Living the Dream: A Wild Journey Across New Zealand


Living the Dream: A Wild Journey Across New Zealand

I’ve dreamed for a long trip on the road for a while, one of those slow journeys where I can take my time, stay in a place as I please, enjoy the simple things of the daily local life.

Lake Tekapo Reflections

Lake Tekapo Reflections. Photo Courtesy Laurence Noah, Finding the Universe

[pullquote]Back to beautiful South Africa or living the dream in New Zealand?[/pullquote]

I wasn’t sure whether going back to South Africa, where I went last winter and had a wonderful time, or venture towards a new destination. After all, there are so many places I haven’t seen yet. Another country that has haunted my dreams in the last years is New Zealand, maybe because it’s on the opposite side of the world, maybe because I love nature, wilderness and wide open spaces. For fun, I asked my Facebook friends where I should go: back to South Africa or exploring New Zealand, and the almost unanimous response was… the land of the Hobbits!

Alpine lake reflection

Alpine lake reflection. Photo Courtesy Laurence Noah, Finding the Universe

[pullquote]Mark and Laurence were my main sources of inspiration[/pullquote]

So, I’m living the dream and will soon leave for a wild journey across New Zealand. To be honest, I must also say that two people above all were the greatest source of inspiration, leading me to this new adventure. One is my friend Mark (editor of Marks Travel Notes), who apart from being the most incredible eclipse chaser I ever met is absolutely in love with New Zealand, and talked to me about the country so enthusiastically that I couldn’t help being intrigued. As this was not enough, I got to know Laurence Noah, whose wonderful website Finding the Universe has become one of my primary sources of daily dreams dose. His photos of New Zealand are just stunning and awe-inspiring and after looking at them I knew that this was a place I had to go. Laurence generously allowed me to feature a few of his wonderful shots so that I could visually explain why I am so thrilled.

Spirits Bay Beach

Spirits Bay Beach. Photo Courtesy Laurence Noah, Finding the Universe

Friends know that I’m usually reluctant to much travel planning (meaning that I often have nothing more than a rough itinerary), but after the misadventures with my Visa to Burma last Summer, when I had to face the downside of unplanned travel, I’m trying to improve 🙂

[pullquote]I’ll have my first house-sitting experience and… I’m very excited[/pullquote]

My first stop will be in Parapamauru, a town some 50 km North of Wellington and overlooking Kapiti Island. I’ll be house-sitting one week, taking care of a lovely cat named Jazz and trying to recover from the very long trip and the jet lag, whilst starting to explore the surroundings and get a first impression of New Zealand.

After that… There’s no fixed plan yet. For sure, I’d love to meet and spend a few days with my friend Mark who’ll be in Taranaki in December. I want to spend some time to fully savor all the places suggested by Laurence: Rotorua and Tongariro, the East Cape, and then down to the Southern Island to enjoy the Abel Tasman National Park, the glaciers, Mount Cook and Milford Sound. I’d also like to discover off-beaten and overlooked places, after the advice of local people, my instinct and – of course – any tips from the readers.

I’d like to travel as much as possible by public transportation: train, bus, ferries, although from what I heard I may need to hire a car in some areas to be able to better explore the surroundings. That will be a bit of a challenge, since I would have to drive on the left, something I never experienced before, and with no one besides me telling me to stay on the proper side of the road or where to look when I stop to a crossing.

Rocks on the beach at sunset

Rocks on the beach at sunset. Photo Courtesy Laurence Noah, Finding the Universe

[pullquote]I just can’t wait to be living the dream, and see New Zealand nature, wilderness and wide open spaces[/pullquote]

I’ll also have to figure out a nice place where to spend a memorable Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Last year’s NYE on the Wild Coast in South Africa, was truly special, and I’d love to have a similar experience again.

In the coming days, I’ll try to figure out a little more about the itinerary, following my mood but also possible more house-sitting assignments in nice places, as well as er… sponsored stays and activities I’m looking for.

When I come thinking of it, sometimes I still can’t believe that I’ll soon be living the dream. If you’re keen to follow my New Zealand adventures, I’ll be sharing them on Twitter under the #WildAboutNZ hashtag.

