It’s been two weeks since I returned to Sweden from my epic seven month adventure. It’s been more than a months since I last posted here, and I wish I could say that I’m sorry, but I’m really not sorry at all. New Zealand was so time consuming and so much fun, that I simply didn’t have any time whatsoever to myself, and definitely not to spend at least two hours on each blog post.
So how was my 24 days with Haka Tours, traveling around both the north and south island of New Zealand? It was simply beyond anything I could have imagined. I had the absolute best time, and I met so many great people. If I was to recommend one thing out of everything I’ve done in 2015, it would be to go to New Zealand and travel with Haka. It was such a fun and diverse group of people, most of them traveling alone, and for the Christmas and New Years tour I went on, the age ranged from 23 to 50. I would say that anyone with an adventurous spirit could go, and I really recommend it.
There is no way that I could tell you every single thing I did, and I also don’t want to because if someone was to take my advice and go (please do! you won’t regret it!) then I don’t want to spoil it for you.
So here is a highlight of Haka Tours 24 day epic adventure tour of New Zealand:
Blackwater rafting in Waitomo glowworm caves
When I signed up for blackwater rafting I had no idea what it meant. Turns out that you go into underground caves with big inflatable tires, throw yourself off waterfalls and walk through the cave system in ice cold water, while glowworm illuminate your way. It was pretty epic! And a very good hangover cure for those in my group who partied pretty hard the night before… (I went to bed at 10. No surprise there.)
Hobbiton – the movie set
I’ve been a fan of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit for many years now, ever since the first movie came out. I’m usually fan of reading, but I must admit that I never enjoyed reading the books, they were just too boring with all that walking and singing and walking… But when I read that a visit to Hobbiton could be added to my itinerary I didn’t hesitate for a second! Hobbiton is in the middle of the north island, close to the city of Rotorua. When they first filmed the Lord of the Rings movies, the set of Hobbiton was built on the hills temporarily, and torn down when they finished. When they returned years later to film the Hobbit, the farmer who owns the land asked them to make it more permanent, so that he could transform it into a tourist attraction afterwards. Luckily they did just that, and now everyone can experience true movie magic.
Bilbo Baggins house. Fun fact: the tree above his house is completely fake. There is nothing organic about it at all. And ten days before filming Peter Jackson decided that the leaves were the wrong color, so they had to spray paint each leave individually… woah.
Welcome to my new house!
Bilbo Baggins house once again.
The city center of Hobbiton, with the mill and the pub. All visitors to Hobbiton gets a free beer or cider, and I also tasted the ale and steak pie which was delicious. It was a really fun visit and the guide told us a lot of fun stories from the filming of the movies. I highly recommend a visit, especially if you’re a fan. Our guide Tom was not a fan, and called it a big “door farm”. Well, I loved the door farm!
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
This is an activity that’s included in the tour price, and since our guide Tom was a real volcanic geek, this really was his area of expertise. New Zealand has an insane amount of underground activity, from volcanoes to daily earthquakes and these type of thermal springs. The stench of sulfur made the visit kind of unpleasant for some in the group, but it was so pretty that it was worth it. Reminded me a lot of some parts of Yellowstone national park.
As I’m still pretty much a beginner in the hiking world, I had never heard of the Tongariro crossing before. Turns out that it’s one of the most popular day hikes in the world, and has been voted the most beautiful one several times. You walk among active volcanoes, one if the famous Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings (where Frodo is supposed to throw the ring into to melt it). We were so lucky, it had been snowing up there for days and the trail had been closed, but the day we were supposed to do it, it finally opened again. It means it was even busier than normal too though, with the several thousands walking it almost daily now all forced to do it the same day.
Another mountain. Mordor is filmed at the base of that one. Seriously, you can’t go to New Zealand without seeing Lord of the Rings stuff everywhere.
Mount Doom! You can climb it, but it adds at least another 3 hours to your hike, and you have to scramble up it on your hands and feet and then slide down on your bum. No thanks. Oh, and it’s real name is Mount Ngauruhoe, Mount Doom is the movie alias. The top of the volcano is holy to the Maori people, so in the movie they had to digitally change it to look slightly different, otherwise they weren’t allowed to film it at all. Movie magic!
It was incredibly cold and windy that day, so we took shelter behind a rock at the highest point on the trail. I’m glad I brought almost all the clothes I owned that day, because the wind chill brought the temperatures down below freezing. It was still worth it though, because I’m pretty sure that is the most beautiful place I’ve ever had a snack break at.
Walking down to the emerald lakes below. It was so windy that I could barely stand and it was soft sand on the trail. I was terrified of falling over or just sliding down the entire trail. Here you can also get an idea of just how many people were on the trail that day.
The Tongariro crossing was a great hike, but hard. 19,4 is the longest distance I’ve ever walked in a day, but I made it down, and without a single blister on my feet. Seriously, my hiking boots are the best investment ever, along with my camelbak. Don’t miss that hike if you’re in NZ, you can even do it in the winter with a guide!
The group the next day, at the Tongariro national park.
