New Zealand is a genuine wonderland. But we’ll get to that. First, if you’re remotely under prepared, getting through immigration into the country is like trying to talk your way into a house made of matchsticks while you’re on fire. (I went through about 10 different metaphors before settling on that one.)
If you’re just visiting New Zealand, you need to have proof that you have a flight out of the country booked within the next 30 days before they’ll let you on a plane (or boat) going there. For some reason this information is not plastered all over the NZ tourist website in GIANT NEON GREEN LETTERS LIKE THESE so people who just read ‘no visa required for 30 days’ might miss it. (That’s my excuse & I’m running with it.)
Luckily we arrived at Melbourne airport a bit early (3:30am early enough for you?) so, after being told this by airline staff, we managed to book a flight out of New Zealand (in 3 weeks’ time) within half an hour, and still had time to make our flight to Queenstown. And it wasn’t just us; a few other passengers who arrived a bit later ended up getting turned away because they had no exit flight booked. Poor bastards, stranded in Melbourne, the world’s most liveable city.
Life is so cruel.
Then once we got to Queenstown airport, we faced the kind of interrogation that was one step away from waterboarding and electrocution. NZ immigration officers want to know, just for example:
- Where have you been?
- What do you do?
- How are you paying for this trip?
- Have you ever been within 10 kilometres of a dangerous substance?
- Explain Boris Johnson?
- Why are the England football team always so shocking?
- Why is your face so stupid?
- Just… why?
Oh, and if you have foreign soil on your shoes, you have to declare them. Otherwise you could destroy the entire agricultural ecosystem of New Zealand. (Don’t be the dickhead who does that.) Eventually, we begged & pleaded our way into Queenstown.
Well, the first thing we saw upon exiting the plane in Queenstown was this;
Wait, this isn’t Manchester Airport…
Known as the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown is a living f**king postcard;
It’s nice and all, but have you been to Astbury Mere?
Like walking into an oil painting.
There’s a fair bit to do here; hike the many hills that surround the town, try the famous Fergburger, or if you have that little spark of madness, sign up for one of more of the many daredevil adventures they advertise all over town. You can skydive, bungee jump, canyon swing, white water raft, mountain bike (trust me, just watching someone bike down one of the nearly vertical hills is horrifying enough) or even do this:
WHY DID I NOT DO THIS? WHY AM I NOT DOING THIS RIGHT NOW?! THIS IS THE COOLEST DAMN THING EVER!
We settled on the famous Shotover jet boat (mostly because we’re cheap and canyon swings were like $230. New Zealand, like Australia, wants to bleed your wallet dry.)
I might not have taken this photo.
A leisurely cruise, this is not. You and a boat full of other idiots with too much money speed along a canyon, through water only a few centimetres deep, doing 360° spins, skimming so close to the rock walls you could strike a match on them, and generally getting piss wet through. I have literally never been so cold in my life, and I’ve dipped my toes in the Atlantic. But it was a whole bunch of fun.
This place has an impressive list of celebrity visitors, including Hugh ‘Huge Jacked Man’ Jackman, George Lucas, Ian McKellen, notorious daredevils the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge, Peter Jackson, that legend who wrote the famous blog This Is Probably A Bad Idea…
A day trip away from Queenstown is the famously stunning Milford Sounds. Before I show you photos, you’re going to need the perfect music to set the scene. Listen to this while viewing:
If you viewed all those without the music, go back, play the music, and view them again right now.
Most travellers agree that there’s only one way to explore New Zealand: ROAD TRIIIIIP!
I haven’t driven in approximately a while. I am, however, highly proficient at typing directions into a satnav. (There is no end to my talents. Or beginning.) And luckily, I brought this guy along.
So for one week we upgraded (?) our situation from ‘backpacking’ to ‘camping’ in a Jucy campervan (because they didn’t have a Mustang.)
Jucy: forgetting the letter ‘i’ since 2001.
After less than an hour trying to drive this thing around New Zealand’s impossibly winding roads, we got pulled over by the cops. Before we could explain to the officer that the hitchhiker we ran over was a grown man wearing skinny jeans, and thus it would have been a greater crime not to run him over, he told us someone had called to complain we were driving too carefully along the ludicrously sharp bends.
A man who had been behind us stopped to tell the policeman that our driving had been ‘impeccable’ (whoever and wherever you are, sir, you are a ledge) and eventually the cop told us to carry on driving exactly as we had been and continue on our way.
New Zealand is weird, man.
Over a week we made our way from Queenstown to Wanaka, and then up the scenic West Coast of the south island. Time for another photo showcase (don’t forget to play the music again):
Pancake Rocks (because they look like stacks of pancakes and New Zealanders have dumb ways of naming things)
Split Apple Rock (because it looks like a split apple. Dumb ways of naming things)
Abel Tasman National Park
When you venture a bit into the wilderness in New Zealand, you realise that there is no one in this country. Especially on the south island, where only 20% of New Zealand’s population live. Driving up the highway along the coast, you can go an hour without passing another vehicle. (There are no traffic lights anywhere, except a few in Queenstown.) You see farms out in the middle of nowhere (could practically smell the inbreeding. It was like Biddulph Moor back home.) We stayed one night in a township of less than 400 people, then the following night in a town with a population of 500 (which, after the previous town, felt way too crowded. I need my space.)
If you come here hoping to see everything in glorious visibility, well, you probably won’t, because the weather is disturbingly British. We had days of glorious sunshine (mostly by the coast) and days stuck in the van, unable to see any sights due to fog and pouring rain. Not much fun when you’re trying to cook on a campsite (apparently you can’t heat up a pizza on a tiny camping stove. Well that’s me all out of ideas for dinner.)
After catching the ferry from Picton and dropping the van off in Wellington, we toured the North Island via being bus wankers.
Another song is needed here:
This should be New Zealand’s national anthem.
Wellington’s Beehive Parliament building
Huka Falls & Waikato River, Taupo
Rotorua, a town in a geothermal hotspot that smells like rotten eggs due to all the sulphur. Was like being back in Stoke-on-Trent. (Two shots at the Stoke area in one blog post? I’m just full of sunshine today.)
Waitomo Glowworm caves. Unfortunately getting a photo of tiny glow worms is even more impossible than taking one of the stars at night, unless of course you have something better than a shitty phone camera.
Yes, that is the Shire set from Lord of the Rings. IT’S REAL. THERE WERE REAL LIFE HOBBITS. (Actually they might have been Chinese tourists.)
GET OFF MY LAWN!
The mould on the fences is fake. Some of the trees are fake. There are tiny hobbit clothes on tiny hobbit washing lines. Little details that no one watching the films would ever have noticed. Peter Jackson was a mad, obsessive man-child. Such people make the best movie directors.
(If you’ve never watched Lord of the Rings, I’m afraid your entire life has been a waste of time.)
Well, like coursework deadline day, that wedding you really don’t want to go, or death, the dreaded yet inevitable hour when we have to return home is getting nearer and nearer. Feels like we’ve been gone a week. This is so unfair.
Better go make the most of the remaining time then.