This year, we decided to skip winter and go enjoy another summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

The plan was to fly to New Zealand and go explore the North Island first, then take the ferry to the South Island late Spring, just in time to go climb in the Southern Alps. When we'd had enough of snowy peaks, we would then spend a few weeks rock-climbing in Australia to wrap up the trip.

Anything in red on the map below can be "clicked" on for a summary report and related photographs.

After two months climbing in the Cascades, we fly from Las Vegas to Auckland at the end of September. We stay in a hostel (the Oakland Lodge) in Mt Eden, one of the quieter neighborhoods of Auckland. Our main focus is to buy a van as quickly as possible so we can hit the road. We also find some time to enjoy the city and the two very good Belgian restaurants in downtown Auckland and Mt Eden. It takes us a week to find a suitable camper. We eventually find a ToyoAce - a former refrigerated delivery truck converted into a camper - with plenty of storage for our gear, at the Auckland car fair.

We both get very sick with the flu during the first month and a half in NZ. Not sure if we caught the bug in the plane or at the hostel, but we can't get rid of it. The cold and windy weather we experience during the entire month of October does not help either. We're in no shape to climb anything whatsoever, so we decide to start with some tourism.

We head North (trying to get used to driving the narrow curvy roads (12Mb movie) on the left side) and drive to Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of NZ. Northland has lots of sheep, a beautiful coastline, and few people (and far fewer tourists than in the South Island).

On the way there, we drive through an ancient forest of huge kauri trees on our way up (the Waipoua forest). This is unfortunately one of very few remaining Kauri forests in NZ. The incredibly beautiful wood obtained from this tree has led to its near extinction. The North Island has been mostly stripped of its native bush and forests, leaving behind vast areas of sheep pastures and agricultural land.

Returning South, we drive to the Bay of Islands and the Coromandel Peninsula, where we spend a few days, then further South to Rotorua. We stop at the Agrodome to watch tourists spend the big bucks on Zorbing (they put you in a big plastic bubble, add a few buckets of water, and push you down the hill (4Mb movie)). Just one of the innumerable "adventure" activities that are very heavily marketed in this country.

We give in for a guided tour of "Kiwi Encounter", a breeding center and Kiwi house. The iconic national bird, the Kiwi, is now at risk of extinction due to the introduction of predators such as possums and domestic dogs. Several breeding centers attempt to increase the species' chances for survival. These centers are also pretty much your only chance of seeing one of the nocturnal birds in flesh. We saw a Kiwi chick (asleep), and three adult ones (there was no glass window separating us from the birds and we could get very close). Very curious animals, and kind of funny too. While in Rotorua, we also enjoy a quick dip in the hot springs.

After nearly a month of being constantly sick and doing too much tourism, we are really anxious to climb. We finally get to Wharepapa, where we climb at Froggatt Edge and Waipapa. Reasonably good sport climbing at Froggatt and trad climbing at Waipapa on solid ignimbrite rock. The setting of those crags, in the midddle of sickeningly green pastures is quite a contrast from our usual crags in the SW US!

We then continue South to Lake Taupo. Lucie's flu takes another turn for the worse; she's coughing a lot. We check into a hostel, hoping to get some rest. By miracle, the hostel is heated (most of the hostels in NZ don't have any heat, or very little). Lucie stays in bed all day trying to cure her cough, while Eric roams the streets of the small town. After two days, Lucie's flu is getting better and the weather is nice and warm. We decide to go sample the local cragging and climb at Kinloch, Kawakawa Bay, and Whanganui. These crags probably offer the best trad climbing in NZ (IOHO).

After a couple of days spent cragging, we're itching to try and get back in shape by climbing the North Island volcanoes. The weather is unfortunately not cooperating... we escape the rain by driving East to Napier for a bit more tourism. Napier is a small city that was completely destroyed by an earthqake in 1931, then entirely rebuilt in the Art deco style, so the architecture is quite interesting.

