New Zealand—Land of Wild Adventure

Milford Trek, New Zealand; Photograph by Spencer Scott, Your Shot

Two of my great passions are outdoor adventure and travel. When I can combine the two, well, that’s heaven. I find it particularly entertaining when I’m in a foreign land and have to learn a new vocabulary and a different perspective on outdoor pursuits.

Take New Zealand, for example. Kiwis are notorious outdoorspeople with a healthy streak of daredevil. They invented bungee jumping, after all. Who would think of such a thing? They also came up with jetboating. And zorbing—where you’re strapped into a hollow plastic ball and sent tumbling downhill at high speed. Whaaaat? Like I said, Kiwis like to live a bit on the edge.

My husband and I once spent two months exploring the South Island in a van. A very small van, mind you. It was the kind of experience that could make or break a relationship. Fortunately we came out of it unscathed—enhanced, in fact.

When you go to New Zealand, you have to acquaint yourself with a few things that might seem a bit strange. The sky is upside down, so the stars are different. Water spins down the drain in the opposite direction. And they use funny terms for things. Ever heard of a flat white? That’s Kiwi for latte. Want bangers and mash for dinner? That’s sausage and mashed potatoes. Your friend is a bloke. “Bob’s your uncle” means everything is alright. If you’re buggered, you’re exhausted.

And there’s a whole set of outdoor terminology to wrap your head around. Do you like to go tramping? That’s hiking or backpacking. And you do it on walking tracks, not trails. You might go camping in a caravan park (kind of like an RV park). Freedom camping is when you find your own spot. Better pack a jumper—and not jumper cables. I mean a sweater.

There are also times when you say the right word, but aren’t understood. One time we stopped at a gas station and asked for some ice. The attendant looked confused. I repeated the request. And again. And again. I finally had to describe “frozen blocks of water.” The guy said, “Oh, you mean oyce!” We got a pretty good chuckle out of that one. Same word, totally different pronunciation.

One thing is for certain: I highly recommend a jaunt to New Zealand before you’re pushing up daisies (i.e., dead and buried). But you have to realize that it rains—a lot. You’re going to get wet. When we were there, it rained almost every day for five weeks straight. Did I mention that we were living in a very small van?

Coming from Colorado, I had a tough time fully embracing the wet at first. I remember heading out on a multi-day “tramp” (that’s backpacking for those of you who weren’t paying attention earlier) and gingerly hopping across the first stream. It was a nice effort but totally unnecessary. By the end of four days, I was so used to being drenched, I walked through rivers without a second thought.

There are huts dispersed throughout the backcountry. At first blush, these seem like great shelter for those who aren’t inclined to sleep on the ground. We packed our tent and declared that we would not set foot in a hut. Ha! Remember what I said about the rain? After a particularly soggy night, we realized the huts are great. You can build a fire, cook a meal, dry your clothes, and swap a few stories. You just have to embrace the camaraderie.

And there are the bugs. New Zealand has lots of sand flies, whose bites both hurt and itch—a lot. It doesn’t take long to figure out you need plenty of bug spray. And if you’re dropping trow, better do it quickly! The mosquitoes weren’t too bad—except for one time we call “the mosquito incident.” We woke up one night in our van to discover that—despite the windows being closed—the car was filled with thousands of the buzzing pests. They weren’t biting, but the sound was enough to drive us mad. To this day, I’m still not sure what was going on. We ended up smashing so many mosquitoes against the van walls, it took hours to clean the smears.

I say all of this with great fondness. It’s often the amusing mishaps that stick in the memory banks. Where’s the adventure if everything goes perfectly? Funny vocabulary and rainy weather aside, New Zealand is an incredibly beautiful place. There are few countries in the world where the landscape is so stunning, and changes so dramatically so quickly. You can drive three hours and pass from high mountains to coastal rain forest to glacier. It’s amazing.

The people are great, too. They have lots of beautiful outdoor spaces to explore, and they’re happy to share them. One time we rolled up to my cousin’s friend’s house with hardly any notice, and he took us on a four-hour ATV tour of his ranch. It was living, breathing Middle Earth. To top it off, we got to herd sheep at the end.

