New Zealand is one of my favorite places on Earth. I was there for 3 months in my early 20’s, mostly because I had to leave Australia to meet visa requirements. And thank goodness I did! I experienced the North Island top to bottom on a bus with other young adventurers and it was a complete adrenaline rush that included black water rafting in the Waitomo Caves; white water rafting the Kaituna River (where I went over the world’s largest commercially rafted waterfall – 7 meters!); mountain biking in Tongariro National Park; and working on a sheep farm in Masterton.
The sheep farm was pure luck. I ended up there because I had met a Kiwi on Fraser Island, Australia, who had given me his mom’s number and said I should visit her while I was on the North Island. So I called her, got on a train, and she picked me up. It turned out her son, Tim, was on his way home so I stayed with her and we waited for him. While I was there I helped inoculate her 500+ sheep, went to a sheep shearing competition, and saw a livestock auction. When Tim arrived home, we dusted off his old Ducati motorbike and off we went across the Cook Strait for our South Island adventure.
We logged over 5,000 kilometers on that bike.
We hiked into private beaches, following trails made by the sheep. We pulled mussels from the ocean and boiled them for dinner. I took a helicopter ride and landed on top of Franz Josef Glacier and we explored the ski fields around Wanaka (if was February so there wasn’t any snow). In Queenstown, I got ‘roped’ into bungy jumping the famous Kawarau Bridge Bungy, and I’m still not sure whether the treacherous, mountain hugging road to the bridge or the actual jump was scarier. We rode the incredibly long and steep tunnels to the Milford Sound, hung out in the city center of Christchurch, saw Mt. Cook on a sunny day, drove through the Haast Pass and met some WOOFers living on sustainable farm (they invited us in for a delicious, 100% made from scratch lunch).
Before going to sleep each night on that South Island adventure I remember thinking that it would be impossible to match or surpass the beauty I had just encountered in that day. But every morning the sun rose, and so did we- on towards another remarkable experience in New Zealand.
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