After a very successfull adventure in South America
in 2001-2002, it is time for another big trip.
Once the travel bug enters the brain, it stays there forever.
Already a year ago I started dreaming about doing a trip to South
And as I said last time "You know how these dreams come and are always there,
but you never actually start working on realizing them.
Now is the time to do it."
Keep on tripping!
Wim, August 2004
New Zealand March 2005
29/04/2005 Last month in New Zealand
Me and Andreas go shopping in the Pak'n Save and warehouse for our first hike, the Tongariro
circuit. read more
04/03/2005 The first 2 weeks on the North island of New
After a 10 hour flight, crossing 5 time zones, I arrive in Auckland, New Zealand. The Malaysia airlines flight was pretty comfortable, but that doesn't mean I slept much.
04/03/2005 Arrival in New Zealand
After a 10 hour flight, crossing 5 time zones, I arrive in Auckland, New Zealand. The Malaysia airlines flight was pretty comfortable, but that doesn't mean I slept much. My neighbours in the plain were so happy to be back home, that they
were already chatting at 8am, which means I slept 4 hours. I hope to
get a quick luggage and immigration processing and I'll be in a guesthouse dorm bed for some rest...
Not that quick though, the officer at immigration sees my passport, full of SE Asia stamps, single
traveller, looking rather tired... 'Please move to lane 4'.
Lane four means the most thorough check. My backpack was turned upside down, inside out, all luggage checked,
lots of questions asked to see if my plans are authentic. So finally, after 2 hours, and then
a 1 hour busride, I am in central Auckland, next to Queenstreet, in a real backpackers
hostel. The price is only 22 NZ dollar, which is kind of more expensive than most
double rooms I shared with Sofie in South East Asia. And this is for a dorm bed, in a room with 7 other people,
sharing the noises and smells...
The NZ dollar is quite strong at the moment, so it means 1 nz dollar
is about 55 euro cent.
I wake up with the sound of 'action', like in a movie set. I look
through the window and realize there is one right outside the door. I don't participate but enjoy a shower and breakfast, and start exploring the biggest city in New Zealand (1,2 million people live here). I notice the Asian population is quite big, and there are
also food courts with all kinds of Asian food, for cheap prices. For 6 nz$ I can have a big selection that feeds me twice. But the real way of doing NZ cheap is by cooking easy and cheap stuff in the hostels... I'll have to start cooking again, lovely !
Mathilda, a Swedish arrival, joins me on a half day trip to Devonport, the peninsula across the bay, just a ten minute ferry ride away. We walk up the green
hills, and eat a gigantic ice cream on the way to the beach. It is fun seeing the Kiwi's enjoy there week-end close to the water, and the sun on my skin is a relief after the cold chills I had when I first arrived here. The difference between wearing surf shorts and flip flops in Bali, and long pants and a sweater here in NZ is hard. But it seems the weather gods are in a good mood, a few hours later I look like a lobster !
07-11/03/2005 Bay of Islands
I travel north to Paihia, a two street town, next to some beach and islands. I
come here to do some sailing, but the day I go out there is no wind at all. Luckily the atmosphere on the boat is good, and after some sea kayaking in a pretty bay, we even spot lots of playful dolphins around the boat. I think back of the beautiful time I had in Pipa Brazil, swimming every day with the dolphins. NZ is going to be so good !
What is less good is my cold after the windless days here. The plan was to go diving at the Poor Knights islands, but you can't dive with a cold, and
neither with an infected toe. So after a quick visit to Keri Keri and the oldest stone and wooden building in New Zealand (yes, I do have to do some historic tourism as well), I decide to get the bus back to Auckland, and start moving south.
In Auckland I do some necessary shopping. A North Face sleeping bag that goes minus 7 and is quite compact is on sale, and a Doite 60 litre backpack for upcoming hikes ! I also meat with a nice Chilean mountaineering adventurer, who spent 2 years on the beautiful South Island. The tips and tricks he gives me are very convincing. I have to get south sooner than I planned. And I can do it hitch hiking !
12/03/2005 To Rotorua
I take the bus for a last time, as I already have the ticket, and arrive in smelly Rotorua. It is smelly because the town is on top op the most geothermal active area of the north island. It smells like sulphur everywhere, and the park in the centre of town is dotted with small geysers, mud pools and steamy vents. Doesn't look very safe to me. I check in, in Norms place, kind of small and cosy, but quite boring after 5 days. I went to get my toe infection cleaned up, and the doc made me come back twice for new dressing and a check up. Even gave me antibiotics for 5 days. Finally the 3rd day they give me a do-it-yourself set so I can clean my toe up the next few days.