My advice? Combine travel and outdoor adventure as much as you can—whether a few hours from home or across the globe. And do it with an open mind. The less expectation you have, the more receptive you are to whatever a place offers. You might get a little uncomfortable at times, but you never know—you might find yourself absolutely captivated by something you didn’t anticipate.

Avery Stonich is communications manager for Outdoor Industry Association. Follow us on twitter: @OIA and @averystonich







  1. Partha Mandal
    Jodhpur Rajasthan
    January 23, 2013, 4:38 am

    Really New Zealand is an incredibly beautiful place and enjoying and experiencing such a adventurous things like bungee jumping, jet boating etc there makes our trip enjoyable, happening and unforgettable too.

  2. Natania
    January 24, 2013, 6:42 am

    Im from NZ and I just learnt the word bangers from you. Never knew that one 🙂

  3. Claris Rousey
    January 28, 2013, 7:53 am

    Wow, its terrific. I always really wanted to try bungee jumping so jealous of the people who are able to do it.

    Stickley Winter Sale

  4. litty
    January 28, 2013, 11:05 pm

    I am apreciating it very much! Looking forward to another great article. Good luck to the author! all the best!Cheap Wall Stickers

  5. Jonathan Boone
    United States
    January 29, 2013, 12:55 am

    First of all I would like to congratulate you for writing a blog about what seems like a real experience of New Zealand, and you have succeeded in continuing to build my excitement for my future travel to NZ. I found your post quite entertaining as I have met a handful of Kiwis here in California, and when I ask them about their accents and regional dialects, they provided me with some interesting one of which was the “Jumper” mentioned. All of these encounters have been in the same environment, that environment being the ski slope, one particular kiwi skied with us all day and I picked his brain about my plan to go to Australia to work on a ski resort the following summer. He just said “no no no, you wont make as much money, but go to new zealand.” This made me reconsider my change of plan (I originally planned on NZ), especially after my conversations with him about his native land, much of which mirrors your own assessment of the land and culture. So all in all… good job and I am jealous.

  6. sassy
    London via Wellington
    January 29, 2013, 3:44 pm

    buffered, bloke and bangers & mash are British! kiwis have a lot of Virginians! nice article though!

  7. sassy
    London via Wellington
    January 29, 2013, 3:45 pm

    I meant Britishisms but auto correct said Virginians. apologies

  8. Annie
    February 13, 2013, 8:36 pm

    Lovely article tinged with good humour.
    I am from NZ, we do talk funny. A Latte is a Latte here. A Flat white is 1/3 coffee, 2/3 milk with lots of froth, smaller than a Latte.

  9. maheswar haldar
    February 16, 2013, 2:38 am

    Really you can too close of nature in newzealand.

  10. Ratan Siddique
    Dhaka, Bangladesh
    February 16, 2013, 8:07 am

    It’s really beautiful place in New Zealand, I am inspired when I saw the photograph, A man walking alone in the street many of the oldest trees are saying “welcome dear Spencer scott”

  11. ORsum
    February 25, 2013, 1:57 am

    Waoow. I live in NZ too but even I learnt a few things. Never knew that bungee was invented here? lolz. well Jet boating is great. But my favorite is Milford sound in the South. Its serene, untouched and just…….beautifull. Wanaka and Queenstown are great azwell but It can be hectic during busy season.

    But it was a great article. I really enjoyed it 🙂

  12. August Samora
    March 9, 2013, 10:56 am

    Awesome! It looks just like in the movies, lord of the ring or the hobbit. A friend of mine from NZ also told me some good places. Looking forward to finally go to NZ one day.

  13. Max Maier
    March 23, 2013, 7:39 am

    Great Post, I like NZ so much. its the greatest place on the world to be. looking forward to your next adventure. I will visit NZ very soon to see how about Stevia

  14. Michi Mueller
    Germany, Munich
    April 21, 2013, 8:07 am

    Yeah NZ its the greatest place to be and thats a very nice post about it. i want to go there the fourth time again to visit all the things like Stevia