Mainly cruising - oh, and some hiking (Mt. Cook & Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand)

New Zealand's flag
Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Canterbury
March 17th 2010
Published: March 19th 2010
Edit Blog Post

(Day 712 on the road)After the excellent Kepler trek, Suzanne and I headed slowly towards Christchurch, mainly cruising in the van and enjoying the great New Zealand nature. Our first major stop was at Mt. Cook, at 3754 metres the highest mountain in the country. After a night spent wild camping at the base of the mountain, witnessing a spectacular, blood-orange sunset and enjoying very our version of Mt. Cook couscous for dinner, it was time to get closer on the next day. We climbed up one of the mountains just opposite Mt. Cook, which gave grand views of Mt. Cook itself. The weather was as good as it could be, with sunshine and warm temperatures all the way. The views didn't disappoint either, and we whiled the afternoon away at the outside veranda of Mueller Hut. Sunset was amazing, and apparently sunrise wasn't bad either, although I can't comment firsthand as I was happily snoring away in my tent at these early hours of the morning.

At Mueller Hut, we had bumped into Canadian Annie, the girl I had been hiking with at Arthur's Pass a month or so earlier. We had actually met her on the Kepler Trek as well a week ago, so that was the second time in a week that we met her. Quite a coincidence really. Suzanne slept in the hut, whilst I (mainly to save the $35 for the hut I should say), pitched my tent right at the ridge of the mountain. With Mt. Cook visible whilst laying inside the tent and an amazing starry night sky, I was much happier than sharing the hut with a group of inconsiderate and noisy Israelis.

Speaking of Israelis - a few entries ago I wrote what a bad reputation they have here in New Zealand and that I couldn't quite understand it. Now, criticizing Israel is tricky (especially as a German), as you are quickly labeled antisemitic, but by now however I have had a number of negative experiences with Israelis myself (and heard many more from other people). Most of the Israelis I encountered (but of course I have also met many great Israelis during my travels) - were so completely inconsiderate it was simply astonishing, and I can see where the people who speak badly about them are coming from:

The guy who started cooking an elaborate dinner over the fire at the tiny six-bunk Shallow Bay Hut at 2200h, when everyone else had gone to bed, to "save fuel" (he wasn't even staying at the hut but camping). A group of Israelis at Mueller Hut (luckily I was camping and not inside the hut all the time) who were so inconsiderate that they quite simply infuriated everybody else, and especially Annie who told them off numerous times (leaving their rubbish at the hut in the morning, not cleaning their dishes or tables, always leaving the door open in the evening when it was freezing outside, talking loudly after being asked to be quiet twice when the hut wardens were on the radio getting the weather forecast, being so noisy in the evening that they were asked to keep it down etc). Or the big Israeli group at Iris Burn Hut on the Kepler Trek who had, after been explicitly told to be quiet by the warden, still made so much noise late at night and early in the morning that nobody could sleep. In fact, Robbie the hut warden singled the Israelis out during his nightly welcome speech, telling them right to their face and in very blunt language in front of everybody else in the hut (it was somewhat embarrassing for everyone really) to be considerate, respectful and quiet because he has "so many problems with people from your country". Heavy stuff.

After Mt. Cook we drove over to Christchurch to put up some advertisements for my van and meet a first prospective buyer who had seen an online ad I had posted for the van (she didn't buy it). The next three days we explored Hanmer Springs (great hot pools and tasty food at a local coffee shop), Kaikoura (sampling fresh Crayfish) and Akaroa (somewhat disappointing but still pretty former French settlement).

Well, and the next day, on March 14th, it was already time for Suzanne to head back to San Francisco. We had spent an amazing two weeks together, and the time had gone by much too quickly. Does time ever run slowly when you are travelling I wonder? I shall see her again soon however, as I will be visiting her in San Francisco at the end of April. Golden Gate Bridge, steep streets, giant Red Woods, Yosemite, Big Sur - I can't wait!

The day after Suzanne had left I managed to sell my van. I got almost the full purchase price back, but when I include what I spent on initial repairs and tax I lost quite a bit of money. But when I consider how much money I saved by not sleeping in hostels and not taking public transport, it was well worth it. And of course the flexibility I enjoyed and the places I could visit - priceless!

I had (literally) lost quite a bit of sleep over the selling of the van. Putting up my ads at the numerous hostels in Christchurch amongst maybe 40 other ads of people selling their vans and cars was disheartening. With summer being over and winter approaching fast, most people are leaving the country and very few travellers are coming in. Some of the people had dropped down their asking prices from $3800 to a mere $1000 because nobody was buying it for a fair price.

I was worrying a lot about not being able to sell the van or having to discount it heavily. In the end however, it worked out much better than expected, and I sold the van after only four days for almost my asking price to two German backpackers. I was very lucky however, as they spoke very little English ("You sell van, ja? Is still free? We have look, ok?") and were more than happy to buy from someone who speaks their own language. So I guess it worked out well for all of us.

