trip report: Australia & New Zealand final impressions, New Zealand top 5, & budget, January 2020

“Do I go somewhere new or do I go somewhere I love?” is a common question among travellers. I have friends that have hike the same 200 mile trail (the John Muir Trail) more than ten times and I also have friends looking to rack up the country count. I was able to do a little bit of both over the course of 3 weeks. Explore down under, down under and return to the mountains of New Zealand. 

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This is the final entry of our Australia and New Zealand trip series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below.

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trip report: New Zealand – Tasman Glacier viewpoint, Christchurch, & getting out, January 2020

About 3 weeks after I boarded the plane on Christmas to meet up with Mark in Australia, it was time to go home. Again, I typically stick the contents of our transit in a paragraph at the end of a long report, especially since getting out & heading home always seem less exciting than getting getting in. But here is my attempt to highlight the transit part of travel more as I include it with a short hike to wrap up our trip. Looking back now as I write this, we should have never left the island.

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This is the eighty entry of our Australia and New Zealand trip series covering our travels home from New Zealand. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

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trip report: New Zealand – Mueller Hut Route, January 2020

The steep but short hike up to Mueller Hut in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is typically hiked as an in & out day hike with plenty of time to make the long drive back to town for a good meal. Being someone that is more about the views than just camping, I usually prefer just a day hike. However, it pays to take it easy and smell the roses sometimes. Rather breaking the hike up, camping on the top of the world, and under the stars was a worthy experience. From our tent, we could hear the surrounding glaciers crack and had a perfect view of the tallest mountain in New Zealand, Aoraki/Mount Cook. 

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This is the seventh entry of our Australia and New Zealand trip series covering our tramp of to Mueller Hut in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

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trip report: New Zealand – Rees-Dart Track, January 2020

Tramping (aka hiking) and New Zealand are synonymous when we think of traveling to the small island nation. However, there is much more to the hiking scene there than just the Great Walks (DOC). I have met locals that have exclaimed that the Great Walks, while very worth it, aren’t the best scenery that New Zealand has to offer. With our hike of the Rees-Dart track, I completely understand that sentiment. 

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This is the six entry of our Australia and New Zealand trip series covering our tramp of the Rees-Dart Track in Mt. Aspiring National Park. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

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trip report: New Zealand – diving Milford Sound, January 2020

The experience at Milford Sound can sound like a big tourist trap with the many visitors all boarding the similar boat cruise. It was an experience we had to settle for during our first visit to the famed fjord when weather canceled our original plans. To my surprise, the natural aesthetics of the sheer rock faces and tall waterfalls among the moody clouds was more than enough to overcome the tourist crowds on these cruises and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience that day. 

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It only added to my desire to return and see the wonderland from below. Fortune would have it, a couple of diving spots opened up for Mark and I and I would get my wish the second time around.

This is the fifth entry of our Australia and New Zealand trip series covering our dives in Milford Sound and our subsequent stay in Queenstown. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

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trip report: Sydney, Australia & travel to New Zealand, January 2020

Other than the Great Barrier Reef, the other thing that comes to mind about Australia is the Sydney Opera House. So on our way to the South Island of New Zealand, we had a long layover in Sydney. To stretch out legs after a few days on the boat, we took the stroll around the waterfront and see that opera house. 

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This is the fourth entry of our Australia and New Zealand trip series covering our brief stop in Sydney on our way to  the South Island of New Zealand. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

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trip report: Australia & New Zealand – decisions & planning, December 2019

In the travel enthusiast game, it is all about jumping on opportunities. This specific opportunity we took advantage of were a couple of one way flights from Auckland, New Zealand to the U.S. for 6000 American Airline Miles each, which is as close to free as you can get. The final result was my first visit to Australia to dive the Great Barrier Reefs and a return to the south island of New Zealand over the winter holidays. Reflecting now on that trip, which took place just before the 2020 pandemic and the travel restrictions, the notion of jumping on opportunities to travel when we can do so safely again in the future seems all the more important. For now, all I can do is to reflect on our adventures down under.