The weather is supposed to improve slowly so we drive back to Lake Taupo, then straight to Tongariro National Park. We climb Ngauruhoe (a classic snow-capped, cinder cone volcano) and Ruapehu (the highest point in the North Island), and hike the Tongariro Crossing. The crossing is a good example of the rampant over-commercialization of all things touristy in NZ. It's a beautiful and somewhat unique hike, allright, but is marketed as the "greatest single-day walk in the world" and similar exagerations. Numerous commercial operators ferry thousands of tourists a day to the starting point and pick them up at the end of the day on the other side of the range... no solitary gazing at wilderness on this one!

Our next objective is Taranaki, an isolated volcano on the west coast of the island. We drive to New Plymouth, stopping in Wanganui to take care of a few chores. We have to wait for a couple of days for the weather but finally get to climb the East ridge of Taranaki, one of the classic mountaineering routes of NZ. The exposure on this route is gut-wrenching. Good training for the high peaks of the South Island. It's now mid-november and time to think about heading South to Wellington to catch the ferry.

Once in Picton, we make our way to the Southern Alps, while visiting a few other crags (Paynes Ford, which we hated, Pohara, and Charleston). We also enjoy a day of sea kayaking (a first for both of us) near Abel Tasman National Park.

Arthur's Pass is our next stop. Mt Rolleston provides a good conditioning climb. We also get to see our first keas (a wild alpine parrot found only in NZ) while hiking up the steep slopes of Avalanche Peak.

We keep going south toward the small town of Wanaka, the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park. The weather is beautiful, but unfortunately forecasted to turn for the worst. We decide against climbing Mt Aspiring right away and give Mt Barff a try... only to bail a few hundred feet below the summit due to very soft snow conditions.

We spend the following weeks in Wanaka, waiting for a high pressure system before we finally get a go at Mt Aspiring. Wanaka is a pleasant town, in a magnificent location. It's not really typical NZ, but more of an outdoors paradise, home to many climbers and like-minded people. While waiting out the weather, we spend a couple of days cragging locally. The Wanaka crags sit in a valley which benefits from some kind of rainshadow effect, and offer the best sport climbing in the South Island, in our opinion. On December 18, we climb the SW ridge of Mt Aspiring, a striking line up one of the most beautiful mountains in the Southern Alps. This climb will remain as our best memory of NZ.

Having another three day of good weather to spare, we decide to go check "Ravages of Time", an 8-pitch sport climb in the Dart Valley, about 60 km north of Queenstown, which some locals rave about. The valley is beautiful (though infested with sandflies), but the climb is most certainly not. After spending the night at the trailhead, we end up doing the approach, taking one look at the pile of choss and grass, and turn around. The rope does not even come out of our packs!

The next day is Christmas Eve. We're back in Queenstown. The weather is pathetic. After a bit of shopping for Christmas food, we go to Wye Creek and find a good spot for our van, with great views of the lake. We go climb on Christmas Day, but only have time to do two routes before it starts raining again. Drier weather is not expected before the end of the week, and then only in the valleys. We've heard a lot of good things about Mt Somers (although, by now, we are more suspicious...). Rumors of excellent trad climbing on basalt columns, as good as Devil's Tower, etc... We spend three days there but we would certainly not recommend it as a climbing destination. Might be good by NZ standards, but that's about it!

After the two nights we spent in the very crowded Mt Somer hut (all hikers though; not a single climber), we're glad to sleep in our camper again. We drive back South, stopping in Timaru where we enjoy the fireworks display for New Year's Eve. We start the year cragging at Mt Horrible, an obscure liitle volcanic crag hidden in the paddocks. The climbs are extremely short, but for once the rock is quite clean and reminds us of our own home crags. We leave late and drive as far as Lake Tekapo that day.