17/03/2005 First hitch hike
Taupo is only 90 minutes away, and amazingly I get there in 2 hours, by getting two rides, first from a glass repair man, then from Trish, a 'stoner' and her pit bull Ralph. In the centre of Taupo I check in and forget an important travellers rule. Always check the book first. The book says this place is old, not cosy and might be noisy. Especially tonight, because its St. Patrick's Day, and across the street is a huge Irish Pub.
So I sleep with earplugs and move to another hostel the next night. I couldn't join the pub-crawl, as I was still on antibiotics...
move quickly in the morning, as the smell of cheeze feet becomes
unbearable. Even the vapo rub I smeared under my nose didn't help.
Half an hour later I check in in Rainbow lodge, a great backpackers'
spot. I meet some very nice people here, and together we explore the
craters of the moon, the Huka waterfalls and the movie theatre. The
next day I am booked for the ride of a lifetime.
Skydive, from 12000 feet, which means a 45 second free fall and then
another fwo minutes to get floating to a landing. I must say my nerves
started playing on the way up, as the plain is gaining hight, the tandem
skydiver straps you against him. Then we put on the silly aviator hat
and some windprotection goggles. I am the last jumper in this plain. We
slide towards the open door, give a big smile to a camera and then the
Tandem diver does al the rest. We push out and do a nose dive for the
first 5 seconds, then we level and I can release and spread my arms out.
The speed is just amazing, I can't explain it with words, but I can say
I yelled , for 45 seconds, out of pure joy (and a bit of adrenaline I
guess). Then he opens the chute and it feels like your being pulled
upwards, back into the sky. Man, that was superb.
Back in the hostal I can only smile, and the same evening we have a
really good time out. I met Andreas again, a cool Norwegian boy scout,
Sien from Ghent, and Rom and Rob from NL/UK. Together we finish some
deserved bottles of wine and the Belgian team even cracks a bottle of
20/3 To Turangi
Andreas and me go shopping in the Pak'n Save and warehouse for our first hike, the Tongariro
circuit. As he is going to arrive a day late I decide not to wait but to already start the hike and do an extra day up in the area. I hitch hike to Turangi, which takes me a while, because I was standing with my
thumb up in a spot where cars are not allowed to stop at all..
Once in Turangi I check in in Xtreme backpackers, a really decent place. I meet Etai, an Israeli guy who is going
up the circuit as well, and we plan to leave together the next day.
21-25/3 Tongariro circuit
In the parking lot we meet two American fellows with their van, Mike and Tim. We wait for them to start the hike, which begins with a 2 hour walk to the first hut. My boots and backpack are new, and I can feel that the boots will cause trouble soon. I wait in the first hut for my friend Andreas to arrive the next day. Meanwhile the other guys continue in the drizzle to do the
actual Tongariro Crossing, a very popular day walk that takes you through
I call it a day and enjoy the warmth of the hut stove, a beautiful sunset and chatting with other hikers.
I get up really early and before 7 am I am already on the move. Just before the day walkers arrive, I am already doing the steep ascent to get to the base of the Ngurahoe
volcano, Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings. It is still clear enough to enjoy some of the views, so I decide to
scramble up to the top. Once up there , it starts raining and the view is taken
away from us. Me and an english/NZ guy wander around the crater, touch the snow and come back down a little later. As I am warming up again in the hut, the doors swings open and Andreas appears.
He insists on sleeping in his tent, as he has carried it around, and so he pitches it up for the first time
(miraculously it takes him only 10 minutes).
The next morning we get up to see a clouded sky, the vulcano isn't even visible at the moment. But weather changes quickly here, so around 8am we are on our way, ascending the saddle again and enjoying the views as the sky clears up
We pass through the Southern Crater Basin, up the Red crater ridge,
where we are surpassed by a jogging girl ! Just after red crater the view gets a postcard picture quality, with the
bluish emerald lakes on one side, moonlike landscape next to it, and the red crater gully on the other side. We set up our picknick and enjoy the great weather (the best day in over a week).
Through he moonlike landscape we continue our hike and settle in the hut, just before the rain comes in.
The next day is a walk in the park, next hut is only 3 hours away, and the clouds
make it a mystical day. The last hut is pretty full, with hikers who come anti clock wise on the circuit. But fun it is, especially with the insecure and clumsy hut warden, playing card games with us till late (late as in 9.30 pm).
The last day, and luckily the weather kept up so far, but today it is
gonna rain, horizontal rain almost, as winds to about 90km per hour try to blow us off
the tracks. It is a good walk out though, and completely soaked we arrive in the village. First a good breadroll and coffee, then dry clothes, and luckily, a ride back to
Turangi as well.
