First Thoughts on New Zealand

By Andrew O'Neill - Mar 31, 2018

We arrived in Middle-Earth less than a week ago. Here are our impressions from the start of our trek to Mount Doom.

First view from Queenstown Riding to Tarras

Well we were actually headed to Mt. Cook. But that’s details. When we arrived we did the normal thing, and immediately begin panicking. Who knew you should plan things ahead of time when you are traveling in foreign countries?

Snow in the mountains

We planned to ride a train on the last part of our journey, but when we started to check train times we noticed a weird warning. There was an earthquake two years ago that damaged the rail and highway along the coast. So plan B is to ride 650+ extra kilometers. We’ll try to get some buses along the way.

Riding to Mt Cook

Next thing we noticed is March is not summer in NZ. It’s pretty chilly. The rain (and snow in higher altitudes) made things even colder. When we crossed a high mountain the temperatures suddenly dropped (this is not a myth after all). The descent was bone-chilling. We were soaked and now also experiencing freezing temps and wind from the speed. When we spotted the first signs of civilization we stopped and spent the night.

Camping in Aoraki village

Which brings us to the third realization. NZ is expensive. At least from what we’ve experienced thus far on the South Island prices for hotel/motel are as expensive as NYC or a luxury resort. The first night we were willing to pay full price, but we saved a lot by camping the rest of the nights. Food prices are about the same as America. Not too bad but not great for a tight budget. The beautiful landscapes make up for the price you pay.

Snacking before we start

New Zealand is beautiful. I am so amazed. It’s hard to bike more than 10 minutes without wanting to take another photo. In areas that seem like they’d be major tourist hubs it is still easy to be the only people there. When we biked to Mt. Cook and Lake Pukaki there were times where you could see around 20km away and not see another person or car or caravan.

The road to ourself

The funny thing about caravans, they seem to be 75% of the traffic on the roads we’ve been riding. I thought New Zealand was big on “wild camping” or what they call here “freedom camping” but they seem to ban it in many areas. This creates camping parking lots. Freedom camping is a weird name for something that NZ enforces. It was funny for us to pass a full freedom parking lot after spending the night alone on the shore 10km away.

Lunch in the grass

I can’t wait to see what the rest of New Zealand has to offer. So far I’m very impressed.

Mount Doom Cook Mt Cook from our campsite

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© 2018 Andrew and Vicki