It was one of my first and certainly one of the most memorable adventures: Four weeks with a campervan through New Zealand.
This road trip took place at the end of a seven-month journey, which brought me and my best friend to work and travel to Australia prior to that. It was a grand finale – as free as we rarely have experienced before. Australia a dream, but New Zealand has left us breathless. The possibility of doing exactly what we want – 24 hours – regardless of bus schedules (we´ve been traveling by Greyhound in Australia) or other made bookings, was great. It was an incredible experience for us nineteen and twenty year old girls from the German countryside.
A newborn Love
Already after this first trip around New Zealand I´ve been totally fascinated. Of course – back then – there have been so many mixed feelings. It´s been the end of our seven months abroad and the first time with a campervan on the road. But this amazing country just got my love – the nature, culture and just those unbelievable options of adventure (like our first skydive in Taupo ;)). However, since we´ve got to see a lot within those four weeks I had the feeling I´ve already seen everyhting. What a stupid feeling, I know. Due to that I´ve never thought I would ever come back to New Zealand. But hey, it was the best decision ever to go back for several months – as this first trip back in 2009 was actually only the beginning of a big lovestory between New Zealand and me.
My return to New Zealand
Five years later – in 2014 – during my last semester I realized that I would like to travel again for a longer time. It was a perfect match, that my sister also wanted to take a break and was interested in going to New Zealand. The idea grew quickly: Trip around the World with focus on New Zealand.
With the Working Holiday Visa in our bags we started in October. Still at home, we already had been in contact with Kiwi Cruise Control, because we wanted to buy a car of them for our six months Down Under. The owners are the German Doro and the Kiwi Darren.
On our second day we made our way to a suburb of Auckland to search for the right set of wheels for us. We were successful and also arranged everything. The cool thing about Kiwi Cruise Control is that they also take the car back and you get a pre-agreed amount. As we anyway wanted to come back to Auckland at the end of the journey, this deal was just ideal for us. This saves us the effort to find a new buyer and we can plan our budget in advance.
Out of the city, into nature
However, since it took another two weeks until we could get our Nissan, we got a rental car from Jucy Rentals, as we didn´t want to stay in the city the whole time.
So we were finally able to leave the city in favor of some nature. We drove up to the Northland to Cape Reinga and explored the great scenery of the Coromandel Peninsula. For me it was especially interesting, as I had some flashback moments to my first time there. I was really happy to show my sister all the locations I had been talking about for many years.
Job-Search: WORK & Travel in New Zealand
To find a job, we checked all the famous backpacker pages. We applied actually for all kind of work from hostel duties to childcare. Through my previous impressions I had some regions I preferred to stay longer at. Finally, of course it was exactly the other way around we ended up where I originally didn´t wanted to go. Life has its own rules. Because of lack of success, we expanded our search area and found in Franz Josef, on the West Coast of the South Island, an interesting offer. Partly as housekeeper in small villas, in the evening at a local shop. Franz Josef has not directly appealed to me because I only remembered it to be an extremely small village. 2009, we took part in an eight-hour glacier hike there, but the place just had zero to offer. However, after a short phone call to the employer, we got the job. So I tried not to be too biased. Spoiler: It worked ;).
Meanwhile, we picked up our Nissan and started relatively quickly our trip down to the west coast of the South Island. On the way we made short stops in Rotorua, Taupo, Wellington and Greymouth. However, we knew that we come back to the North Island anyway and would have more time to spend in these places.
Ups and Downs in Franz Josef
The next three months we stayed in Franz Josef. Due to the nearby lakes and, of course, mostly the glacier, Franz Josef lives from the tourism. Actually it didn´t really turn out as we wished it would. The ray of hope was that we had quickly settled down in this small village and felt very comfortable. But combining these two jobs was an exhausting task. Often we had around twelve hours to work five days a week and at a sixth day another five hours. It was mentally, but furthermore also physically extremely demanding and exhausting. We fought five whole weeks. During this time we even had to make the jobs of a second team next to ours and that was a hard deal. This was about to happen a second time, but we couldn´t do it anymore – and we also didn´t want to. Unfortunately, our employer at the Villas was a bit two-faced. Finally we stayed in Franz Josef, but signed up to work full-time for the supermarket. We moved in an apartment together with two other German sisters right next to the shop and spend another six weeks there. It was a great time, now that we sorted out the job problem. Especially the options we had were awesome. On our days off we could explore the area. Hike around the Lake Matheson, which is also known as Mirror Lake, because it reflects Mount Cook (depends on the weather though). Go to the beach to Okarito or Gillespie Beach. Visit the Hokitika Gorge, or the Glacier in Fox. Just a few minutes’ drive from Franz Josef, Lake Mapourika shows off with spectacular views of the glacier and the mountains. But beware! I had an unpleasant encounter with an eel – and yes, there’s been blood. My blood.
Since you get incorporated in the community pretty well and also considered as “local”, we could do some things free of charge. For example – provided spaces are available – to fly with other tourists in with a helicopter on top of the glacier (read here on Instagram my thoughts on that business).
The trip around New Zealand continues…
Our time in Franz came to an end eventually and our trip continued around the South Island. We experienced a boat trip within Milford Sound; enjoyed the great view on the southernmost tip in Bluff; visited penguins in Dunedin, the Moeraki Boulders; searched for Mount Cook; unfortunately, had to witness Christchurch, which is still a construction site; had goosebumps at the sight of hundreds of dolphins in Kaikoura; saw numerous sea lions, got drunk due to a beer tasting in a brewery in Greymouth; went to Westport to surf; hiked in Abel Tasman National Park and admired the winelands around Blenheim.
We hardly got bored, how could you with so many possibilities offered by New Zealand. The time flew, so finally we only had ten days left to make our way back up the North Island to Auckland. We spent these on the beach in New Plymouth and met up with a friend of mine in Turangi, south of Taupo. We wanted to hike the Tongariro Crossing together. Well, however, as often when traveling you are not always lucky with the weather and the whole action literally rained off. The heavy rain and especially strong winds made it impossible to start the trail. I still think it´s a pity, but actually it gives me another reason to fly to New Zealand again. One of many reasons.
Time to say goodbye
After we sold our beloved Nissan, our trip brought us to Australia and the Cook Islands. Here you´ll find some photos as an insight into my trips around Australia (2008/09 & 2015). If you are interested in a trip to the Cook Islands, check out my travel report and tipps.
Before we moved on to Hawaii, we came back to New Zealand for another five days – we could not stay away. Six months earlier, particularly Mt. Manganui caught our attention, so we spent some time on the beach to mentally say goodbye from a beautiful place like New Zealand – though certainly not for long.
All the best,