Believe it or not, after fulfilling a 20-something-year-old dream, returning to everyday life can feel rough. Really rough. Especially, when the dream in question was spending a full month in New Zealand.
Jetlag might have something to do with this feeling, but suddenly, my home office doesn’t feel familiar. It doesn’t feel like it’s mine anymore. Not to mention my travel blog, this poor thing that has suffered from a silent death during my absence.
Luckily, it’s all temporary; feeling like a stranger in my own home and even the deadly quiet period on this travel blog. That said, I’ve decided to share my month in New Zealand with you in the form of a daily travel diary. During the following weeks, you’ll get to read my wine-flavoured notes I scribbled on the pages of my old-school notebook while sipping some local red wine on the (almost) soft benches of our campervan.
Or campervans, more correctly. During our month in New Zealand, we had two different campervans plus a “normal” car we rented on impulse at the end of our trip. But now I’m getting ahead of myself.
I believe it’s best to go back to the very beginning…
Budget flights to New Zealand (that I wouldn’t buy today)
The whole show started already at the beginning of the year when I spotted crazy cheap Air China flights from Finland to New Zealand. Blinded by the price and my life-long travel dream, I didn’t much think before letting my credit card sing. Return flights from Helsinki via Stockholm and Beijing to Auckland cost less than 600 euros per person. Sure, I knew I wouldn’t be able to fly all the way to the other side of the globe with direct flights, but… Let’s face it; there would have been greener ways to take this trip, I realise it now.
I know this doesn’t justify my reckless flight-shopping, but I don’t fly outside Europe too often. The trip to New Zealand would be my fourth time travelling outside my home continent. That said, I had never flown with Air China before, either. My attempts to research for Air China experiences resulted in terrible reviews, so I soon decided to stop Googling about the topic. Luckily, I got to prove you shouldn’t blindly trust on airline reviews you find online. Based on four recent flights (four LONG flights in economy class, to be more precise), we have absolutely no complaints of Air China.
I would have some about fellow travellers on Air China planes, though.
But no complaints about the little fellas below. An evening date with Little Blue Penguins in the Banks Peninsula was one of the most amazing highlights of our month in New Zealand.
15-hour stopover in Beijing (and the very first blunder of the trip)
On the way to Auckland, we had a 15-hour layover in Beijing. As Finns (and citizens of many other countries, too) can enjoy the Chinese capital Visa-free for 72 hours, we thought we shouldn’t skip the opportunity. And let’s face it; 15 hours at ANY airport isn’t exactly an ideal way to spend a day.
I’m not yet sure will I write a separate story about our day in Beijing (and if I do, when that day will be). However, in case you have questions, or you’re looking for tips for a stopover in Beijing, don’t hesitate to pop a question on the comments at the bottom of this page. Right now I’m way too busy to continue our journey to New Zealand and start our road trip around the country.
In case you’re wondering if 15 hours really is enough for Beijing, I can ease your life and tell you the answer already: Yes, it is. It’s more than enough as after returning at the airport, I had plenty of time to lose my SIM card under the floor grid beyond anyone’s (or any tool’s) reach. After kicking myself for a good while, I had to give up and say goodbye to the most critical contacts of my life – my family, my friends and MY CLIENTS. Yep, this is how I run my freelance-writing business. Don’t try to copy; it’s not good for you.
Well, it was only a matter of time how long it would take until the first blunder of the trip. We all knew it was coming – after all, silly mishaps when travelling are kind of my thing, as you might already know (especially if you’ve read the story about my tragicomic trip to Mallorca and 14 setbacks).
First touch to Auckland
No matter how early I had booked the flights, at the time of the take-off our actual travel plans were almost non-existent. All we had booked before the departure (besides the flights to Auckland) were two campervans and a 1-night stay in a hotel in Christchurch. And with the latter, my friends, I turned out to be quite lucky, as you’ll find out when we get to road trip day 18 and the umpteenth blunder during our New Zealand road trip.
Luckily, we had no reason to stress about our unfinalised plans, thanks to our local guides Agnès and Alex, who have lived in Auckland for years. Besides providing us with the best possible travel tips, Agnès and Alex had promised to drive us between the airport and Auckland and accommodate us whenever needed. How handy!
Having a place to crash for a couple of nights before starting driving around New Zealand after flying half the world turned out to be the best decision ever. Cocky as we are, we were sure having fooled the jetlag after waking up semi-fresh at 8 am the first morning in Auckland. It was early enough to permit ourselves to close our eyes for a little more while before hitting the city.
Or not. Next time we opened our eyes at 3 pm. “Jetlag? We ain’t having any jetlag!”
The fuss-worthy Instagram spot along the Roys Peak hiking trail in Wanaka. Believe me, this is not the trail you want to take when suffering from jetlag! Oh, and you’ll find out about the fuss, too!
Before our first day in New Zealand slipped away completely, we took our first little walk to the top of One Tree Hill to admire Auckland from above. I hadn’t seen Agnès and Alex since we were surfing from tree to tree in Germany more than four years ago, so we had some serious catching up to do over beers and burgers in the city centre before hitting the windy mountain roads of New Zealand.
And that moment, my friends, is the official starting point of our NZ Travel Diary and the month-long road trip through New Zealand.
Until the next episode!
We didn’t spend much time in the cities, but Auckland we managed to see from inland as well from the sea. In the first photo, taken from the top of One Tree Hill, you can spot the youngest volcano in Auckland, Rangitoto, from where the second photo was taken.
If you enjoy road trip adventures, you must read these stories:
× Explore the Northern Paradise Islands: Driving in the Faroes
× The Highest Highlights of the Northern Ireland Road Trip
× Driving Through North Wales and England: Route, Highlights and Costs
× Tips For A Successful Road Trip In Iceland
× Coastal Road Trip Through Finland: The Highlights From South To North And Back