New Zealand was not part of my original travel Itinerary when I left Texas in May. Then again I really don’t know what my travel plans are more than a week out. I jump from country to country, city to city, only to book flights at the last minute arriving in a town without accommodations or an itinerary. Its easier, more flexible, and a bit of an adventure showing up without a place to stay.
New Zealand came across my radar when I was contracted for a few days of work in Wellington. I was in Bali at the time and and didn't want to leave, but making money on the road is a blessing that I can’t pass up on.
Once work was done in Wellington I had 11 days to kill and a country to explore. This is the story of my whirlwind travels through the North and South Islands of New Zealand.
With two days of work and one day of play in Wellington, I hit the ground running on my only day of exploring the capital of New Zealand. I have been on the road for the past three months, in that time I have always opted for cheap or free forms of entertainment. I spent a few hours at the Wellington Museum (free), explored the boardwalk along the bay (free), and ended my day with a ride up the 102 year old cable car overlooking the city (cheap), which offers the most amazing sunset views.
TRAVEL DAY: WELLINGTON TO CHRISTCHURCH
I started my day of travel at 6 am, hiking to the Bluebridge Ferry that would take me across the treacherous Cook Strait, separating the North and South Islands of New Zealand. The Cook Strait is an extremely deep subsea trench, and because of the nature of this trench over 200 vessels have sunk since recorded history, Including the one I learned about at the Wellington History Museum named the Wahine. The Wahine ferry got caught in a 100mph wind storm in 1968, made it into the port of Wellington but not out of danger. the ship ran aground and more than 50 people died before the seas subsided and a rescue team could be safely sent out.
After making the Strait crossing without issues, I hopped on a six hour bus ride to Christchurch, with a few bathroom and food breaks along the way.
In September of 2010 Christchurch was struck by a crippling 7.1 earthquake. Six months later in March 2011 another 6.3 magnitude quake practically leveled the city. Four years later most of the city is still under construction and many of the residents have moved out. I spent my only day walking around shooting pictures of crumbling buildings. Much like a crippled dog, It was hard not to feel bad for the Christchurch.
The evening before I left someone forgot food in their oven in the hostel, and the fire department was called. There was no fire, just a lot of smoke. I had flashbacks of my dad's 60th birthday earlier this year when the restaurant/hotel we were staying in caught fire. This time I made sure to bring all of my valuables with me as I left the building, just incase.
Looking back, Queenstown was my favorite city in New Zealand, hands down, and I wish I had spent a few more days there. I snowboarded two days at Remarkables Ski Mountain, where I bruised my tailbone (I've fractured it snowboarding a few years ago, lucky it was only a deep bruise this time). Then took a day off to explore the town and play a game of frisbee golf with my buddy I met at the hostel at the park overlooking Lake Wakatipu. If you visit Queenstown, you have to stop by the infamous Furgburger. Words can't explain how good their burgers are. Everything is made on location, and they even have breakfast burgers.
The rain and wind had been chasing me ever since I left Wellington, it never quite caught me even as I left Queenstown. But once I landed in Auckland there was no escaping it. I spent my first day in my hostel reading and working on my computer while it poured outside. The next day the rain let up just enough to walk around the city.
The total population of New Zealand is around four million, a third of which live in Auckland. I explored the streets with friends I had met at the hostel and that evening a group of us went to Mount Eden to watch the sunset and get pizza afterwards. It was a great way to spend my last day in beautiful New Zealand.