The next day, we make it to Mt Cook village and stop by the airstrip to talk to the ski plane folks… The news are grim. The early season has been unusually warm. There's not much of this year's snow left on the glaciers, and they cannot land on the Tasman anymore. We ask around for conditions (Alpine Guides and NZAC hut); not good. They recommend we try the West coast, which typically has more snow and a longer season. We give up on climbing in the Cook area. We make the short walk to the Tasman Glacier overlook, a spectacular viewpoint. We've heard and read many stories about the grueling approaches up this glacier, and the almost impossible access from it to the peaks these last few years because of the huge, unstable moraine walls. Now that we can see them, it's easy to understand why... As an example, the Ball Shelter, which has been sitting on the edge of the glacier for many decades, is now closed and will be soon moved to another location beacuse of collapsing moraine walls.

We spend the next day checking the weather forecasts and wondering what to do. We're considering going rock climbing at Twin Stream, an alpine area near Mt Cook, but what little beta we're able to collect from the web makes it sound not-so-appealing (long sandbagged approach, rock fall issues, and pesky keas). Instead, we decide to head to the Darrans to salvage the rest of the weather window by doing a one-day climb. We leave in a hurry and drive South. We climb the "Bowen-Allan Corner" on Moir's Mate (a Darran classic) two days later. This route is supposed to be one of the very best in the Darrans, an area about which NZ climbers cannot stop raving (though few of them have actually been there). The area is spectacular and intimidating, but the climbing is far from high quality, at least by world standards: few clean features, and lots of moss and vegetation, not to mention the rainy weather...

We spend a rest day at the Milford Sound (a horrible tourist trap), then find out that another high-pressure system is due in two days! We leave immediately, drive like maniacs back to Wanaka, make helicopter reservations, and pack our gear and 7 days of food for a trip to the Pioneer Hut, on the Fox Glacier. The next morning, we drive from Wanaka to Fox Glacier (like maniacs again…) and helicopter into Pioneer Hut. There, we climb "Moonshine Buttress", a classic NZ alpine rock route (great line but the climbing is of dubious quality and very loose and runout), and the majestic ice arete of Mt Tasman (via the North Shoulder). We end up staying at the hut only 4 nights before hiking down the glacier just ahead of a storm on the fifth day.

After this, we make it back to Wanaka, wait a couple of days for the next weather window, and drive South to the Darrans again. We make the long "hike" (pretty technical in places) to Phil's bivy, below the North face of Saber only to bail halfway up two days later... after Eric drops his belay device. That alone would not have made us give up on the climb, but the weather was iffy and the climbing simply did not look too good...

After that episode, the weather turns for the worst again. We decide to go explore the southern coast around the Catlins, then drive to Dunedin and check out the cragging there. Dunedin is a more lively student town, but the climbing is pathetic, except perhaps for Mihiwaka, a small crag with a couple of good trad lines. By then, it's February 1st and we are getting worried about selling our camper (we are scheduled to fly to Oz at the end of the month).

We drive to Christchurch and spend a couple of days cragging at Kapiti Rock and Castle Rock, two of the better trad crags we have seen in the South Island. We show the van to a prospective buyer the day we arrive in Christchurch. He makes us go see a mechanics, run tests on the engine, etc...only to offer us much less than we wanted. We go to the Christchurch car fair but no luck; it's a bad time to try to sell a vehicle... everyone else is doing the same. We end up letting it go for over one thousand dollars less than we wanted. We could have delayed our flight and waited longer for a better deal, but it's not worth the time.

On February 13 and two weeks ahead of schedule, we're leaving Christchurch for Sydney.

  Useful info and other things we wish we had known about NZ:

Climbing Info : Our general impression of the quality of climbing in NZ is a mixed bag: to be perfectly honest, most of the rock climbing can only be described as sub-standard, at least as compared to what's available in other parts of the world, notably the western US. NZ is clearly not a rock-climbing destination, but if you are there and have your gear with you, there are some worthwhile crags on both islands. The crags we enjoyed best are Kawakawa Bay, Whanganui Bay, Frogatt Edge, and Waipapa on the North Island, and Pohara, the Wanaka Crags, Kapiti Rock and Castle Rock, on the South Island. Most of these crags have a mix of trad and bolted routes, usually one pitch long, though occasionally up to three. The Darrans have amazing scenery and daunting terrain, but go there for the alpine experience, not so much the rock (Oh, I expect to get some mail from NZ about this, but I tell it as I see it).

