by Jeff and Louise Davis
Special to the Sequim Gazette
When we retired in 2007, we decided to start with a bang, a one-year trip that would include a tandem bike ride from Key West to Canada. We advertised our condo for rent and found a couple who were perfect but wanted our place for 18 months. Where could we spend a second winter after having seen more than enough of Florida? Aha! New Zealand! It’s summer there during our winter!
The renters agreed to stay 22 months and we got busy gathering maps and guidebooks. However, that long flight across the Pacific was a damper on our enthusiasm until one day we stumbled onto the fact that there are cruise ships that reposition from the Pacific Northwest to Australia and New Zealand, and at attractively lower fares. There was no lack of enthusiasm after that!
And so we arrived by ship in Auckland in October 2008, after 29 days at sea. It was mid-spring and we looked forward to exploring the country on our tandem bike, as we had just finished doing in the eastern U.S. We befriended a local who took us for a hike north of town. The hike was incredibly beautiful, lush and green and filled with sheep that looked familiar and trees that looked unlike anything we’d ever seen before. But the drive there and back was frightful enough by car, a nightmare for a bicycle. The roads were almost entirely shoulderless, busy, curvy and dishearteningly hilly.
And so it happened that we discovered how fantastic New Zealand is for hiking. For four months we rented a small car and drove to almost every corner of the country, hiking any trail that was billed as being under four hours out-and-back. We did pull out the tandem and cycled down the west coast of the much-less-populated South Island for some 700 miles. We think we had the best of both ways of exploring.
We can’t say enough about the beauty of New Zealand or the high quality of its trails. From dense forests dominated by gigantic kauri trees to lava tubes on a volcanic island in Auckland’s harbor, from sea caves on the coast to trails cut by gold miners in the hills, we found great hiking at every bend. Our bike trip was equally grand and brought us from wave-pounded beaches on the Tasman Sea through the rain forests of the Southern Alps to a rain shadow community that is drier than Sequim.
We’ll highlight our talk with particular emphasis on our favorite five hikes, but we’ll also discuss some of the shorter hikes and that 700-mile tandem ride and close with some practical information on New Zealand’s extensive “backpacker” (hostel) network and its modest cost of living for travelers.
About the presenters:
Jeff and Louise Davis have lived in Washington 20-30 years. Both worked at the University of Washington and used to take 2-4 week bike trips on their summer vacations. They kicked off retirement in 2007 with a 2-year trip, five months of which was spent hiking and biking around New Zealand. They’ve each bicycled more than 100,000 miles, of which 60,000 has been on their tandem.