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Backpacking New Zealand

Backpacking is a big culture in New Zealand. In every city, you’ll see lots of backpackers hostels that provide cheap accommodation,  also cheap meals and even cheap drinks. I spent my past two weeks backpacking entire South Island. I started from Christchurch and went around South Island in a counter-clockwise loop covering places like Kaikoura, Nelson, Westport, Franz Josef glacier, Wanaka, Queenstown and then back to Christchurch. I also flew to Wellington and spent a couple days there. The best way to enjoy a country is to travel alone and that’s what I did. I traveled with legendary hop on-hop off Kiwi Experience tour bus and my journey was enriched with commentary all along as we went to places and looked outside at breathtaking scenery that changed drastically.

Inside glacier caves of Franz Josef Glacier

Just like US colleges have Spring breaks, at University of Auckland we have a two week long mid-semester break. Most study abroad students utilize this time to travel and get to know the country more. Some of my friends even left the country to go to Australia, Fiji or other far-flung islands like Cook Islands. The part that made my trip so wonderful and memorable was my crazy dreadlocks that I had gotten just two days before I began the trip. If you have not seen fresh dreadlocks, let me tell you, they look nothing like anything you have seen before. Fresh dreads have a natural tendency to stay erect, as if it wants to touch the sky. See a picture of my dreads below. And wherever I went, I got stares and lots of unsolicited attention. The fact that I went around carrying my DSLR camera with big lens and wearing sun glasses just made me look like a stereotpyical tourist. At several places people would tell me, “Hey, how’s your vacation going? Do you want something to smoke?” You know what I mean. I thanked them saying No and walked on.

My dreadlocks

My sick as dreadlocks.

I met lots of people just because of my hair and had tons of interesting conversations. You would not believe it but in some towns (more than one) someone would come to me and say I saw you in another town, the town that I had been to before. I just stood out in the crowd wherever I went. In Christchurch, I thought I was being followed when the guy walked up to me and said, “We were on the same plane, I recognize your hair.” These past two weeks were all about meeting new people and learning about their travel experiences. Some of the people who were traveling on the same Kiwi Experience tour bus had been traveling around the world since several months. And they had plenty of stories to tell.

Jumping in icy cold waters of Lake Rotoiti

If there is one place in New Zealand that is closest to Times Square of New York, it has to be Cuba Street in Wellington. There are plenty of benches on the street, you just sit there and see all kinds of people pass by. Fortunately, no vehicles are allowed so it’s only people. There’s a lot happening there and you’ll never be bored. The least favorite town of my trip probably was Westport, a coal mining town that smelled like burning coal. I was not feeling well and the smell of Carbon Monoxide made it worse. But overall, this 15 day long adventure was probably one of the most enjoyable days with lots of activities during which I took more than 800 pictures. Now I want to travel more, a motor-cycle tour of South America does not seem too far-fetched.

Cuba Street, Wellington

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2 Responses to “Backpacking New Zealand”

  1. Sunduvan Says:

    I went for a 6 months backpacking trip in New Zealand in 2004, I started from Auckland up to Cape Reinga, down to Wellington , christchurch to Queenstown went around to all of the town in the west coast of South Island and back to Wellington. I love Queenstown the most, just so peaceful, beautiful sceneries. I like it. I did alot of hitchhiking, somebody let me on their van and drop me somewhere in the middle of nowhere in between Haast and Lake Hawea then I had to hike for about 5 mile before I found a camping ground by the roadside. it was scary..but well..it is what you will expect if you hitchhike. Hahahaha

  2. Tom Chapman Says:

    I’ve been looking to visit New Zealand. By the looks of the photos, you had a lovely time!

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