The mountaineering on the other hand is spectacular: sharp, glaciated peaks with very steep faces and striking knife-edge ridges are everywhere. It's easy to understand how Sir Hillary (a New Zealander) got his training for the Himalayas! The climbing tends to be of the exposed-simul-climbing/soloing type. Alpine huts provide bombproof shelter from the notoriously fierce NZ storms (winds in particular) and allow you to carry less weight on the approaches (but don't forget your ear plugs). Approaches to most peaks tend to be long and difficult, which is probably why 95% (according to locals) of climbers (including us) access the high peaks via ski-plane or helicopter. If you do access a hut via aircraft, you can bring fresh food along; just remember that food cannot be left in the huts and must be carried down in the not-so-unlikely event that you'll have to hike out in a white out, when the planes cannot fly.

If you plan on using the huts a lot, consider becoming a member of the New Zealand Alpine Club (NZAC). Club members receive significant discounts on hut fees (and guidebooks if purchased directly from the NZAC).

Any kind of specific information about routes is hard to come by. At this time (2008) there isn't any good internet site with info on climbing conditions. Most of the climbing info we used came from well known US sites: Summitpost and Cascade Climbers. Mojozone is the most popular NZ climbing site but does not appear to be widely used. There simply aren't that many people climbing in NZ, and most of them are concentrated on the few most popular routes.

To find out about current conditions in the mountains, your best bet is to contact the local guiding companies. We found two guide companies (Adventure Consultants and Aspiring Guides) in Wanaka to be quite helpful, even though we were not customers of theirs. Aspiring Guides also occasionally post condition updates on their website. In contrast, Alpine Guides, the guide company at Mt Cook Village refused to give us any info and was not too subttle about it either.

(We've now learned of a third guide compnay in Wanaka: Alpinism & Ski Wanaka)

We found local climbers to be very frugal with advice. This is very much in contrast with the attitudes of US climbers. NZ climbers claim to be trying to maintain a sense of adventure by keeping information on routes to a minimum... On the other hand, on several occasions, we had locals telling us all sorts of things about climbs, only to find out at the end that they had never been there!

Some of the DOC offices keep a book where climbers can report on conditions, impressions, or whatever when they return from a local climb. Ask for this book at the DOC visitor centers (in Wanaka for example). We found DOC personnel to be generally unaware of conditions away from tourist trails.

Climbing Equipment : Bring everything you need with you... except perhaps for pickets. We found NZ-made pickets to be superior and very cheap. Some are reinforced at one end with a steel cap to allow repeated pounding into hard snow, which is prevalent in the mountains of NZ. Don Bogie has written a 20-page whitepaper realting some of his research in the area of snow anchors specific to the NZ conditions. This paper is available on the internet, from the NZAC website.

Locally produced, good quality freeze-dried food is available at prices comparable to those in US (about $12NZD per pack).

Everything else, even a piece of nylon sling costs an arm and a leg! No kidding. GU gel packs for example sell for $4NZD a pack! A 60m rope runs $500NZD or so. A Black Diamond Stopper (nut) will set you down $25NZD. Of course, all depends on the exchange rate, but when we were there, and at $0.75USD per NZD, those prices were nothing short of shocking.

Snow & Ice climbing gear: Leave the aluminum crampons at home. They won't be worth much in the typically hard and icy NZ snow. Good, stiff leather mountain boots (like Nepal Top for example) will be best. Most climbers carry two technical tools on the steeper routes. We brought two tools and a mountain axe each to NZ. We ended up never taking both tools into the mountains, opting instead for one axe and one tool each. This worked fine, although the more technical sections on the SW ridge of Aspiring or on Tasman's North shoulder for example would have been easier with two tools.

Clothing: We brought heavy over-gaitors but never used them. Most of the time, it felt much colder than in the Cascades because of the constant wind, but not cold enough for super-cold-weather gear. We were often climbing in puffballs and used face masks on one occasion.

