We spent just over 60 hours in total on buses for 3 months in New Zealand.
Spending so many hours on buses probably sounds horrific to you, but thanks to the bus drivers it was honestly enjoyable.
The bus rides with these New Zealand bus drivers felt more like long guide tours with travel guides who loved hearing the sound of their own voice than simply drive from point A to point B.
Every bus driver we traveled with had so many stories lined up for the whole ride, that they just simply wouldn’t shut up.
Not that we wanted them to, they would tell both funny and interesting history of the landscape that was passing by the windows as we toured around the South Island.
It just amazed me how someone can talk uninterruptedly for five+ hours straight without caring whether anyone listened or caring whether people wanted to hear him.
These men just talked and talked and talked, and without having to say a word they shared their own biography along with the history of New Zealand.
Our brains overwhelmed with so much information it was hard to remember it all, but one thing we got straight:
Everything Is World Famous in New Zealand
New Zealand must have the most ‘world famous things’ in the world..!
Every single village, including those so small you had passed it before the bus driver had even finished mentioning it, was world famous for something:
World famous for the biggest loaf of bread, world famous for the biggest cookie, world biggest L&P bottle (as if L&P was sold anywhere else?), you name it.
It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if someone one day said that New Zealand was world famous for having the most world famous things.
However, I’m not sure where they came up with saying everything is world famous, maybe the well known L&P slogan
*World Famous in New Zealand Since Ages Ago…* says it all!
Movie Locations in New Zealand
New Zealand has been a popular destination for making films since the 1970s.
Using New Zealand as a location for filming has spiked in popularity in the last fifteen or so years.
Best of all, it’s easy to visit many of these spectacular movie locations in New Zealand.
Begin your journey through cinematic history, start by looking at what car rental New Zealand has to offer, pick your vehicle and get ready to roll.
The Last Samurai
Watching Tom Cruise’s the Last Samurai; it would be difficult to tell that the filming took place in New Zealand and not in Japan.
This movie was released in 2003 and centres around the traumatised American Captain Nathan Algren who, in 1876, agrees to train conscripts for the new Japanese Meiji government.
Algren is captured in battle and begins to embrace the culture of the Samurai he was initially hired to destroy.
During the filming, Mount Taranaki made a nice stand-in for Mount Fiji in Japan. According to Maori legend, the mount once lived with other volcanoes on North Island, but fell in love with a hill called Pihanga.
The hill was the wife of another volcano, Tongariro and, after a fiery battle, Taranaki was exiled from the central region.
His tears were responsible for creating the Whenganui River as he fled to his current location.
This is also a great place to learn and interact with native Maori tribes.
There are eight tribes that still live in the region, and many experiences combine adventure with traditional Maori practises, such as going for a waka ride and following it up with a quad bike ride through native bush.
The Chronicles of Narnia
While much of the adaptation of this famous and beloved book, the first in a series, was filmed on a stage, several locations around New Zealand were used for outdoor scenes.
The movie tells the story of two children who are magically transported into the fantasy land of Aotearoa and become embroiled in a battle between the brave lion Aslan and the frosty White Witch.
Locations such as Woodhill Forest, which was used for the White Witch’s camp, were used in the movie.
Other New Zealand locations
Just 90 minutes from Christchurch, this area was used for the Great Battle
South of Dunedin, the castle of Cair Paravel was superimposed on the cliff tops of this beautiful coast.
This ancient outcropping of rocks became Aslan’s Camp in 2004.
The town of Oamaru nearby makes a great base for exploring the area.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Perhaps the most well-known movie filmed in the area is the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The tales of the hobbit and the Fellowship of the Ring against the vile forces of Sauron and the machinations of the One Ring are well-known to movie and fantasy buffs everywhere.
There were many locations used to film the movie.
New Zealand Movie Location highlights
Used as the hobbit village, Hobbiton, you can still peek into the hobbit holes that remain.
This was the location of the iconic Pillars of the Kings on the Anduin River, though the pillars were computer generated.
Remember the creepy swamp with the floating dead? That was in fact the Kepler Mire wetlands of Te Anau.
The treacherous Misty Mountains of Middle Earth the Fellowship tried to pass through in the Fellowship of the Rings were actually the Southern Alps.
The Shotover River at Skippers Canyon
This is where the elf Arwen defeated the ringwraiths.
