I remember once asking an American hiker the weather forecast;
Endless highs, man, endless highs.
A camper van in New Zealand in their summer? What could be grander?
depart when you want
make decisions on-the-go depending on whim and weather
stop at every amazing waterfall
exit to a beach when you get a tad warm
scramble any interesting roadside boulder
sleep where and when you want
Yet after ET shouted seafood dinner at Mission Bay her last night in New Zealand, I strangely felt uneasy travelling the north island on my own. Perhaps I got civilized working with people 7 days a week in a busy gym this year. Maybe I grew used to the domestic chaos of travelling with a family in a van for a month. Odd.
It helped that I was hosted in Auckland by Kiwi Dave Phillips, 2000 Olympian gymnast who had trained in Saskatoon for a season. Dave is now a busy personal fitness trainer and seriously into outdoor pursuits. He organized some friends, ET and myself to kayak the harbour in heavy swells. Great fun though scary at times. Waiting for me as I struggled to keep up, Dave was the only one to dump (as he experimented with a bracing manoeuvre). The highlight of the trip was that ET and I were able to assist in his rescue.
Later I checked the surf south of Raglan, at Manu Bay, famous from the 1966 surf classic Endless Summer; purported the world’s longest left hand break.
I was also hosted in Auckland by Canuck Jeff Thompson and family. We explored beaches and a few of the 48 volcanic hills which make up this pretty and energetic city. Thompsons and I took in the Edmund Hillary 50th anniversary of Everest exhibit — the first time Ed has displayed his tent, clothing and such.
Jeff took me wall climbing and inspired a trip down to the climbing Mecca of South Wharepapa not yet discovered by backpackers. My first morning I flipped a mountain bike playing on the BSX (Bicycle Super Cross) course. I assumed I was incompetent until I learned that at least 2 others crashed at that same spot that day! Safety standards here are not nearly what they are in Canada — the charm of New Zealand is just how undeveloped and unregulated things are. O.S.H. (Occupational Safety and Health) is a government department much reviled by Kiwis.
Eventually I started to enjoy solo travel again. In fact, by the time I did a 5-day solo kayak journey down the Whanganui River gorge it was with a twinge of regret when I saw other (inevitably German or Israeli) paddlers on the water. I normally had the campgrounds to myself and was happy sharing the river only with wild goats and water birds.
A failed attempt at farming and developing the Whanganui River wilderness.
I went back to climb Mount Doom (Ngauruhoe). After an epic backsliding scramble up scoria, I finally reached the smoking summit. This classic volcano is almost extinct by New Zealand standards — it only erupts every 5-8 years. (Mount St. Helen’s blasts every 700 years, by comparison.)
Fantastic vistas in every direction. A perfect day. Endless highs.
Oh no! Atop Mount Doom and I had forgotten The Ring!
What would you do in this situation?
Suddenly it struck me. I did have The Ring! The One Ring which binds the Suunto compass/thermometer to the pack! It joined many other rings in the cone.
We celebrated Waitangi Day here — the National holiday commemorating the anniversary some of the Maori chiefs signed over the country to the Brits. Needless to say, the celebration is controversial. The chiefs only agreed because they feared the French might take over instead. The British were clearly the lesser of evils.
I quite like the Maori people though I cannot say I got to know any as well as I would of liked. Many around the world will learn of the culture through the touching film The Whale Rider, a People’s Choice winner. The book and movie are set in (the author’s home town) the tiny settlement of Whangara. When I toured the neglected, mellow, mostly Maori East Cape the look and feel of that movie rang true.
Sunrise at East Cape lighthouse, the most easterly point, was a highlight.
Did you hear about the cowardly Terrorist Attack in New Zealand? Is no place safe?
Bombers posing as tourists in a van picked up explosives delivered by submarine to the remote north. They drove to Auckland and blew up a ship killing one man.
The terrorists were agents of a foreign government known to have weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons. This nation has a history of talking tough but collapsing quickly when it comes to battle.
Two of the saboteurs were caught, others never brought to justice.
More farce than justice, the guilty bombers were detained on a gorgeous French Pacific island — and returned home 2 years later (far sooner than their sentence) to a hero’s welcome in Paris.
The French, the French,
They are a curious race …
The skeletal remains of the ship, The Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior were moved and sunk as a scuba diving attraction.
The future of backpacking adventure tourism?
New Zealand I think leads the way in the evolution of travel.
competition for the backpacker dollar will increase
e.g. ratings systems to compare hostels
quality of accommodation will continue to improve
packaged fun, convenient tourist experiences will continue to be invented
zorb (roll down a hill in a clear plastic bubble)
fly-by-wire (fly a jet attached by tether cable)
THE ROCK in the Bay of Islands is terrific example. ET and I felt we got great value paying about C$100 each for a 24 hour ship cruise; visiting 4 islands, 2 great meals, kayaking, fishing, hiking, snorkeling, target shooting off the back of the boat, eating Kina / Sea Hedgehog (sea urchin), and more.
Non-stop action on a floating bar with pool table, great music. Marketed to backpacking young people, the brochure sold me stating, no demanding upmarket suitcase tourists.
– Kiwi Rick
P.S. Perfect tourist weather (i.e. drought) continued. No pesky ozone to filter the healthful rays! Melanoma scars and leathery skin are a small price to pay for a fleeting glow.
Next episode; south island, Wild Food Festival, perfect weather on the Milford Track.