UV: NZ sits right under a major ozone hole. The sun on the glaciers is unbearable. Despite the low elevation, it felt as intense as in the high mountains of the Andes. Make sure you have appropriate sun protection, eyeware, and headware. Most people wrap their head in a bandana...

Tents: We brought two with us, our Bibler I-tent and a lighter Sierra Sesign. We could have done with just the Bibler; we only used the Sierra Design once on Mt Barff. In the Darrans, we did not take our tent. Most people use bivy caves (the two below Sabre are good), or huts. Probably best because of the keas. If you use a tent, you'll have to take it down and hide it under rocks/snow before leaving in the morning. The Bibler came in handy on Aspiring. We used the hut (Pioneer hut) on the Fox Glacier. Unless you are on snow, it is very difficult to find a proper site even for a very small tent: NZ mountains are covered in very thick tussock (tall grass) and the terrain is consistently steep. Also, no tent could stand up to a severe NZ winds storm.

Sleeping bags: we brought brand new 20°F-rated Marmot down bags with water-resistent shells, expecting to use our tent a lot. Since we ended up using huts on the higher peaks, much ligther bags would have been just fine (I would take a 35°F-rated bag into the highest huts during the summer season).

Guidebooks: Most guidebooks (with very limited info) are published by the New Zealand Alpine Club (NZAC). You can order them from the internet but it is best to buy locally as shipping is really expensive. NZAC members get significant discounts on books (about $15NZD discount per book) and hut fees. We bought a "family" membership and it paid for itself.
Visa: US and EU citizen can get a 3-months visa to NZ without any formalities. A 6-month tourist visa is also easy to obtain if you can show sufficent funds to support yourself and a return airplane ticket. It takes a couple of weeks to get the paperwork in order with your NZ consulate.
Money: It's easy to open a bank account, if you plan to (or claim to...) stay for at least a few months (I think 6 months is an unofficial minimum in most banks). Most hostels - if you stay with them for a few days - will agree to give you a certificate of residence at their address, which is required by banks to open an account. Beware of various banking fees (monthly account fees, ATM fees, transfer fees, ...) which - unlike in the US - can really add up. Shop around. We went with ASB's "Streamline" account and did not regret it. We made an internattional electronic transfer (free from our US bank account), then used ASB's ATM/debit card to pay for just about everything. Much cheaper than using a US bank/credit card.
Finding a car: Bying a car is probably the right choice if you're staying for more than two months. Formalities are almost inexistent in NZ (see next entry). Beware of scammers who prey on backpackers, selling them junk at high prices. Avoid "Backpackers' Auto Barn" in Auckland... bad vibes. Best to buy directly from a local, or another traveller. The car fair at the Ellerslie race course in Auckland is a popular place to look for a second hand vehicle, both with locals and travellers. There are also ads in every hostel, as well as popular internet sites such as Gumtree. Keep in mind that you will most likely be buying in the spring, when everyone else is buying and prices are higher, and trying to sell at the end of the summer when everyone is selling and the market is completely saturated... Two options to reduce the stress: buy something nicer and more expensive than average (i.e. not a backpacker's car) which gives you better chances of selling to a local when you leave, or buy something so cheap that even if you cannot sell it, you haven't done too much damage. You can get cheap cars in decent shape starting at around $1,000NZD, and vans for $2,000NZD and up. The fact that cars go through a mandatory inspection (see below) every 6 month should insure that it is at least safe to drive.

Car Formalities: Incredibly easy and cheap! Registering a car literally takes 5 minutes: stop by any post office with the previous owner (or just the certificate of ownership), fill in a form, pay a very small fee, done! The plates stay with the vehicle. Liability insurance can be purchased from some companies even if you are not a NZ resident. Small (shady?) operations offer month-by-month insurance; larger (more thrustworthy?) companies offer 6-month tourist contracts (we used AA and paid about $450NZD for a 6-month, non-refundable, liability-only policy).