Tongariro National Park
You might know this World Heritage site better as Mordor.
Fortunately, one can simply walk into Tongariro.
This active volcano is gorgeous.
It was also the body double for Mount Doom.
With so many great films having made such extensive use of New Zealand’s beautiful natural resources, movie fans will love being able to visit the shooting locations of their favourite flicks.
Such a visit is sure to create memories that will last a lifetime.
On our way down to Queenstown we stopped over for a night in Tekapo.
It’s a small village with only 300 inhabitants, set 750 meters above sea level.
It’s the closest village to Mt Cook, the highest mountain in South Pacific, and the night sky in this place is out of this world!
At a place this high up and no city lights to lighten the sky, you could see so many stars that there is almost no space between them.
I woke up to go out for a pee in the middle of the night, and as I looked up I thought I was still dreaming.
First I just stood there for a few minutes looking up, thinking it was my sleepy eyes that was duplicating everything.
Then after I rubbed them and it wouldn’t go away I realized that what I saw was real.
Exploring The New Zealand Night Sky
For some reason I thought it would disappear from me any minute, so I threw myself back into the tent shaking Nathan ferociously, almost in panic, to wake him up and come out to see it.
I have never experienced something so amazing since, and any pictures you see really can’t do it justice!
What made Tekapo such a beautiful place was the lake. It had the most amazing color of turquoise.
Milky, thick and bright.
It looked very tempting, but turned out (after I had a dip) that it was only 8 degrees COLD!!!
More about this next week – have a wonderful weekend & see you here again on Monday!
24 Hours in Christchurch, New Zealand
Christchurch, also known as the garden city, is one of the oldest cities in New Zealand.
It’s a small city with a lot to offer and a great balance between outdoor life, culture and shopping.
9 am – Power-Start Breakfast
Start the day with a power-start breakfast at the Lotus-Heart Cafe, a cafe which has a focus on healthy eating and strives to create a global cuisine naturally.
You will find it in Cathedral Square, on Colombo Street, where you can also get a close up view of the wonderful Christchurch Cathedral.
10 am – Smell The Roses
The best way to understand why Christchurch has its nickname as the garden city is to simply go to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens – which is FREE.
It’s a beautiful park to walk around, smell the gigantic flowers and admire the massive trees.
The best part for me was the rose garden, which included a wide variety of flowers.
You will find many chances to practice your nature photography.
11 am – The Canterbury Museum
After a nice walk in the gardens, make sure you stop by the front gate and have a look inside the Canterbury Museum.
Where once inside you will have a chance to learn the history of the local area and it’s Maori culture.
12 pm – The Arts Center – Shoppers Delight
Visit the arts center, where you will find a maze of over 40 specialty shops, workshops and galleries.
Also every Friday there is a farmers market and on Saturdays it’s the weekend market where the square is packed with over 80 stalls selling all from hand made bags to food from all corners of the world.
1 pm – Window Shopping & Natural *Legal* Drugs
Walking around central Christchurch, will give you a chance to do some window shopping.
Take a look into the Cosmic Corner shop where they sell legal drugs.
Which are natural, legal and claim to give you a similar feeling to real drugs… interesting!
2 pm – Chicken or Vegetarian Sushi?
A great lunch option is sushi. It’s around almost every street corner, and there are so many varieties to choose between, all from chicken to vegetarian sushi.
The quality of the sushi in New Zealand is in general really good as well.
5 pm – Beach Walking At Brighton Beach
Spend the afternoon at the beach, relaxing in the afternoon sun (which is the best time to be out at the beach in NZ, without getting too burnt), walk along the beach and enjoy the waves.
7 pm – Get Fat @ ‘Two Fat Indians’
Have some curry at the Two Fat Indians Restaurant, which serves up great food for an amazing price.
This is some real Indian food, so don’t ask for spicy, Nathan made this mistake and it was HOT! – but great!
They have great lunch offers as well, so if you like to eat early you can get a great deal before 3 pm.
8 pm – Tequila or Coffee To End The Day?
Check out the SOL square (the hub of South of Lichfield), an alley full of bars and cafes, decorated with some cool street art.
In this part of town you will find a little something for everyone.
If you have a spare day:
If you have a spare day in Christchurch I recommend checking out the Port Hills.
