LatestExploring My New Home

Exploring My New Home

Emily Ford
Emily Ford
Emily has travelled from Washington State, USA to study Environmental Science and Geology at the University of Otago. Her love for nature is sure to make her blogs beautiful as well as interesting.

Three days after arriving, I strategically strapped up my backpack and said goodbye to my empty flat.

Many are drawn to New Zealand to witness the unbelievable scenery from cinematic Middle Earth. I, too, was seeking the outdoor adventures offered by this environmentally diverse country.

Like many other travellers, I was inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing, “It is dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road and if you don’t keep to your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to…”

Escaping the rain, I hopped on the bus to Queenstown. First, we drove through rolling hills with grazing sheep. We climbed higher, and green grass became rare as tussock and rocky outcrops took over. Soon, we were driving along the top of a steep gorge, cutting through the mountains.

Extreme Sports Country

I only spent a day and a half in Queenstown. Some people may be adrenaline junkies, but I was overwhelmed by commercial advertisements. Crowded streets, and in-your-face signs, “GET WET canyoneering” and “HELI-hikes” and “HIGHEST BUNGEE JUMP FREE FALL.” I sought a different kind of heart-pumping challenge.

I decided to do a solo, 5/6 day tramp (NZ word for a hike) through the mountains from Queenstown to Wanaka.

back-country-hutSpectacular Walking

After spending the night on the lakeshore, I meandered up to Arrowtown, a quieter, smaller, and more historic town.

Beginning at a famous gold panning site, (and also a Lord of the Rings filming site) I sloshed through 20 river crossings, up the valley, towards Macetown.

I spent my first night in a gold mining ghost-town, already enjoying the peace and quiet of New Zealand’s plentiful, empty space.

The next three days were full of steep ups and downs on the Motutapu trek.

I met other travellers from around the world when we stayed in well-maintained huts for the nights. However, at one point, I went 24 hours without seeing another human.


And there is no shortage of stunning scenery.

I spent most of my time on high, rocky ridges, sometimes descending into Beech forests. I saw rainbows down in the valleys and snowy peaks high in the distance.  

And finally, I made it to Lake Wanaka’s shores.

I spent a few days in town recovering. My discovery of “Cinema Paradiso” was a godsend. It is a movie theatre with couches, pillows, and even an antique car to sit in. At intermission, they serve fresh, gooey cookies.


Next, my wandering self ended up in the small town of Fox Glacier after a beautiful drive through the Southern Alps.

I decided to splurge a little and go skydiving, over the mountains, glaciers, plains, and Tasman Sea.

There are many skydiving companies in New Zealand, but I must recommend Skydive Fox. I hiked on the glacier and saw glowworms in the rainforest.


Watched the sunrise over New Zealand’s highest peak and the sunset over the Tasman Sea.

I decided to settle in for a couple of weeks, working at an inn for room and board exchange.

It was nice to get to know a place, instead of passing through with a touristy checklist. I discovered lesser-known hikes, got to know the locals, and found a place beside Dunedin to call home.



But eventually, it was time to move on.

I spent a few days hiking in sunny Arthur’s Pass, startled every time a Kea—the beautiful, and annoying, alpine parrot—landed on my tent.

 I visited a friend in Christchurch and took a bus back to Dunedin.

A big circle, through Otago, the West Coast, and Canterbury regions. Some wonderful, safe, and exciting travels.

It was easy to get around and I met friendly, interesting people everywhere I went. I learned so much about New Zealand, as well as other people’s experiences around the world.

Whether it’s due to the scenery, or welcoming locals, New Zealand is a place where people easily come together. 

And to think school hasn’t even started yet…

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