Every 6 months, all vehicles must pass an inspection to obtain a "Warrant of Fitness" (WOF). Most garages as well as specialized inspection chains (such as VTNZ) offer this for a small fee. I'd stay away from garages... conflict of interest IMO. Things to be aware of are of course any safety-related issues such as brake systems, windshields, lights, tires, etc, but also any rust in structural areas of the body.

If you fail the inspection, you'll get a list of issues to take care of and you'll have one month to pass a re-inspection (for free). It is of course impossible to sell a car that does not have a current WOF. If you're buying for a couple months, try to get a vehicle with enough time left on its WOF to cover your stay, so that you won't have to worry about it before you sell it back.

Diesel is much less expensive in NZ than unleaded gas. However, all diesel-powered vehicle must pay a per-mile tax. This tax greatly reduces the effective price difference between gas and diesel (but does not eliminate it). Still, diesel-powered vehicles are much (about 30%) more efficient than gas-powered ones so they are a good deal, even after accounting for this tax. Miles can be purchased at any post office. You'll receive a sticker stating that your vehicle is good to go, up to a specific odometer reading, and which must be displayed in the windshield. If you go slightly over your allowance, no big deal, you can simply stop by a post office and pay later (although this is a violation; you could get stopped and fined by police). You'll need to be current on mileage charges when you sell the vehicle so there is no getting out of it anyway.

Cost of Living: At first, most things in NZ seemed to be a lot more expensive than in the US (in 2007; exhange rate at 0.75USD/NZD). Keep in mind, however, that taxes are always included in the prices, as are tips in restaurants. Overall, we found that we ended up spending about the same amount of money for day-to-day living in NZ (i.e. mostly groceries and gas) as we do in the US (this at a time when the US dollar was at an all-time low: $1NZD=$0.75USD). With a more typical exchange rate, NZ would seem relatively cheap to Americans.

Some things however, are much more expensive in NZ, in particular: laundromats, internet access, and climbing gear. Expect to pay between $2NZD and $4NZD for a cold wash, and $2NZD per 10 minutes of drying (most people air dry their clothes, but unless you are staying in a campgound, it is usually not an option). Free wireless access is almost unheard of in NZ. "Cheap" internet access typically runs $6NZD per hour. Backpacker hostels sometimes offers a daily or weekly rate which can be a good bargain (we've paid $10NZD per day or $40NZD per week). Climbing gear is unbelievably expensive. At the 0.75USD/NZD exchange rate when we were there (07/08 season), climbing gear was between 2 and 3 times more expensive than in the US, regardless of manufacture/origin.

There are four major supermarket chains in NZ: Pack'N Save, Woolworth, New World, and Food Town. Pack'N Save is typically the cheapest, but Woolworth and New World have better products and a more inviting atmosphere. Food Town is probably the most expensive. When we were there (2008), all 4 supermarkets were giving gas vouchers when you spent $40NZD or more (4¢ to 10¢ per gallon discount). The Warehouse is the NZ equivalent of Wal-Mart and is your ticket if you're looking for an icebox, water containers, pillows, and the like. The Plastic Box is another good place to find cheap plastic stuff. This is also the place to go if you need a cheap foam mattress for your van.

Dirtbagging : Dirt-bagging is remarkably easy, on both islands. If you're experienced with the US scene, it will seem like a breeze. We spent nights parked along beaches, in town parks, and even national parks, and have been bothered only once, when we spent the night at the botanical garden right smack in the middle of Christchurch! There are places with "no overnight parking" signs, but not that many, and enforcement did not seem very strict. Wanaka was more difficult, but we moved around and were able to find various spots around town...

Finding water is much easier than in the US. All gas stations have drinking water and don't mind if you refill your tanks. If you have holding tanks and/or porta-potties (we did), most towns have a public dump station, which is usually shown on better maps. Public toilets are everywhere.

