds and a perfect view of Mt Cook, the highest peak in New Zealand, hovered over us during our morning walk up to a glacier lake. Afterwards we drove by the even bluer Lake Tekapo and then through flat farmland to Christchurch for our flight out.