what sold it to me
new zealand is, hands down, the most beautiful and diverse country. within hours, it takes you from the jungle to the beach, from a snow-capped mountain to vaste meadows, and back again. the trip is pricy, and you need to take your time, definitely a few months, but it will be worth it.
a friend and I decided to celebrate her graduating uni by travelling to new zealand in "our" summer, meaning august-october would have been winter down-under. it was kind of strange not having basically nonstop winter for an entire year, but I'm not really a summer-person at all anyway.
even thought the southern island is home to international snow and ski bums (#neversummer) - compared to the rest of the year, winter is absolute low season and it was never hard to find accommodation and just rock up. only exception was the rugby world cup, which we bumped into totally by accident! some activities like boat rides, tours, etc. weren't even booked and instead of cancellations, we got private tours, yay!
we started out in auckland (north island) and finished in christchurch (south island). since this is the more common track though, I'd do it the other way round next time. you could grab some really cheap deals at car rentals then, since the cars need to be taken back, eventually.
we had a friend of a friend waiting in auckland, so we had nothing planned out beforehand. they picked us up from the airport and we were able to stay at their place for the first few nights. this was brilliant and we could not have been more thankful. they mapped us a route they would recommend, and we set off to a local car rental for our ride.
driving on the left side
sitting and driving on the "wrong" side is weird, and every driver has to be registered at the rental agency, incl. extra costs. if one person is not comfortable driving, at all, don't do it. I believe, if it's really an emergency and the designated driver is not able to (due to sickness, accident, etc.) then the police will be understanding, I'm sure. after all, 2,5 months and 6.000 km - we were never checked, at all.
all we had was a road map and a lonely planet. new zealand's roads are very easy to navigate, there are only the main highways (numbered) and you go by direction to the closest/biggest city. honestly, there is so much to do and see on the road - it's better to keep your eyes peeled for anything the landscape throws at you, rather than looking for the next place somebody tagged on instagram.
lord of the rings
honest to blog, the fact that most of the movie was filmed and produced there was the main reason we came in the first place. we did at least half a dozen of lotr related tours. most farms even advertised with horses from the movie (spoiler: there are a lot of them!). the highlights were definitely peter jackson's studio in wellington and of course, the shire itself, "hobbiton" near matamata. while we were there in 2011, filming for the hobbit was just about to begin, so everything was super-secret and all. we had to sign forms that we wouldn't show photos s to anyone, let alone post them online!
fun fact: this might not be true for every kiwi, but I found it funny how a lot of locals have not seen the movie and don't get all these crazy people hanging around. must be the same with me, living in the country of "the sound of music"!
the little things
I got this text down in less than 5 minutes, and it made me appreciate all the tiny details I loved about the country... ginger beer cocktails, cinnamon on cappuccinos, beetroot in burgers, (I'll stop the food-related memories now, haha), the laid-back and friendly people who got out of their way to help foreigners. our car was stuck, the battery died and we ran out of gas - we could always rely on the kiwis.
what I took home from it
you meet a lot of people on the road, travellers like you - same same, but different. we met greenpeace activists, soldiers, students... the stories they told made me realize, all I could tell them about myself was work. leading up to the trip, I used to work 9 hours a day, 6 days a week, on weekends, holidays... hospitality! while it did earn me the time and money to travel so far and long, I decided to take a step back and simply live a little more.