It’s a beautiful place with the best view over the city, the ocean and all the way over to the Southern Alps.
It’s a perfect place for a picnic, go for a walk or enjoy some mountain biking.
This is where you can find many locals hanging out in the weekends. Hope you have a great time exploring Christchurch New Zealand!
Weird Light in Limestone Cave, Punakaiki, New Zealand
This photo was taken while we were exploring limestone caves in Punakaiki on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
I think its amazing what nature itself can create and share with us in the most random of moments.
How We Survived Camping In A Broken Tent For 3 Months In New Zealand
We were more than eager to leave Sweden for our road trip, so as soon as we thought we had enough money to survive for a while we packed our bags and left.
We didn’t really know what to expect, but figured that time would tell. And pretty soon, it did.
If I would have known before we left what lay before us I’m not sure I would have left so soon.
The trip was amazing, but the thought of traveling for 3 months in a broken tent doesn’t sound very appealing.
Well, I’m glad I didn’t know, because it was a crazy experience that I learned a lot from and I wouldn’t have changed one bit of it – although I may not have felt that way back then.
We realized how 6,000 US dollars each to last us around the world for 8 months wasn’t quite as much as we initially thought, and New Zealand also turned out to be a bit more expensive than we were expecting.
We refused to have come all this way escaping a slavery job in Sweden, only to continue to the next in New Zealand.
We swore we would make this work no matter what.
So we were dedicated to find the cheapest way to travel around New Zealand, which for us turned out to be by bus and a 2-man tent.
I had never gone camping in my life, and neither of us knew anything about tents or the camp life. Since our minds were just installed on finding the best deal, we found a tent called ‘Frank’.
The name and the price tag made it an easy decision, Frank would be our home for the next few months.
When we went to buy the tent, the salesman first looked very puzzled, and then he broke out in a laugh.
He said that this tent was so bad they usually gave it away for free when buying another tent and was used for the kids as a playhouse.
He also said that the staff crew had made a deal; if anyone managed to SELL the tent, he would have to buy everyone in the staff a beer – that’s how lousy the tent was.
And that’s – obviously, how good our judgement was…
The best thing traveling around a country with a tent is that it’s cheap, you won’t have to bother about hostel manners, and you’re always assured to get a ‘private’.
What was not so fun was to pack up and down our house every single day.
Not to mention carrying 7 kilos of metal bars and fabric around everywhere, to wake up shaking in the cold, and to evacuate from it whenever it over flooded in the rain.
Backpacking around with a tent showed us a whole new side of New Zealand.
We were able to stay in places we wouldn’t have been able to do before, and we were forced to spend most of our days outside.
But what was the most important lesson was learning how to live so close to your partner 24/7.
We had to create some alone-time from each other while sharing a space of 2 x 2 x 1,5 m.
The most important things we did to be able to survive without killing each other and tearing down the already broken tent, was to look at it all from a perspective.
Laughing at yourself is the best cure to everything.
Laughing at your situation, and finding every little positive thing about what you’re doing.
Look at the possibilities and ignore the bad sides, even if it might be difficult sometimes.
My List Of Best New Zealand Road Trip Music!
There we were, in my old pimped out car from -84, driving in the afternoon sun with the windows turned down.
Everything was just about as perfect as a road trip could be (except we didn’t have surfboards on the rooftop, but that didn’t matter much).
There was however something missing, something VERY important.
Where was Phantom Planet and Janis Joplin?! Our road trip had suddenly turned into a dull trip-with-the-car.
You can’t go on a roadtrip with Jay Z and Katie Melua as your only music, road trip music MAKES the trip for god’s sake, singing along to good old songs about cars and travels, with your feet sticking out the window.
A road trip without proper road trip-music is like a fish’n chips without the chips!
With this list IN hand I hope I can save you from making the same mistake.
Here Is My Fav. Road Trip Music List:
- Highway to Hell – ACDC
- Animal – Nickleback
- Born To be Wild – Steppenwolf
- Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf
- I’m Like A Bird – Nelly Furtado
- Radar Love – Golden Earring
- Mercedes Benz – Janis Joplin
- California – Phantom Planet
- Baby you can drive my car – Beatles
- It’s still rock and roll to me – Billy Joel
- Low Rider – War
- Start me up – Rolling Stones