Meanwhile, I’d love any suggestions on places not to miss, hostels, B&Bs and other resorts worth a stay, special restaurants, great activities. Anything that would help me living a memorable experience.


More reading: Yes, South Africa is Great for Solo Travelers


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  • Ally
    Posted at 03:23h, 19 November Reply

    Currently doing the same thing! Some perhaps lesser known things not to miss on the South Island (in clockwise order from Picton…) Whites Bay above Blenheim, the Banks Peninsula, Elephant Rocks (Waitaki), Moeraki – see the boulders and eat fresh fish at Fleur’s Place, Sandfly Bay for Penguins on the Otago Peninsula, The Catlins is amazing – Nugget point, Purakaunui Beach & Falls and Curio Bay spring to mind, anything in the Fiordland, go to Kinloch up near Queenstown for stunning (LOTR) scenery, Jackson’s Bay near Haast, Okarito just above Franz Josef and then finally, Golden Bay (where we are now) has so much to see and do. Amazing places, still the North Island to go. Enjoy man!

    • Simon
      Posted at 09:46h, 19 November Reply

      Just wonderful! I’ll add all this tips in my scrapbook. I’d be curious to know how you are getting around. Did you hire a car or are you traveling by bus? Thanks for the great comment Ally. Enjoy the rest of your NZ trip.

      • Ally
        Posted at 07:25h, 20 November Reply

        We turned up planning to travel by bus, but quickly realised there was just no way that’d give us the independence we needed to see all the smaller, lesser known places, so we bought a campervan instead. It’s something I’d definitely recommend if you’re here for a while.

        Enjoy man, it’s an astonishing place.

  • Denise
    Posted at 23:00h, 10 November Reply

    As you’re staying so close to Wellington, may I suggest a couple of places to see there? The first is Red Rocks (more about it here – and the second is Matiu/Somes Island ). What I think is really great about both places is that, while within sight of New Zealand’s capital city, they are refuges for wildlife, and it can seem like you’re a million miles from anywhere

    • Simon
      Posted at 10:00h, 11 November Reply

      Thanks for the great tips, Denise. I’ll definitely keep them in mind during the time I’ll spend housesitting close to Wellington. Both look like lovely day trips.

  • Anita Mac
    Posted at 14:33h, 08 November Reply

    If you are considering renting a car, can I suggest you rent one for the drive to Milford Sound? Plan on taking the full day to drive down, exploring all the nooks and crannies along the way. Stop and walk on the glacier, do little hikes and enjoy the stunning views! You won’t be disappointed! I did the overnight Milford cruise and it was breathtaking. Hard to believe that the Sound could be so different in such a small span of time! I took the MV Friendship – a small vessel with bunk beds rather than private rooms. It was cozy and intimate – you had the chance to meet and get to know the other people on board.

    • Simon
      Posted at 15:19h, 08 November Reply

      That’s an amazing tip, Anita. Thank you! I love seeing at beautiful places from a different perspective and the view from the sea is always fascinating. I’ll definitely look at MV Friendship. Looks like you had a blast over there!

  • Christina
    Posted at 09:48h, 06 November Reply

    Best decision ever! I’m so glad you’re going to NZ! You can be sure I will be following your every step. Just returned from my third trip to NZ and miss it already 🙂

    • Simon
      Posted at 10:40h, 06 November Reply

      I know, Christina, because I was reading about your NZ trip right yesterday! It seems you had a blast 🙂

  • YHA New Zealand
    Posted at 22:55h, 05 November Reply

    You might come to our country at the bottom of the world, fall in love with everything you see and do and decide to never go home! It’s happened before….

    • Simon
      Posted at 10:46h, 06 November Reply

      Oh… Wouldn’t it be wonderful? 🙂

  • Laurel
    Posted at 12:07h, 05 November Reply

    Yeah! SO happy for you Simon and jealous! Looking forward to reading about your adventures!

    • Simon
      Posted at 15:38h, 05 November Reply

      I’m so excited as well, Laurel! Sometimes, I still don’t believe that this time it’s true 🙂

  • Traveling Ted
    Posted at 18:38h, 04 November Reply

    Looks like a great trip. Look forward to the posts and the pictures. I will have to check out Laurence’s site.

