My first visit to New Zealand was a short two week skip through both islands in December of 1998. I found the country and the people to be beautiful, warm and inviting and I vowed that I would one day return to New Zealand for a much longer stay. Anyone who knows me knows that I have never been a fan of Canadian winter. Whenever possible I escape it for warmer climes. Since I was two years retired and had nothing stopping me from leaving I saw the perfect opportunity to avoid the winter of 2018-19 and revisit the island nation to explore it in much greater detail. As it turned out, a very good friend of mine who is an avid golfer had already made the flight there and was planning to spend a full five months golfing. He and I had taken many trips together in the 40 some years we'd known each other so I contacted him and asked him if he'd be interested in renting a camper van and driving around in search of adventure. He leapt at the idea so I packed my bags and flew off to New Zealand on December 10th, 2018. I spent the first month by myself on the north Island and stayed near Auckland at two different Air BnB locations hosted by very friendly Kiwi's who helped me with many of my travel needs. I rented a car and drove through much of the island from the northern most tip of mainland New Zealand at Cape Reinga to the middle of the island at Rotorua and Mount Manganui and a few other places along the way. I took many walks along the hiking trails and captured images of the waterfalls and beautiful landscape. After a month on my own I flew south to Christchurch on the South Island to meet up with my friend. We both stayed at a lovely air BnB hosted by a very friendly couple and their daughter. My buddy and I explored the neighbouring areas of Christchurch for a couple of weeks in a car that he had earlier purchased and then we parked his car and rented a camper van to began our two month road trip throughout the country. We began by heading south along the east coast passing through Dunedin, Port Nugget and other small villages and towns to the southern tip of New Zealand at Invercargill. It was rainy and cold for the few days we were in that region but we did see a lot of the beautiful waterfalls in the plethora of rivers that thread through the southern mountains. We continued back northward up the east coast passing through Queenstown, Milford Sound, Franz Josef glacier and then crossed back through Arthurs Pass to the east coast passing through Kaikoura on our way to Picton where we caught the ferry that took us to the port of Wellington in the north island. We spent a day in Wellington exploring the Te Papa Tongarera museum where the stunning larger than life, extremely realistic figures of soldiers in scenes from the battle of "Gallipoli" were on display. Later that afternoon we caught the Superbowl game in a downtown bar and I was thoroughly amused that the time difference half way around the world placed the game squarely in the afternoon of Monday. "Superbowl Monday." That just does not sound right. lol. From there we continued northward to Taupo and hiked the Tongariro Alpine crossing, a one day twenty some odd kilometre hike through the stunning geothermal landscape where some of the "Lord of the rings" trilogy directed by Peter Jackson was filmed. We continued zig-zagging our way around the island eventually ending up back at the northern tip of Cape Reinga and then headed back south along the east coast through Matauri Bay, Whangarei, Rainbow Falls and on toward Auckland. Continuing south we wandered east and west through the central section of the island until we ended up back in Wellington where we caught the ferry back to Picton. From there we headed north west along the coast to Abel Tasman National Park and did some hiking through the vast array of trails in the park. We then continued down the west coast and crossed back over to the east coast to Kaikoura where we spent a day on a Sperm Whale watching tour boat. The horrific mass shooting that occurred in Christchurch on March 15th was while we were in Kaikoura, only an hour and a half north of Christchurch. Two days later we found ourselves in Christchurch visiting the sites of the two Mosques where the shootings occurred. After a few more days I flew back up to the north island near the Auckland airport where I spent one last week near the Auckland airport driving around, relaxing and enjoying myself. I flew back home on March 25th.
© Steve Tambosso - "The Wandering Fireman"