Sa 26-28/3 Wellington
I get a lucky ride with a Dutch guy to Wellington, where I meet up again with Andreas. With these guys and an American lady we go to the movies (John Travolta's attempt to stay cool !). Andreas cooks a great steak with potatoes, we visit the big Te Papa museum, where I bump into Tim and Mike again, which brings us to a night of lots of wine and chatting.
Tu 29/3 - 3/4 Christchurch
With Chris, a nice Scottish lad, I get another good ride, all the way to Christchurch. The 19
year old driver of the turbo diesel station wagon thinks he is in a racing team, with gloves and all, so it takes us only 5 hours.
I check in at Charlie B's and with two lovely German girls, we have a day out in Akaroa, the Banks peninsula.
Chris meanwhile acquired an ukelele, and I bought myself a snowboard, for the upcoming winter season. Christchurch is a lovely town, and we have a great night out to a jazz jam session, ending up
rather late in some odd Blues bar. But it is time to move on, so of me and Chris go, up to Methven to do some hiking !
Tu 5-7/4 Mt Somers
From Methven it is a short drive to the car park at Mount Somers. From the coast of Christchurch to here, it is
mainly flat, the Canterbury plains, but then the mountains start. We decide to do the Mt Somers walkway, which brings you around the
mountain in 3 days, passing old mining areas, great river passages, views over LOTR shootouts, and some
cold huts. We have a great time exploring the river gorges, working our way
upriver, canyoning between huge rock formations and boulders. The second night
in the hut opens the view over the Canterbury plains, with a magnificent
sunrise early next morning.
Fri 8/4 Methven
I decide to stay here a day longer, and look around for options for June, as this town is the base to go skiing/boarding in Mt Hutt ski area. I find a place for 110nz dollars a week, and that should be good enough, cheaper then the other skiing area of Queenstown for sure !
Sa 9/4 Wanaka
It takes me 7 hours, and 5 different rides, to finally reach Wanaka. Wanaka is a
beautiful town, at a lake, and mountain ridges around all that. I meet up with Mike,
Tim and Etai again, who I first met at the Tongariro circuit just 2 weeks
before. We have a brilliant night out and the next day I cook lasagna for 6. We decide
take on the Cascade Saddle hike together, a though but hopefully rewarding hike.
Mo 10-13/4 Cascade Saddle tramp
Etai drives us to the car park of Aspiring national park, a beautiful and promising ride.
From there it is an easy stroll of 2 hours to the Aspiring hut, where we meet Richard (UK) and Daniela
(German), also planning to do the saddle climb the next day. The weather forecast got better, sunny days, not too much wind.
So early we start, by 8am we are on the move. The first part is steep, through the beech forest. Then we get into the open en start a very steep ascent (hands and feet to be used) of 2 hours to reach the pylon at 1850 meters
height (1400 meters higher then aspiring hut). The view is definately rewarding, river valleys, snowcapped mountains, a big
glacier, Mount Aspiring; and lunch in the middle of all that.
From here it is a long walk down, passing the flank of the glacier, and the
Dart river it creates, until we finally reach the Dart hut at 6pm, tired and hungry. Time is not feeling to well, since he ate my lasagna, so it seems I might have poisoned him...
The next day is luckily shorter, over some flats, which are not really flat, through golden fields that make you
wanna sing songs of 'Heidi in the mountains', through old forest and the
The last day is through similar pretty forest, and once at the
desolated carpark we realise that it might take some more time to get
back to some town. Me and Dani start walking towards Paradise car park,
and after 45 minutes we get a ride, all the way into Queenstown. I hitch back to Wanaka
with Mike to pick up the van and the rest of my gear, and return to Queenstown
to have a salmon dinner and a blast of a party. After lots of beer, and a lot of pool games, and a
lot of laughs (wot ?) a good night sleep and a hangover, it is time to
leave Queenstown behind for a while.
Fri 15/4 Arrowtown
We buy some groceries and drive with Mike, Tim and Dani to Arrowtown, to
have a picknick on the river banks. LOTR scenery all over, and a nice
sun while munching away, the best way to get rid of a hangover. Dani has
an idea, to go to Mount Cook and do some hikes there. Good for me, and
Mike and Tim agree as well. So off we go in the van, a real road trip,
me sleeping in the back, but unable to do so, because of the iPod
playing good music !
Sa 16-18/4 Mount Cook
After a night sleep
in the Unman hut, Tim drops us at the car park to
hike up to Ball Pas shelter. Tim won't join us because his stomach
problems haven't really gotten any better. So me Dani and Mike take of
to the cosy 5 berth hut. Once there we climb up a ridge towards Ball
Pass, and enjoy lunch with great views over Mount Cook. It was a steep
climb, but worth every step up. We just get back to the hut before
sunset, cook our noodles and learn to play scart from Dani.
