What do you envision when you dream of the perfect place? Clear blue skies, wide and open green fields and rainbows, maybe? Well, I found it all and so much more in my first ever international solo trip to New Zealand.
While it began with a tiring and long 37 hour flight from New Delhi to New Zealand, the next 15 days I spent there, more than made up for it. (Pro tip: Make sure if you are transiting through Australia, you have a valid transit visa, even if you are not stepping out of the airport.)
My journey began in Te Anau, a small town with a population of 1,911 people (yes, I know, right?! That’s a smaller population than my colony in Delhi has) with the kind of alone time I never thought anybody could have. I would spend days waking up when I wanted to, chilling with the two dogs the owner of the house I was staying in had, stepping out for long walks that would usually end in a cup of coffee next to the lake. I would spend hours just reading and writing and the serene calmness that took over me was a feeling I don’t quite know how to put into words. But my smile says a lot, doesn’t it?
Then I began a five day road trip covering the entire South Island of New Zealand. From sleeping in bunk bedded hostels to rooms built out of tin containers (Airbnb was a blessing in disguise for my entire journey), I managed to somehow survive it all. With the help of tons of amazing craft beers, of course - trying all of them really has to be up on your priority list if you’re planning a trip to NZ!
What our South Island roadtrip itinerary looked like here in NZ. Managed to cover almost all the places except The Bluff, which I guess I am saving for next time, along with other things. Until then, it's back to the grind! (Also this is not depictive of the directions at all, just the sequence of places we went to.) #NewZealand #NZRoadTrip #SouthIslandNZ #Travelgram #Backpacking
From Te Anau, I reached Queenstown which is a 2 hour drive. You can easily rent cars if you have a valid driving license or you can book a bus online and it picks you up from the nearest location around you. Queenstown, which is kind of the party capital of South Island, was spent bar and restaurant hopping and ended with an evening like this one at The Remarkables.
The next day I visited Arrowtown which was absolutely amazing. Known for it’s historical Chinese settlement and 1800s architecture, Arrowtown had me transported back in time. And can a History major ask for more?
From Arrowtown it was a journey to Christchurch crossing Lake Pukaki, Mt. Cook, Tekapo, Ashwick Flat and Staveley. While the rest of the places I had been to till now were all about connecting with the nature, Christchurch was the city healing itself. Ever since the massive 2011 earthquake, that led to destruction of property at a large scale, Christchurch has been at work trying to put everything together. And that you can see in every new wall and every brick being laid. The city has artsy installations all around, most of them talking about new beginnings. My most favourite part about Christchurch, however, was The New Regent Street where I had a lovely dinner for one. And with a pizza in front of me and a glass of chardonnay in my hand, I remember trying to capture the beauty of the moment. To just capture and keep it in my bank of happy thoughts for all those nights when I won’t be there.
Though Christchurch didn't top my list of favourite places in NZ, New Regent Street was just about perfect for a glass of chardonnay, pizza and a good book. Also, cute waiters! #traveldiaries #newzealand #christchurch #citydays #loitertoiterapproved
Covering a distance of 2000 kms was not an easy feat. I was moving on a daily basis, staying at places only long enough to breathe in and breathe out. Everyday, however, brought a little surprise that I could not have even imagined in my wildest dreams. For example, when there was a detour taken because our cruise got cancelled due to bad weather in Akaroa, I ended up in Le Bons Bay - empty and serene, much like my state of mind in that moment.
I won’t deny it was tough. Being far away from home and the constant movement. But the intensity of those five days was worth it when I ended the road trip at The Catlins - a wonder in itself!
If you’re heading to the South Island of New Zealand, I strongly suggest you take a cruise to or at least cover the one day walking track of Milford or Doubtful Sound provided by Real Journeys (I was lucky enough to do both). The amazing nature guides, who were also my hosts for the trip, introduced me to a sacred place where history meets present and nature meets mankind.
That was, of course, not the end of my trip. Although I did tons of other things (talking about which will take me not one but a gazillion posts like this) another one of my highlights were the Te Anau Glowworm Caves. Yes, they are literally caves where the only light comes from the glow worms hanging off the walls. It’s like trillions of stars right above your head. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take pictures inside the caves, because as much as the people in New Zealand care about tourism, they care a little bit more about preservation. But trust me it was a sight like no other! The view from the caves might just show you what a beauty they were from the inside.
Honestly, I had a lot of expectations from my trip to New Zealand and I am happy to report that the every single place I visited and everybody I met lived up to them. So much so, that if I imagine myself spending the rest of my life in a corner of the world, I think it would be a corner in New Zealand.