The New Zealand Journey

Got on a plane Christmas Eve 2005 with a couple of friends and didn't land until Boxing Day to find ourselves in most delighful, quiet, and friendly New Zealand!  This trip was pretty much self-organized -- once we had our reservations for the Milford Track, other than plane tickets, a rental car reservation, a place to stay the first night, and a plan to meet up with a Kiwi friend in a couple weeks, we were open to three weeks of adventure (yep!).

Basically, we stayed at various backpacker hostels, which are located everywhere, quite inexpensive (typically less than $20 US each for a shared room), provide cooking facilities, and are a fun way to share the trip with other travelers.  High on my list is the White Elephant in Motueka (where we spent four nights over the course of the trip), Barnyard Backpackers (near Te Anau), Rawhiti (in Geraldine), Samauri (in Turangi).

As I saw in a hostel somewhere - "Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet" - we went with the former option in Fiordland and are glad we did. But that was just part of the trip - we took some incredible hikes, went kayaking, running around on glaciers, visited a fascinating farm,met some delightful people, and even saw a few birds and other critters.

For this trip, I had both cameras, my 4 megapixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ10 and my new, tiny 5 Mpx Canon SD-450. Once I got home, I waded through the more than 630 pictures to pick the better ones, cropped/resized/adjusted them with Paintshop Pro, and arranged them for this site. As usual, there are many more pictures in my head (those astonishing must-see glowworms on our last day and all the incredible waterfalls on the Milford Track that cameras can't capture in the rain, for example.)  Apologies, again, that some of the photographs could be better, but the idea here was more to capture memories.  

Click on any of the thumbnails below to open a new window with a larger view of any of the pictures.

About an hour after landing in Auckland on the North Island, we hopped on a plane to Nelson, where we got a rental car and headed to Motueka for two nights at the White Elephant at the start of our first two weeks traveling about the South Island. Got our first taste of New Zealand - quiet with little traffic noise, and incredibly helpful and friendly people. An example was the car rental folks; obviously, the full-size one we'd reserved at one agency would barely contain all of us and our luggage, so the agent helped us work with the agent next door to get us squared away with no concern whatsoever over the lost revenue to her company.

Highlight of our stay in Motueka was taking a boat ride up into Abel Tasman National Park for a long day hike on a well-maintained trail in perfect weather through fabulous forests filled with ferns, fern trees, and ocean views.

Christmas in Coach

The White Elephant

Dinner at the
White Elephant

Shallow drive
to the boat



Abel Tasman

Abel Tasman

California Quail
(on vacation, too?)

Abel Tasman

Boots - White Elephant



White-faced Heron
(way up in a tree
at the White Elephant)

(apparently the national flower)


(first bird of the trip)


Off to Punakiki
(on the other side of the road)

Rock Cairns

A solid day's drive on the way to our New Year's Day appointment with the Milford Track, we first headed for Punakiki on the western coast (via Murchison and Westport), where Abel Tasman first grasped the scale of the island. Went on a great day hike near Murchison, seeing our first (quite approachable) robin, and the result of a recent earthquake landslide.

Required Fruitstand



Pampas Grass

New Zealand


New Zealand's
Christmas Tree




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