The next day we are back to report our return in the Department of
Conservation office, when Dani proclaims she'll take another day of so
we can go for another hike. So to the shop, hunt for more stove fuel,
and signing in at the DOC for a hike to Sefton Bivvy ! This place is not
really known, there is no marked track, no route on the maps. But we
find out it is easy to find anyway, a nice but steep climb of 2 hours
and we are there. The view over the glacier next door, the Mueller hut
and glacier below, the whole valley, just amazing. The hut is a
small A frame, where 3 people can sleep on the floor, and there is a
radio. That is it. So we enjoy sunset, cooking, making funny night
pictures and some more games of Scart !
Back down it is time to hitch hike back to Q town and meet up with
Tim and whomever he has bumped into. He did bump into Carola again, the
German girl they met 10 days before, and Etai is there as well. This
calls for a great night out, and that is what we do !
Mo 18-25/4 Road Trip Qtown to Christchurch
The goal is simple: Carola needs to catch a plane the 26th, from
Christchurch. She hasn't seen West coast, glacier, nor mountain passes
or whales. Mike and Time and me haven't seen any of that either, and
they have a van. So we decide to go on a real road trip. Put the music
on, fill up the tank and of we go.
Our first destination is west coast, maybe see some penguins ? Once
in Haast we find out it is not the season to see penguins, so we
continue to Fox glacier. The next day we drive to the parking lot of
Welcome Flats, also called Copland track. From there someone told us it
would be 4 hours to the Welcome Flat hut and HOT POOLS ! But the signs
here say it will take us 7 hours, and it is already midday. So we end up
walking the last 45 minutes in darkness, crossing pools, enjoying the
guidance of the glowworms under rocks and overhangs. It is getting
pretty cold, and we are quite wet from 3 hours of rain. But the hot
pools do make up for it ! they are natural hot springs, channelled to 5
different natural pools with a muddy bottom. Delicious to soak the
muscle aches and cold away. A bit hard to get out of them though.
The next morning I have the pools to myself, watching the snowcapped
mountains, the singing and playing birds around me. So it is 6 hours
back, and Carola starts suffering now, not used to hiking at all,
wearing Mikes boots which are obviously too big. Once we are an
hours drive further in Franz Jozef, the shower and 3 litre wine pack
make us recover quickly. The plan here is to do a glacier walk on
Franz Jozef glacier. Not cheap, but worth the spectacle.
Compared to the Perito Moreno glacier walk in Argentina, this is way more challenging and impressive. The guidance is not perfect
but I did enjoy creeping through small blue iced cracks, stepping down
backwards on steep steps, trusting the ice crampons to grip on tightly.
After this we get some free soup in the hostal and then make way to
Hokitika. This sleepy artist town is famous for jade carvings and a
hippie atmosphere. We find it so sleepy that we can't find any food
anymore. So a beer will do, and the next mornings breakfast makes up for
Next stop is Greymouth, where we will meet up with some nice Israeli
friends we met. First we visit the montheits' brewery, a small brewery
that brews 6 year round beers, from pilsner to ale, they even have a
German radler. For 15 minutes we can drink as much as we can, which brings us in the right
atmosphere for the rest of the day.
It is a special celebration day for the Israelis today, and we end up in
their party, playing funny pool games and hanging out.
Almost close to flying day, time to head over to the other side
of the coast. But first a stop at the pancake rocks, a natural
phenomenon that is not explained by
science yet. The sea chops hard and
rough through blowholes, between pancake stack alike rock formations.
From there we take the Lewis pass, stopping for a break to play frisbee
and eat some cheese and tomato sandwiches. And it is getting crowded in
the van, as Carola and Mike both invited a guy to join us up to
Christchurch. We drive all the way to Kaikoura first, home of the whale
watching tours. On the way there it starts snowing ! First snow fall for
me in more than a year, wicked. A storm has been hitting the east coast
the last few days, and we arrive at the end of it. Not much chance for
whale watching in this weather though, so the next morning we go to have
a look at a seal colony. We almost spotted some penguins as well, until
Tim, the future marine biologist between us, tells us that is a shag
bird, just a penguin lookalike , ha.
Next stop Christchurch, final destination of this road trip. We check
in in Stonehurst, my favourite Christchurch hostel. Time for relax and
work now. For email and internet, for sleeping till 11am, for pancakes
Next plans ? Hang out, do some rock climbing and watch a rugby game.
Then fly out to Australia for 3 weeks !!!
Keep on tripping,