Swimming with wild dolphins in Kaikoura
I think swimming with dolphins is on a lot of people’s bucket lists, and especially swimming with wild dolphins. Once again, I didn’t even hesitate when I was given the opportunity, so after putting on a super thick wet suit and put on a boat, we headed towards a known wild dolphin pod just off the coast on the south island. The dolphins are there because they want to, and because they find us entertaining. The crew does not feed them or do anything to make them come to us, so it’s 100% on the dolphins terms. We had to make noise through our snorkels and move around a lot to attract their interest, the weirder you look and move, the funnier and more interesting they think you are. I have never felt so silly in my life, but it was worth it when they swam just centimeters away from me. It was so much fun! Dolphins are amazing creatures, and I wish everyone could experience them like this instead of putting on shows at Sea World.
Spending Christmas Eve at Lake Tekapo
In Sweden, and I think a few other European countries, we celebrate christmas on christmas eve. I was the only one in the group of 16 people who celebrated on that day, but everyone else celebrated with me luckily. We spent the night in Lake Tekapo which was so beautiful, and had dinner at the local pub. It was one of the most beautiful locations we stayed at, without a doubt.
It’s hard to take a jump shot in a dress…
Evening shot. I took this with my iPhone 6, and it’s one of my favorite photos from my entire trip.
Mount Cook, New Zealand’s biggest mountain.
Skydiving over Mount Cook and Franz Josef glacier
When I was booking my additional activities before I came to New Zealand, I didn’t originally book a sky dive. I was simply too scared. But as Tom told us the entire trip, if you even hesitate to do something, DO it! It’s just your own fear stopping you. If you think “NOPE” then don’t because then it’s more than just fear. And when I thought about skydiving, it was only my own fear stopping me. So I booked a skydive. It was as simple as that. Luckily for me, four of my friends were also booked to do skydives there, so we all went there together. I had expected to be freaked out about the entire experience, but I was just so, so excited and my friends were too. I had booked a 16,000 ft jump which means a free fall of almost a minute. Had I needed to jump out of the plane myself, there is no way I would have done it, but in a tandem jump you just lean back, put your feet outside of the plane and trust your instructor with your life. The first two seconds were super scary and I was screaaaaaaming, but after that it was just amazing and so much fun. I had a camera man that jumped with me and filmed and took pictures, I’m so happy that I booked that because jumping out of a perfectly good airplane is probably a once in a lifetime experience for me.
New Years in Abel Tasman national park
The last 4-5 days of the tour there was only 9 of us left in the group, plus Tom and his girlfriend who joined us for christmas and new years. It was everything I could have wished for to be honest. We went to Abel Tasman national park, and stayed at a campground in cabins. Honestly, it was so much fun. We went out for burgers, and then a few of us played a few card games all evening. Well, drinking games mostly, it was hilarious. When it got cold we lit a fire in the campground and spent all night talking and laughing. Such a great night and the best way to celebrate the end of 2015, and the beginning of 2016.
Aquapackers hostel in Abel Tasman
After new years we were supposed to kayak out to a hostel on a boat, but when we woke up the rain was pouring down and it got cancelled. Luckily we were able to book water taxis out to the boat instead, so off we went. It was so incredibly cosy! I was terrified of getting seasick but I took some pills and luckily I was fine. When we got there I spotted a huge inflatable swan hung by its neck by the shore, so a friend and I swam to it and rescued it. We played around in the water for an hour or so, and then the captain of the boat saw us and said “you know that swan belongs to some All Black players who stay on a boat here too right?” Ehm, no. Nope, I didn’t know that. I quickly swam back and left it, but an hour later they came in a small boat and reclaimed it. They stopped by our boat to question us (and mostly laugh at us), but now I can proudly say that I’ve committed a crime and that two rugby players in their national team were the victims… I’m very proud of myself, yes. It was a great night.
Spilt apple rock in the rain.
Silver fern! The one and only time I saw it in New Zealand.
Swan goals! If someone wants to know one of the reasons why I wanted the swan, you can click here.
The All Blacks players when they got their swan back
Our tiny cabin, five of us stayed in here. There was a lot of giggling usually in the evenings, felt like being at a summer camp. I loved it.
This is about 10% of all the things I did in New Zealand, but I really can’t tell you all of it. It’s even more overwhelming than this post. I found so many great friends, and I have a lot of new places to visit because of it. Here are some more random pictures from the country, that I wanted to share as well.
Lake Wakatipu. I cycled to this spot, 60 km back and forth. It went well, but my hand ached the next day. I have been to the doctor now in Sweden, and have an MRI booked finally. It hurts even more now in super cold Sweden, so I really need to find out what’s wrong with it.
Swimming in Wanaka.
I wanted a memory from New Zealand, and from my year of adventure.
And I’m SO pleased with it! I just brought an idea to the tattoo place in Auckland and just an hour later he had drawn this. It’s inspired by John Muirs quote “the mountains are calling and I must go”, and the mountain in the tattoo is Mount Cook, New Zealands biggest mountain.
And then I got back to Sweden, to snow and cold.
So now I’m back home. My adventure is over for this time, but trust me when I say that I have plenty of adventures planned for the future. But now I’m looking forward to living a normal life for a while, and hanging out with my family a lot. I want to thank all of you who have followed and encouraged me on this amazing trip, I really appreciate it.
USA, Australia and New Zealand – thank you so much. Thank you for being awesome, for being so friendly and thank you to everyone I met. I’ve loved every second of this adventure and I can’t believe I’ve been lucky enough to get to have this experience. I hope you have loved it too, and I hope I have inspired someone to dare to do this yourself, even if it’s cycling around the world, or maybe daring to travel the world by yourself for a while. I really wish everyone would, because it’s incredible.
Thank you so much <3