Verfasst von: rbontour | Dezember 1, 2010

Massive Glaciers Amidst Palm Trees & Encounters That Matter

It seems like we entered „Fantasyland“ since we tour through New Zealand. We may repeat ourselves, but this piece of earth is so unique that it makes us feel like „Alice in Wonderland“. It’s not just so remarkably picturesque, it’s also so pure with waters like mirrors, rivers so clear, fjords so deep and dramatic, lakes so blue, and mountain peaks so majestic that it can make you literally cry, laugh and jump in the air all at once (of what we heard, female travelers tend to cry a bit easier than their male counterparts).

We have taken 1000s of photos so far, but no camera in the world can capture these breathtaking all-encompassing 360 degree views. We even started reading through our camera’s manual for the first time (after 4 months being on the trip… how stupid:-)). But we came to realize that these landscapes must be personally experienced and absorbed to understand the full beauty of it.

Fact is, it will be extremely hard for us to leave this country. We already changed our flights; we extended our stay over here and shortened our second stay in Australia… For us, it was worth it.

The tropical glaciers
Nowhere on this planet can you marvel at glaciers that still flow almost to sea level. You can walk right to the terminal face (the end of the glacier at the bottom). We visited the two most famous Kiwi glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox. We expected to see pine trees and lots of snow – as we know it from our European glaciers. Instead, while hiking at Franz Josef we felt like walking through a rainforest… a rainforest next to ice?! The glaciers in New Zealand are surrounded by moss, ferns and trees that look like palm trees. Our hiking trail (Robert Point Track), which was quite steep and ensured another muscle ache (one out of many we had in New Zealand so far), lead us through a jungle and suddenly, after hiking 3 hours, there it was before us – the massive ice!

And what’s so fascinating – this ice is still growing. You constantly hear that glaciers all over the world are retreating. Well, that’s not the case for Fox and Franz. They normally grow about 1m per day and sometimes even 5m per day. Glaciers in Switzerland advance 10 times slower…. Isn’t that just staggering?

Free wonders & national pride
What we also like about this country is that all the scenic highlights are so easily accessible and completely free of charge. One third of New Zealand, meaning more than five million hectares of land mass, is protected in national parks (14 national parks, 3 maritime parks and 2 marine reserves). And you will not find anyone demanding money for it. In Australia, for instance, we were often forced to sign up for outrageously expensive tours (e.g., Whitsunday Island Cruises, Fraser Island) as otherwise you wouldn’t have been able to access the sight of interest. Over here, we hardly need to book any tours – all the Great Walks of this country, the numerous tramping tracks or the awesome mountain bike trails are just off the road. You go and enjoy! The only thing the DOC (department of conservation) sometimes asks for is a simple donation to maintain a track, toilet facilities or swing bridge. You would just find a discreetly situated donation box right next to the starting point of a trekking track – so it’s not a “must”.

BTW: We wouldn’t wonder if one day the entire country will be declared a National Park!

New Zealanders love tourists – they are very open, hospitable and exceptionally helpful. They love their country (ha, ha, we wonder why!!), they love to share it with you and they really take their time to give you the best travel tips ever. We are not talking about the guys in the tourist information center; we mean the locals we bump into at a picnic area or on a campsite. The best thing: you don’t even have to ask many questions… they will just tell you their stories voluntaril. Well, Kiwis are understandably proud of this nation, but in a very friendly way – not in an arrogant or conceited way.

What’s also remarkable is the extensive amount of free tourist literature available in every town or village. You cannot only pick up the usual commercialized brochures, but also detailed street maps, hiking maps, vouchers and entire guide books for backpackers, B&B travelers or campers. When it comes to “tourism-friendliness”, many other countries could take the Kiwis as a good example. After all, other developed (!) countries have tourism as one of their main industries as well.

More than lines & dots on a world map
Some general thoughts: We are blessed to be on this trip and blessed, because we were able to travel before going on this „big journey“ – thanks to German employment laws. It’s simply fact that in Germany you usually have between 25 and 35 days of vacation per year… a benefit we often forgot to value until we started to live abroad, where we met people from all over the world, who could not imagine having this kind of „freedom“ in their countries.

Therefore, we are absolutely aware that for some our enormous trip and all the experiences may sound incomprehensible. And believe it or not, we sometimes feel the same, but we really are appreciating this opportunity everyday anew.

When we two talk about the journey, look at our world map to mark the countries and detailed routes we have covered so far, it may look meaningless and simple for another person… just a bunch of lines and dots. However, to us a tiny line or dot on this map represents innumerable and unforgettable encounters with people and different cultures – as well as challenges, enthusiasm, emotions, problem-solving, obstacles, going to our limits, disappointments, and triumphs.

Encounters that matter
Consequently, it’s often the people we meet on our journey that make a difference.  There is no doubt, landscapes are impressive, but we are “social beings” as the Dalai Lama says. “It’s hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.” (We are not starting to make our blog sound too spiritual, but a nice guy J recently reminded us of this truly wise quote we have almost forgotten… and we found it fits into our journey).

We are lucky and happy that we travel together; we have great talks and plan everything together as a team. Still, once and a while we miss truthful conversations with our family and friends. In both cities, Tauranga and Nelson, we were able to have some of these honest conversations (with others) we have been missing for a while… conversations about life and the world in general.  To our great surprise, we were invited to spend a couple of days with friends of the family (Brigitte’s grandmother) and friends we have met during our travels (Cook Islands). Our hosts not only invited us to stay with them at their home (to get a break from camping life), they also pampered us like kings and queens. Thank you Inge & Friedhelm as well as Alja & Sina – you have made our Kiwi experience even better and we so much appreciate and enjoyed our time together.

PS: Alja and Sina, we can’t wait to (hopefully) catch up in Vietnam next year!


  1. Found Nature, huh?!?!? Enjoy!

    • A hello from Rainycastle,

      just read your latest trip experience and – as almost everytime – I am impressed. Impressed by what and who you discovered so far and that you are still in an incredible good traveling mood.
      Just look at yourselfs on the pictures you shot. Your are looking always so happy. And you share that remarkable happiness with us. And each time I read your articles I feel (and sometimes suffer but not very often) with you.
      So, thank you very much again for sharing your experiences and happiness with us.
      Wish you the best for the upcoming destinations.

      Loving regards,


      PS: Germany is right now under heavy snow attack. 20cm powder and growing…

  2. Hallo Ihr zwei Hübschen, wenn ich das alles so lese könnte ich heulen und ich weiß: eines Tages kommen wir da auch hin in dieses wunderschöne Land in das ich schon seit 20 Jahren reisen will. Bleibt gesund

  3. Hello Brigitte and Robert, took some time to read your 2nd blog from lovely and majestic New Zealand. I can imagine it’s hard to leave this country by looking to all your pictures, but I always say if it is like this, then “someone” wants you to come back at some point during your life :-). The growth of Fox & Franz is something I really didn’t know, as I had same feeling all glaciers melting down. Yes the German vacation days amount is something great as you know “we all go and enjoy” unfortunately not to New Zealand. And my final comment is that your world trip is not only “lines & dots” but its more, I hope you have lots to talk when you are back to share all your experience with us. Take good care for both of you, best Dad.

    • Thanks, Dad ;-))) Surely will have lots to talk – as always 😉

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