The title of this piece is a phrase that I’ve heard time and time again when anybody tries to convince you to visit New Zealand. To be honest, they couldn’t be more right. I spent exactly a month here and did activities that I never thought I’d do back home in the UK.
Arriving in Auckland is underwhelming to say the least. I had spent the previous week in Sydney, where I fell in love with the place, and Auckland was a smaller, less exciting and very clean version. In fairness I think Auckland suffers in it’s opinions from travellers because of most people’s intensions to visit New Zealand’s natural landscapes.
I left Auckland after a couple of days, and I certainly don’t regret it. The next 3 weeks contained black water rafting, skydiving, mountain biking, climbing volcanoes and other faster-than-your-average paced days.
Black water rafting. Rubber ring, travelling along an underwater river, jumping off underground waterfalls and seeing the famous glowworms. Half a day of excitement followed by our very own underground star gazing show. It was only a taster of what was to come for my whole stay in NZ.
Lake Taupo followed, and boy what a place. A lake the size of Singapore, with nearby volcanoes, including where they shot scenes atop ‘Mount Doom’ in Lord of the Rings (yes those films did make me want to visit NZ!). The following 2 days were perhaps the best in my 5 months trip. Tandem skydiving was an experience I simply never shut up about to anyone that listen and to everyone that won’t. I am dreadful with heights (the type to be scared 10m up when rock climbing) but I didn’t get any of those feelings. Watching the landscape as we went up in the plane was distracting but I think over the previous few months of travelling I felt a sense of invincibility about everything I did. That is one of the beautiful things about travelling. IT takes you out of your comfort zone and only for the better.
Anyway…I did still scream a small amount when we fell from the plane…but good God it was incredible.
To follow this experience with trekking the Tongariro Crossing. A beautiful hike across the National Park starting early in the morning due to the time frame we had. We were specifically told not to attempt going off course and climb Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom) because we wouldn’t have time, resulting in us missing the bus back to the town and having to sleep without canvas overnight in freezing temperatures…
Naturally we attempted the climb. I’ve hiked in the Lake District and Wales before, but this was completely different. Because it is an extinct volcano, the entire sides of the mountain were covered in slippery scree meaning every few metres we would slip back down one metre. Thankfully we were fit enough to make the climb quickly and boy the views were worth it. I even had time to throw my cheap ring into the crater to destroy evil…
The trip back down was faster to say the least. essentially running or surfing down the sides of the mountain. A 2 hour trip up took less than 30 minutes to come down! We did have to run the last kilometre of the trail to make the bus, but I would more than happily have stayed at the park overnight to have seen that stunning view.
The rest of our trip was filled with mountain biking in Queenstown, which was awesome, despite my dreadful and painful attempts and making jumps, and hiking pretty much every big hill/mountain that we had the chance to. My one regret is not attempting to climb Mt Cook, New Zealand’s largest mountain but it leaves me with a teaser for my next visit of this stunning country.
After leaving New Zealand, I look back and realise that what made our time there so enjoyable and exciting was doing these adrenaline filled adventures with people we barely knew at the start but became life long friends in some cases afterwards. After all, that is perhaps the reason for loving any place or activity. The people.
Go to New Zealand, do crazy things that you would never have dreamt of doing before, and change yourself for the better.