Climbing Season : Roughly November through January, although we've heard that later in the season can be a better bet in the Darrans (locals told us that the more stable weather for this area typically comes in March). Routes on Cook are best early season, before the glaciers open up and rockfall becomes a severe issue on the very steep faces. Many snow/ice routes are out of condition by mid-january. Areas west of the divide (e.g. Fox Glacier) get more snow and remain in condition a bit later in the season. Routes on Mt Aspiring (both the NW and SW ridge) are also climbable later in the season (because of the nature of those routes and the fact that the glaciers are a bit easier).

For rock-climbing, be aware that many climbing areas are on private farmland and that access will usually be closed during lambing season (May through September).

Weather: Catching a good weather window is of course key for mountain climbing in any part of the world, but particularly so in NZ. Storms move in extremely quickly and can be fierce. You don't want to be out there in 150km/h winds... The good news is that 3-day weather windows are not that uncommon in summer, and that long-term weather forecasts are remarquably accurate.

Some of the better sources of weather info:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mt Aspiring, SW RidgeMt BarffTaranaki, East RidgeAvalanche PeakMt Rolleston, Otira SlideRuapehu, Skyline RidgeTongariro CrossingNgauruhoe, Regular RouteBowen-Allan Corner, Moir's MateCragging around Lake Taupo: Kinloch, Kawakawa Bay, and Whanganui BayAlpine Cragging on Mt Somers' basalt columnsCragging at Froggatt Edge and Waipapa

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Tourism is NZ's main economic activity, and unfortunately it shows a bit too much...
 
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Auckland skyline.
 
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Having mussels in a Belgian cafe in Mt Eden.
 
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NZ's national obsession: their "All Blacks" rugby team.
 
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One of NZ other icons...
 
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Eric cooking in our camper.
 
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Kiwi crossing!
 
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Camping at Spirits Bay near Cape Reinga.
 
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The "Hole in the Rock" in the Bay of Islands.
 
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Dolphin swimming by the boat we took to go to Urupukapuka island.
 
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Kiwis - NZ national bird.
 
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The most expensive 'biner we've ever seen. Come with all your climbing gear - it's so expensive in NZ!
 
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Spending the night at Port Jackson, Coromandel Peninsula.
 
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The Coromandel walkway. So green we could not believe our eyes!
 
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The Emerald Lakes, on the Tongariro Crossing.
 
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The classic Ngauruhoe volcano.
 
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The summit crater of Mt Ruapehu, the highest point in the North Island.
 
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Sign in downtown New Plymouth, an active surfer town dominated by the Mountain (Taranaki).
 
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High on the East Ridge of Taranaki.
 
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Downtown Wellington, NZ's capital.
 
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Ditto.
 
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Leaving Wellington on the ferry to Picton and the South Island.
 
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Sea kayaking near Abel Tasman National Park.
 
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Cape Farewell, the northernmost point of the South Island.
 
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Oceanside limestone cragging at Pohara.
 
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Kea (wild alpine parrot found only in NZ) on Avalanche Peak.
 
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The picturesque Matukituki valley in Aspiring National Park
 
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The Liverpool Bivy at the base of Mt Barff.
 
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The Paradiso, Wanaka's famous movie theatre (advertised in the Lonely Planet).
 
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The incredible SW ridge (RH skyline) of Mt Aspiring (Tititea), the most beautiful mountain of the Southern Alps.
 
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Cragging on basalt columns at Mt Somers.
 
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Overnight stop near Lake Pukaki.
 
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Lenticular clouds over the Tasman Glacier.
 
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In the Darrans, high on Moir's Mate, looking down at the Milford Sound road.
 
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The iconic Milford Sound - tourist hotspot nighmare.
 
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Helicopter picking a group of climbers on the Fox Glacier.
 
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Climbing the North shoulder of Mt Tasman (Lucie near the summit of Lendenfeld).
 
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Mt Tasman's classic ice arete, with Mt Cook in the background.
 
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Dowtown Dunedin, a lively student town.
 
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Seal and calf on the beach near Dunedin (click for movie - 10Mb).

New Zealand

September 20, 2007 - February 13, 2008