    • Simon
      Posted at 10:49h, 06 November Reply

      Thank you, Ted. Yes, you should definitely have a look at Laurence site, it’s just… Beautiful! I can feel his love for nature through his photos, and while I look at them I start dreaming…

  • Nora - The Professional Hobo
    Posted at 18:15h, 04 November Reply

    I love New Zealand – it’s one of my favourite countries.

    If you want a nice retreat, or to volunteer in trade for your accommodation for a while – check out Mana Retreat:

    And if you have a taste for adventure, here’s about a million things I did on the north island. One of the best was heli-sledging in Rotorua, and a full-on caving adventure in Waitomo:

    • Simon
      Posted at 19:13h, 04 November Reply

      Thanks so much, Nora, for the great ideas. It’s so good to know that you loved New Zealand. I’m afraid I love it too, already, and for now it’s only live in my imagination. Can’t wait to be there!

  • Sean
    Posted at 09:02h, 04 November Reply

    Although Milford Sound is great, I second the trip to Northland if you can make it. Spend a little time in the Hokianga region – I’m fond of Horeke, myself, simply because it’s grittier than the other small towns there. It has a charming old tavern. The Bay of Islands is also good, and Russell is quaint and worth a visit.

    You might also like to go to Waiheke Island if you’re passing through Auckland.

    • Simon
      Posted at 09:14h, 04 November Reply

      What a great piece of advice, Sean. I just had a look at images of Northland, Horeke and Waiheke Island and every single place looks so gorgeous! I’ll definitely keep your tips in mind in building my itinerary. Thanks for your tips, and if you have other ideas, I’d be so glad to now about them!

  • Kate - Canuckiwikate
    Posted at 20:05h, 03 November Reply

    Hi Simon!
    Congrats on living the dream in NZ, it’s definitely amazing! I came here to study for a year (4 years ago) and never left!
    Driving on the left is daunting at first, for sure, but some rental companies have stickers on the dashboard to remind you, and in high tourist areas you’ll actually find arrows painted on the road to help you out once in a while. It’ll be sweet!

    I’m a bit biased, but I would highly recommend checking out the Far North if you like stunning beaches. Northland, being about a 4 hour drive north of Auckland is one of those hidden often neglected gems.

    Let me know if I can help you out if you have any questions re: the Land of the Long White Cloud. Can’t wait to read about your adventures 🙂


    • Simon
      Posted at 20:18h, 03 November Reply

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Kate. The Far North looks fascinating and very much in line with the wild places I always look for. I’ll definitely stay in touch, asking for more tips. And who knows? Maybe we’ll eve have the chance to meet for a drink! 😀

  • Erik
    Posted at 19:49h, 03 November Reply

    I spent a month there earlier this year and it was my best trip ever. Period. The place and the people are awesome beyond description. I will look forward to reading about your adventures.

    • Erik
      Posted at 19:51h, 03 November Reply

      Also, Check out the Catlins on the South Island. Amazing and undiscovered.

      • Simon
        Posted at 20:17h, 03 November Reply

        Looks like an amazing tip, Erik. And it’s good to know that you just fell in love with NZ! I’ll have to look through your website for more ideas 🙂

        • Erik
          Posted at 02:25h, 06 November Reply

          I got back in June and I’m still only through day 18 of 29. I’m taking so long to finish writing these posts because I savor being able to go back through the memories.

          I can’t wait to read your posts- I’ll be living vicariously through you (with a huge smile on my face!)

      • Simon
        Posted at 10:42h, 06 November Reply

        The Catlins… Will definitely have a look! Thanks so much for the tip, Erik.

  • Laurence
    Posted at 19:22h, 03 November Reply

    Ah… you’re going to have an amazing time 😀 Thanks for sharing my photos!

    • Simon
      Posted at 20:15h, 03 November Reply

      Oh, thanks to you, Laurence, to let me share your beautiful pics!

  • Andrea
    Posted at 16:54h, 03 November Reply

    Enjoy NZ! I’ll be in Oz at that time. Maybe you could hop over to Perth and I’ll show you around my hometown. 🙂

    • Simon
      Posted at 20:15h, 03 November Reply

      Thanks, Andrea. I’m afraid I’m unlikely to stop in Perth. Pity, cause I would have loved to discover this part of Australia where I’ve never been with you.

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