I traveled to the south island of New Zealand for my mid semester break. This was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I flew from Sydney into Queenstown traveling with my roommate Steven Kirk. The first night we slept in the airport because we had a flight to Queenstown, a town on the east end of the Fiordland national park, the following morning. We spent our first day in New Zealand hiking, buying supplies and adjusting to the 50 degree weather. The following day we had a bus at 7 AM to Te Anau, A small town in the heart of the Fiordland. We initially planned to relax our first day in Te Anau and do a 42 Km hike the following day but when we arrived we found great tickets for the Milford sound the following day and decided to hike the portion of the Kepler track we had planned for the following day that first day. We set off at noon to hike over a marathon with a vertical gain of nearly a mile. We summited Mt. Luxmore, saw the Luxmore caves and even saw a Kea (A famous New Zealand parrot). It took us 11 hours, and even as we stumbled back into town having hiked the last 2 hours in the dark. When we arrived more tired than I have ever been before I knew it was something I will always cherish. The following day we were able to relax on our bus and ferry tour through the Milford sound, commonly referred to as the eighth wonder of the world. Following this we returned to Queenstown and summited Ben Lomond, a snow capped mountain even in the summer, before returning the following day to Christchurch. That day after touring Christchurch we returned home to Sydney.
This vacation was the first time I have ever planned a trip of this magnitude and I learned many great lessons from the experience. When planning Steve and I began by finding what points of interest in New Zealand we wanted to visit most. This search took us to the south island where our next step was to find how to best reach all of these locations. During this stage we had to decide how to most cheaply and efficiently travel to 4 different locations. Our first decisions on this front were the flights to and from Christchurch and Queenstown. Once we purchased tickets we began to look into travel to the milford sound and unfortunately hastily booked a bus ticket there. Later while looking I realized that there was very little infrastructure at all in the milford sound. This certainly taught me the invaluable lesson of paying closer attention to previous travelers testimonials and reviews. Another lesson I learned was the importance of flexibility. Following the realization that busing to Milford and staying overnight would not work Steven and I began looking at alternatives. This brought us to Te Anau a beautiful quaint town nestled against the edge of lake Te Anau. From here we were able to book a day trip to the Milford sound and hike part of the Kepler track, one of the “great walks” of New Zealand. This trip on the whole taught me the value of making the most of your time, and will always remain in my memory.