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This is the first entry of our Australia and New Zealand trip series covering our pre-trip planning (1). You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

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trip report: New Zealand & Maui, Dec 2016 to Jan 2017 – part 6, final impressions and budget

This is part 6, the final post about our trip around the pacific covering New Zealand and Maui adventures over the holiday break from December 2016 to January 2017. In this section, I’ll wrap up our trip by going over our expenses, our impressions, and what I’d change the next time I plan a trip like this. You can navigate to each of the other sections in this blog series in the complete index below (in my long entry fashion, the you may have to click on the link twice for the correct page anchor location since the pictures might take a bit to load).

final impressions

The sheer amount of planning I did for this trip was a bit overwhelming (as was this trip report series). Looking back, I think it might have not been the most optimal way for this trip. The 2 reasons for my initial planning was because I wanted to tramp the great walks, which typically requires prior booking. And secondly, I was worried about booking housing during the Holiday season. Really, I just didn’t have a good idea of what it would be like on the ground. But that’s part of the novelty in traveling.

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New Zealand and the attitude of the people are very open to changes and flexible. As Daniel, our new friend from the trip put it, new Zealand might not be as spectacular as Patagonia in terms of pure aesthetics, but it by far surpasses in the awesome feel and attitude of the people and the culture.

Unless you are trying to stay in a party central like Queenstown during New Years or the best hostel in town, you probably can still find housing somewhere. That is especially true if you have you own transportation as car camping opportunities are plenty in many of the national parks around. With the traditional campervan, you can even get away sleeping in the middle of nowhere. The freedom camping laws are pretty generous, except in certain areas and the Great Walks. Here are some tips about Freedom Camping from Go Nomad, but make sure you practice leave no trace.

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One issue with a car and tramping would be requiring you to find a way to shuttle your car to different trailheads. However, hiking shuttles to get to those trailheads without a car is pretty expensive anyways as you can see below. The last key benefit with a car is that you can be much more flexible and pickup on last minute Great Walk cancellations like we could have with the Milford track had be had a car. Unless you planned way ahead of time (at the exact time the reservations open up – or about 30 minutes after), chances are you’ll still be able to still do the hikes if you are flexible.

Getting back to freedom camping as an alternative for the Great Walks, including the Milford Track, you can officially freedom camp 500 meters away from the trail, but not recommended by the DOC unless you have extensive backcountry experience. Again, practice leave no trace as it’s the major worry for DOC officials and can be a big argument point for future policies. The huts and campsite outside of the Great Walk season, also including the Milford Track, switch to a first come, first serve basis.

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Lastly, with the weather such a factor anyways, you have the flexibility to just head to another part of the island for one of the many tramps the island has to provide. As I alluded to earlier, New Zealand isn’t the most impressive scenery we’ve seen in the world, but there are plenty of amazing hikes. So, it doesn’t hurt to just skip over to the next valley.

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With 2 and a half weeks, we could have went with a much more unstructured travel and saved myself much more time in organizing all the schedules and hikes. I don’t know if I would have as prepared for unstructured travel had I not had the experiences of this trip, but campervan it is the next time we visit the islands. As a Kiwi told me during my large solo trip through Europe, “you travel with the aim to return.”

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final budget

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redemption

Our overall spending was a bit more than I wanted to but not too bad for 2 people ($2700 each person) for the Holiday high season. As such, we spent a lot more than I thought we would in transportation. A big part of our flight cost (~$200) was also technically transit between south and north islands. From this standpoint, $600 car rental is much more comparable than. Doubling the transport cost because of 2 people is why rentals are more worth it.

We also splurged more on housing then we wanted to, partially because of weather (on the North Island and a couple nights on the South Island) and partially because we didn’t want to be eaten alive camping in Mt. Aspiring National Park.

Of course we splurged a bit on food, but that’s expected on vacation.

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Overall, our monthly food budget isn’t too far off that cost sitting between $500 to $700.

A big chunk of our activity cost was paying for snorkeling costs for my family, but they also paid for housing and food during the few days we were on Maui. With Chinese families, everyone’s money is family money anyways.

Below is the detailed spending spreadsheet with blue outlining flights, green outlining activities, and red outlining things that changed or we ended up missing.

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earnings

All our reward earnings are listed below, not including credit card returns. Getting that $1000 voucher was a nice bonus at the end of our trip.

earnings

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If you’ve enjoyed this trip report and found it helpful, we would always welcome any support. Thanks!