Suddenly being without my own wheels after over three months felt weird to say the least. Having to once again figure out (local) transport, sleeping in hostels, or walking to the supermarket all seemed overly cumbersome. On the bright side, not having to worry about where to take a shower, charge my camera or how to meet other travellers was a nice change after over three months. I now have about a week left in New Zealand. Feels strange...

Next stop: Arthur's Pass National Park (South Island, New Zealand).

To view my photos, have a look at And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon (and most other online book shops).


19th March 2010

Your Comments
I really like how honest you are in all of your comments. I am disappointed to hear that the Israelis are so rude, but proud of you for not backing off from being so straight forward in your blog.
19th March 2010
The pictures are awesome, thanks for posting it!
19th March 2010

Hey Ben I love your honesty! No country is perfect so I don't see why some people took it very personally about what you've said. You were simply being honest and balanced with your experiences. I've been travelling in South America and I learnt about the Isrealis reputation from witnessing first hand their behaviour and also hearing experiences from hostel owners and travellers. The owner at one of the hostels I'd stayed in, whilst I was in Pucon, said that he was reluctant to accept Isrealis and he knows of other owners not allowing them stay in their hostels. I met an Isreali with his loud friends recently in Argentina and he was more concerned about getting drunk and sleeping with girls than enjoying the pleasure of travelling. I know there are some individuals who aren't like that but it seems that the majority are! Doesn't help international relationships all round. I always look forward to your blogs! Happy travels Dawn
19th March 2010

Hey Ben - I've enjoyed reading your blogs...have only made it through a quarter of them and I'm working backwards but it's fun to live vicariously through someone who has a knack for pictures and writing and doesn't hold back. When I was traveling in Nepal a few years back I remember how difficult it was to take the behavior of the Israelis. It was baffling that an entire nation of people came off the exact same aggravating way! I should note that we met a lovely Israeli named Iftach that single-handedly gave us hope that maybe it wasn't ALL of them. Of course I've met more than a few Americans who made me want to claim to be Canadian too.... :) Anyway, if your journeys ever bring you to the Four Corners area of the US, let me know. We sit at the precipiece of some of the most beautiful and remote hikes with the canyonlands of Utah to the west and the San Juan Mts. to the east...can certainly point you in the right direction out here. Thanks for sharing your experiences with all of us out here juggling jobs and kids and fighting the insane urge to sell it all and become world traveling gypsies! Take care and have fun! Alisa
20th March 2010

balancing the picture
Hi Ben, I think it is totally fine for you to be so honest. There is always a chance to meet annoying people while travelling. I was a bit surprised though that there appear to be a number of independent negative experiences with travellers from Israel. Except Alisa's comment readers could come to the conclusion that Israelis are all like that. In order to bring some balance, I'd like to report on the very very nice experience we had meeting three young travellers from Israel in a remote corner of Yunnan province, China (Yubeng village near Meili Snow Mountain). They were extremely nice and very open-minded. We chatted about all kinds of stuff until late at night and next day did some hiking together. By the way, awesome pictures! While we are still staying in China, hope to get the time to travel to Newzealand... Unfortunately, we are returning to Europe this year. Keep enjoying the precious time you have! Cheers Timo
20th March 2010

The pictures that you have taken is simply fantastic,nothing can beat the beauty of nature.
20th March 2010

The old Israeli debate! I didn't have the balls in my blogs to say exactly what you have said. I have never met a nationality that annoy so many people. Inconsiderate is exactly the word. They really couldn't care less about any one else. If it was only a few no one would pass any notice. Its not though. It is a common conversation with travelers. People are afraid to speak up about it though because they think they will come across as anti-semitic. Through all of South America I had problems with them. I have a list the length of my arm full of incidents with Israelis. I will say I have met very sound Israelis but they all traveled alone as they were embarrassed by their fellow country men and women. The women. Diva's is not the word. One hostel in a small town in Peru even opened up a new hostel for any other nationality other than Israelis, as no one would stay in their original one because of them!! On the other hand I'm feeling sad your New Zealand journey is nearly over. Whats next?
24th March 2010

Hi Ben. It is really impressive how bad is the Israeli reputation ALL AROUND THE WORLD. Last year, while traveling in New Zealand, me and my girfriend had a bad experience with some of them. We were ready to cook a dinner in a hostel in Franz Joseph when a group of 6 or 7 started laughing and pointing at us with no apparent reason. That really pissed me off and I was so angry that they eventually stopped. I also had problems in South America. Well, you are German and can not say that, I'm Brazilian and I'm free to say: ISRAEL IS NOT A COUNTRY All the best, Felipe
27th March 2010

you did not go to fudge cottage at Chrishchurch..or did I miss it? Nells

Tot: 0.703s; Tpl: 0.019s; cc: 39; qc: 185; dbt: 0.0443s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.9mb