Recap for Weeks 2 & 3

Right, so we’re kind of delayed here. We’ve accumulated some backlog in terms of travel reports. So it’s about time we give you guys a proper recap of weeks 2 and 3. More detailed reports on specific experiences will follow.
Stylized map popular destinations in the South Island of New Zealand.
Stylized map popular destinations in the South Island of New Zealand.

Wow, time is flying and before I even noticed Week 3 was over. You probably have had that experience as well before: When you are on holiday you lose track of which day of the week it is. I just realized this a couple of days ago while standing in the washing room of our Holiday Park at Lake Tekapo that it was already Monday. So Week 3 is actually gone…poof…it just disappeared. And I totally forgot to write my recap of Week 2. Oops. Ok, I’ll try to do better next time. Maybe you noticed, my trusty husband already changed the category from “Weekly Recaps” to “Recaps” – he has a lot of faith in me 😉

So here is what happened throughout the last 2 weeks in a nutshell (stay tuned for the more detailed descriptions of the day trips we did – those will follow a bit later.

We’ve Become Camping Pros. BAM! 😀

6 nights into camping and we’ve already developed a proper camping tent set up routine. Roles and responsibilities are key in a camper organization like ours.

Since Chris is the more creative one of the two of us, he has the role of Hammer Alternative Analyst – wonder what that means? Well, we decided not to buy a hammer to, well, hammer the tent pegs into the ground. New Zealand is obviously a very green and lush place, with nice juicy grass all over, right? So it shouldn’t be an issue to get the tent pengs into the ground – or so we thought – by now we know better 😛 So Chris got very creative in finding big rocks and using his feet, hands or just taking the risk of a little tripping hazard. Hey, you’ve got to live a little!

Chris also became a very experienced Tent Setup Planner. You know, the direction in which you set up your tent is important. You’d rather want to have the main entrance pointing to the back of your car to minimize walking distance at night when you just settled down in your tent, ready to sleep and then realize (again) that you forgot something (like your earplugs – very important!) in your car.

The sound of our Chinese neighbours snoring us to death… 😉

I on the other hand just graduated in Inflating Air Mattresses – growing muscles in my arms every day. We’ve developing a whole new CrossFit program here.

Curious what it sounds like in the morning on our camp sites?

And what’s even more important: I became THE Subject Matter Expert when it comes to rolling up the sleeping bags. By now I’ve figured out the most efficient way – you’ve never seen anybody roll up sleeping bags this quickly before – I swear!

We Met Nice People and a Few Weird Ones As Well

Even though we get along together very well, from time to time it is important to get to know a few new people and have some social contact. So we were actually quite glad when we met Bettina, a German lady, and a young Kiwi student in our Dunedin hostel.

Bettina had already been travelling for a few months and had just completed more than 1500 km of hiking the Te Araroa Trail – Bettina, I know you’ve started following our blog by now. You’ve earned our utmost respect for hiking through the wilderness for more than 2 months! So we actually spent a nice night out with a few drinks with Bettina and a few others which we really enjoyed.

Karma is real. So with the nice people we met, we also got some weird people. Two creepy old guys sitting in our hostel kitchen all day long and telling themselves that some of the young ladies in that hostel were apparently giving them looks and all. Never had I ever had such a strange bunch of people in a hostel before and that was one of the reasons (there were more) which made us decide to leave Dunedin 1 night earlier than planned.

We finished our Second Parkrun in New Zealand – yay!

Dunedin was really not the nicest place we had seen on our journey so far but it had a really nice botanical garden and there is a Dunedin Parkrun. A rather hilly Parkrun, probably one of the most challenging Parkruns we have done so far. We were warned by locals before the run, but WOW, they were not kidding, that was really steep. 110 meters of elevation is a lot, so everybody who is checking our time, please keep that in mind 😛

We Did Nearly 3,000 km of Driving

We were actually quite surprised when a few people who we met in Wellington told us what sort of distances they had driven within a short time. By now we fully understand why. You have to drive very long distances on the South Island to see all the stuff you want to see. But it does not bother us too much because most of the routes are super beautiful. In Germany we say “Der Weg ist das Ziel” which rings very true in the case of New Zealand.

Wanaka isn't a big town. But clearly some orientation is needed.
Wanaka isn’t a big town. But clearly some orientation is needed.

We Saw Some Amazing Places on the South Island

We did a day hike in Abel Tasman, we did a boat cruise in Milford Sound and we hiked the easy Valley Track to Franz Josef Glacier as well as the Hooker Valley Track around Mount Cook. There is so much diversity in this country and we thoroughly enjoyed all of it. Milford Sound was definitely my favourite so far but the other things were no less impressive.

Milford Sound on a sunny day is just awesome. Enough said.
Milford Sound on a sunny day is just awesome. Enough said.

We Also Took Away Some Key Learnings

Learning #1: Stay Longer in Wanaka

Flexibility is key but still sometimes we are still overwhelmed by that feeling of missing out on the last good (non-camping) accommodation. When we drove down the West Coast from Greymouth to Queenstown we decided to already book the next 4 nights ahead. 1 night in Wanaka and 3 nights in Queenstown because we were worried we might not get a spot in a nice hostel in touristy Queenstown. Well, we regretted it a bit when we arrived in Wanaka because Wanaka is SUCH a beautiful place. Small, but really wonderful. We definitely could have stayed there longer but hey, another 330 days to do better 😉

Lake Wanaka during sunset is such a calm and relaxing place to be.
Lake Wanaka during sunset is such a calm and relaxing place to be.

Learning #2: City Centre Accommodation is Not Ideal When You Have a Vehicle

Parking is expensive in New Zealand’s cities. We already realized that already in but did not really learn from it. I mean, New Zealands South Island also did not give us so much opportunity to learn from it since the next significantly populous city we saw was only Dunedin 2 weeks after Wellington.

In case you wonder what significant means: Based on New Zealand South Island standards my personal definition of significant population starts at around 100,000 inhabitants. It took us 2 weeks to see another city of that size. There really aren’t many people in New Zealand. The Kiwi population is actually outnumbered by sheep 6 to 1. No joke! And by now (statistically absolutely relevant sample of 2 cases :P) we’ve come to realize that accommodation in city centres is not only more expensive but also a lot less nice. So when you do a trip to New Zealand and you have a car, definitely rather choose a nice accommodation outside of the city. We did better in Christchurch and ended up with a super nice couple in an Airbnb now.

But more on this one by next week 😉

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