Be adventurous and try out New Zealand
Ben McPartland discovers a variety of adventures in the adrenaline fuelled island nation so supporters are not left twiddling their thumbs between matches at the Rugby World Cup
�Around 25,000 presumably deep-pocketed supporters from the UK and Ireland are expected to fly halfway around the world just to watch a few games of rugby. And they would be foolish to pass the days huddled around tv sets in pubs, supping pints and watching the action unfold because the unofficial “adventure capital of the world” is their oyster. Here are just a few alternatives to watching scrums and line-outs.
Paddle up Whanganui River, North Island
Such is the sense of adventure and breathtaking scenery that the three or five-day “Whanganui Journey” is actually included as one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks”. But it could not be more different. For a start, you will be sat down for the best part of the trip and, in place of walking boots and a rucksack, you’ll have a paddle and several water-resistant storage barrels. These can be loaded with whatever you wish, including ice and champagne as one fellow paddler did on our excursion. There is a fair chance you could sink or flip in the rapids – so it’s best to make sure the barrels are sealed and more importantly you can swim. The journey can be done with a guide but it is, undoubtedly, more of an adventure to go it alone. Wades Landing Outdoors rents equipment and provides guides or, alternatively, a crash course in tackling rapids for the more adventurous paddlers. Visit www.whanganui.co.nz.
Getting the hump at Kaikoura, South Island
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Whale watching might not be high on the adrenaline rush scale but it’s a thrill nevertheless – especially given Kaikoura’s spectacular setting on the South Island’s east coast where snow-capped mountains drop into the ocean. Specially-made catamarans will jet you out over the 2km deep Kaikoura Canyon in the hope of glimpsing sperm, humpback, pilot and killer whales. Not many spotters go home without the obligatory whale fin in the air photo – apart from me, whose camera ran out of battery at the crucial moment. Whale Watching Kaikoura offers informative, two-and-half hour trips. Visit www.whalewatchkaikoura.co.nz.
Paddling the Abel Tasman, Abel Tasman National Park,
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This national park is one of the country’s most accessible and, therefore, the most visited. Most come to hike the scenic coastal path among the isolated coves and pristine beaches. It is, though, equally attractive to those who fancy a stretch of sea kayaking. Anything from half-day to three-day trips can be organised or even a biathlon-type combination of hiking and kayaking can be arranged. Visit www.abeltasmankayaks.co.nz.
The River Wild (and anything else you can think of), Queenstown, South Island
Fans who make it to Queenstown will probably end up forgetting about the rugby altogether. Why would you want to watch burly men chasing an egg around a field when you can take a swing across the Shotover Canyon at 150kph, paraglide off Coronet peak, leap 43m from the world’s first bungee jumping site or, if all that sounds a little too hair-raising, then enjoy a relaxing game of Frisbee-golf in the park. If you are like me and enjoy a thrill but are not willing to jump from anything higher than a garden wall then white-water rafting is a sound compromise. Queenstown Rafting offers trips down both the Shotover and the calmer Kawarau rivers. Visit www.queenstownrafting.co.nz.
Cruising the Milford Sound, South Island
The spectacular Milford Sound, where mountains – including the stunning 1673m Mitre Peak – rise steeply out of the dark blue waters is a must-see for any visitor to New Zealand. Rudyard Kipling described it as the “eighth wonder of the world” and, when you get your first eye-popping view of the place, you’ll find it hard to disagree with the chap. But be warned – no photograph ever does it justice. Cruise boats waiting at the wharf offer a variety of trips, including a tempting overnighter. Another good way to get up close and personal with the sheer rock faces and waterfalls is by signing up for the “Morning Glory” sea kayak excursion which gives you the chance to paddle the full length of the fjord. For arguably the best two-hour boat trip in the world, visit www.mitrepeak.com.
Finding Frodo, Tongariro National Park, North Island
This volcanic national park looks more like the surface of the moon than anything you would expect three hours’ drive from Wellington. It is home to reputedly the best one-day walk in New Zealand – the Alpine Crossing. For fitter walkers, there is a chance to scale Mount Ngauruhoe, an active volcano, which played the part of Mount Doom in Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy – although this is normally only possible in summer months from December to February. The summit of Mount Tongariro might be more accessible.
Visit www.doc.govt.nz for information on trekking in Tongariro and all of New Zealand’s great walks.
Take a ride through Middle Earth
Such is the magical setting of Glenorchy, just north of Queenstown, that it feels more like Tolkien’s Middle Earth than New Zealand. So there’s really only one way to discover it – on horseback. Saddle up and canter off through the spectacular Rees valley at the northern edge of Lake Wakatipu to discover a land rich in beauty and short on civilisation. One of the few hamlets in this sparsely populated landscape is even called Paradise. The founders were not boasting.
For expert guides and obliging horses visit www.high-country-horses.co.nz which will cater for those like me who just want to hold on and others who are prepared to let go of the reins a little.
Choppers Away, Mount Cook, South Island
Mount Cook/Aoraki, which stands at 3754m in the majestic Southern Alps, is New Zealand’s highest peak. Strap yourself in and challenge your fear of heights for a memorable 45-minute flight up and over the snow-capped peaks to get a glimpse of the majestic Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers on the rugged West Coast. The best trips include a brief “snow landing” high up on an alpine ledge. Visit www.helicopter.co.nz for details and prices on scenic flights.
All that is needed now is to organise transport. For the best deals on renting a car, visit www.acerentalcars.co.nz who have pick-up and drop-off points all over the country.