When I first visited New Zealand it was a very short trip, and a very unsuccessful one. Every sight I was hoping to see was fraught with problems caused by the weather. My friend, James, and myself were determined we’d one day return to complete our sightseeing of the country. Years passed, and eventually we started to plan what would be a two week tour of the country. Sure, there’s things we wouldn’t see - how can you see all of any country in just two weeks? The trick is to fit in the things you really want to see and do and work around that.
The plan we slowly put together would fly into the north island, and then a flight from there to the south island. As these are long flights we’d got an extra night in Auckland just in case anything was to go wrong and a delay experienced - at least that way we’d be less likely to miss a flight to Queenstown.
I guess the main focus of this trip was attempting Milford Sound, and the Tongariro Crossing, but being a big Tolkien fan I absolutely had to include a tour of Hobbiton. I realise that is not a real place - you can’t just hop on a plane and visit Middle Earth. When ‘The Hobbit’ was filmed they were asked to leave the sets for Hobbiton behind so that it could become a tourist attraction. It would have been nice to have visited the WETA Workshop as well, but a detour to Wellington would either add a lot of extra cost, or too many extra days onto an already tight schedule.
The cruises were the first things we booked, and pretty much every other tour we wanted to do was pre-booked after to ensure there’d be nothing we missed. This was then followed with accomodation, and internal flights for the islands as well as car rentals. This time I’d be doing most of the driving. I made sure I was familiar with what their road signs are, and ensured that I didn’t need anything other than my UK driving license for driving there.
It’d be peak marathon training time too, so I looked at what days would be best for fitting runs in, and looking at the areas in Google Street View so I could be confident I’d at least get some miles in even if I didn’t get to do as much as I normally would.
Packing was fairly straight forward, though I did need to think about what camera equipment to take, and whether to take waterproofs or different clothes for the Tongariro Crossing. I was hoping for brilliant weather throughout, but rain was always a possibility. Eventually I decided on packing:
- Canon EOS 5D mk3,
- Canon EOS 5D mk2,
- Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens,
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens,
- Sigma APO 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM lens,
- MacBook Pro (Retina 15-inch, 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM),
- Garmin ForeRunner 235 and charging cable,
- 5x CompactFlash Cards,
- 4x batteries for Canon EOS 5D (one of higher capacity),
- Lens pen, air blower, and cloth for cleaning equipment,
- Chargers for MacBook Pro, iPhone, and cameras; along with travel adapter,
Instead of taking my Kindle with me as I usually would I also packed a book that was big enough to last two weeks. Also in my hand luggage I’d got cereal bars for any days where breakfast may be difficult to find, and a bag of cereal for that first morning - something to eat before my long run. I'd need to declare any food I packed, and was hopeful it'd be allowed in - the New Zealand customs website suggested they could be.
For my checked luggage, in addition to the normal clothes required for two weeks I’d got running clothes packed, and my Manfrotto BeFree carbon fibre travel tripod. It’s light and small, and could come in useful during the course of two weeks. I eventually decided to pack the waterproofs for the hiking; but didn’t bother with gaiters, or proper walking boots - my hope was that the country would be kinder to us this time.
I loaded my iPhone up with images of places to look out for so we'd know when we found them, offline streets maps for the entire country, a copy of our itinerary with addresses and contact details that'd I'd prepared during the planning, and applications for checking in for the car rentals and flights.
All that remained was the long-expected journey…