Back in October 2016 (yes this is 1.5 years late), I spent 54 hours in New Zealand. I had toyed with the idea of taking a solo trip just to hike and take photos a few months prior, so when my friend Kent told me he had a spare $50 ticket to Auckland, I leapt at the opportunity.
Here’s how I spent 54 hours in New Zealand, summed up in a little over 2 minutes:
…So now that you’ve watched that, you’ll know that a lot happened in 54 hours. I hiked up Lion Rock in the rain and wind, explored Piha Beach, hiked to Kite Kite Falls before driving 2.5 hours to Coromandel Forest Park to start the Pinnacles Walk.
I had organised my trip around summiting the Pinnacles over two days and one night. Widely recognised as one of the best overnighters in New Zealand, I was stoked to hike to the Pinnacles DoC hut then push for the summit the next morning, just in time for a glorious sunrise over Kauaeranga Valley.
Little did I know…
Things took a dark turn when I couldn’t find my friends, didn’t have reception, started losing light and faced the ominous silence of nature. I was well and truly alone in this vast strip of wilderness in a foreign country. Oh, and did I mention that it started sprinkling?
Forever the optimist, I decided the trudge on. However, I couldn’t find the trail head. I had already hiked 2km at this point and it was too late to turn back.
“WTF am I going to do if I encounter the Maori version of Ivan Milat?” I thought repeatedly.
“I guess I have a giant tripod and a relatively good swing…”
Never mind that I’m only 159cm. Never mind that any male or muscular female could overpower me. Great logic, Silvia. I applaud you in retrospect, yet again (I’ve lost count of many stupid situations I’ve voluntarily put myself in).
Luckily, I met these two random German dudes near what I suspected to be the trail head. Wrong! The rain from the previous night had turned the river into a raging rapid and there was no way across. So we trekked on together.
The German dudes seemed nice. But they had a knife.
“What’s the knife for?” I asked.
“Cheese,” they said in unison.
And of course, me being me, any sense of danger immediately dissipated and I enthusiastically brought out a bag of bread and salami from my backpack.
“Let the cheese and salami sandwich party begin!”
So we ate and had some jolly conversation before deciding to hike further into the dark abyss of the Pinnacles. That was when the night took an even darker turn.
Turns out one of the guys had a bad ankle, it started pouring heavily and none of us had any rain gear.
We ended up reaching a campsite with 20 or so people. They were a group of teenagers on a wilderness retreat where they had to voluntarily give up their smartphones and social media for a week. Pretty rad!
The leader of the wilderness retreat advised us that it’s unsafe to try to reach the DoC hut tonight, given our lack of preparation and the environmental conditions. So he ended up driving us down to our cars.
Subsequently, we had a muesli bar feast, chatted about the most random hypothetical situations, played cards, karaoke-d to Queen and slept overnight at Kauaeranga Visitor Centre in our cars.
Overall, this trip to New Zealand was packed with misadventures that have become fond memories of mine. I’m eternally thankful that the German guys weren’t serial killers (and maybe they think the same of me!). At least I learnt a very important life lesson: do not hike alone at night!
What would you do if you had 54 hours in New Zealand? Let me know in the comments below.