Laura Gardner, run and nordic expert at Skirack went to New Zealand for two and a half weeks in February of this year (2018). We asked her some questions pertaining to her trip to find out what part she enjoyed the most and her some tips on travel and gear.
Where did you go, when, and for how long?
I went to New Zealand for two and a half weeks in February of this year (2018).
What made you decide to go here?
I've always seen pictures of the scenery and fell in love with the mountains. A friend of mine approached me over the summer saying they were planning to go for a few weeks in February and I asked if I wanted to join. It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.
What was your favorite day or moment?
During the first week of the trip we had a day hike planned in Abel Tasman National Park. There was rain in the forecast, but we were hopeful it would clear since the weather can turn in the drop of the hat. It ended up being a torrential downpour that resulted in 4-5 inches of rain coming down on us that day. Because of all the rain, there were hundreds of little waterfalls covering the sides of the cliffs that most people don't get to see. It was also our first time getting to see the silver fern which is the national symbol for New Zealand.
We had an awesome lunch at a place along the trail where I was able to change in to some nice dry Ibex tights. To get back to the cars, we had the option of taking a catamaran which would take roughly 45 minutes to an hour or take an 18 person water taxi ride across Tasman Bay that would only take about 20 minutes.
We opted for the choppy ride across the Bay in the water taxi and it was an experience and a half! The front half of the boat was enclosed which I knew wasn't going to work for me since I sometimes get motion sickness. I sat off the back of the boat with the guides to get some fresh air and to be able to see the all the islands as we passed.
As soon as all the boat got moving, all the water from the roof of the boat came cascading off and on to our laps. All I could do was laugh at the irony that I was about only person to bring dry clothes and was getting soaked to the bone.
This started a theme for the trip that any time we were near water, I was bound to get soaked. Our boat churned it's way through 6 foot waves as we hooted and hollered from the drops and getting splashed by the waves. I was fairly certain the dry wool tights I had just put on were now going to be a permanent part of my body because of how drenched I was, but it was easily one of the more memorable and fun days of the trip.
Despite the weather, not a single one of the 16 people in our group had a bad thing to say about the day. The day was an absolute blast and I wouldn't have changed a thing.
What gear did you use that worked the best?
My Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Jacket was an essential piece for this trip. I would fold it up in to its own pocket and throw it in bag everyday just in case. The Salomon XT Wings Trail shoes (updated trail shoe is the Salomon XA Elevate) helped to keep me on my feet on all the wet trails we encountered. Darn Tough Socks were a part of every days outfits. They were the saving grace for helping keeping my feet a little warm on the hike where everything was soaked. My Maloja ArnikaM. mountain bike shorts were a great cross over piece for trying to keep my bags light. I hiked, bungee jumped, and toured breweries in those shorts without looking like I was wearing an athletic piece.
I would highly recommend CEP compression socks for the long flights. I did end up spraining my ankle of the last day of the trip and they were a life saver for helping speed up the recovery during a 12 hour flight. My Hydroflask water bottle came with me everywhere. The 32oz size was perfect for traveling without because it fit in the side pockets of my backpack without being too heavy.
Did you learn anything from your trip?
I am someone who is a perpetual over packer an focused really hard on not bringing more gear than I needed. Despite my best efforts, there were still some pieces I never wore or used. I'd never taken a trip that long before and it so it was valuable to see how long a couple good pieces of gear can last you. My Ibex wool zip up was a piece a wore almost every day with the cool mornings and evening. I also spent a couple of days rocking my Skirack staff Tasc Performance shirt. The bamboo really did stay fairly wrinkle free and stink proof after multiple uses.
Any challenges, mistakes, or something that you should have done differently?
The only thing that went poorly was spraining my ankle on the last full day of the trip. I definitely learned to always bring on ace bandage on hikes and big trips for now on! You never know when something like that might come in handy. It's also a good idea to occasionally look down when hiking on new trails so you don't accidentally step on a hole when you're taking in the scenery. I would also love to go back an do some mountain biking. On this trip, we opted to hike whenever we had some unplanned time, but the mountain bike trails looked like a blast.
Our second night in New Zealand we got to have dinner with some friends from college who happen to be living in Wellington at the moment. We spent the night having fish and chips at local park on the water then learned some good New Zealand slang over a couple of pitchers of beer.
There are so many amazing places to visit in New Zealand you really need at least 2 weeks in the country to do it right, but you could easily spend a month traveling around and still barely scratch the surface of all the things you can do there. We had so many memorable days, but by far the ones I'll never forget were the hike in Abel Tasman, our morning cruise around Milford Sound, and bungee jumping at the Kawarau Bridge where commercial bungee jumping started.