Field Trip: A whirlwind trip to New Zealand with Joshua Cairns

Field Trip: A whirlwind trip to New Zealand with Joshua Cairns

All photos from this sponsored Field Trip are courtesy of Joshua Cairns. All photos were edited with the Forged FXS presets


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14 days. 3,000 kilometres. More hikes and trail runs than I can count with my fingers.

To say this whirlwind trip was tiring would be an understatement. But to be fair, none of this was unexpected.

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I was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. And, to this day, it’s the place I call home. The city is surrounded by amazing trails, luscious rainforest, a beautiful ocean, stunning beaches, glacial lakes, towering mountains, and world-class ski resorts. If I were to wake up at 8 a.m., I could be enjoying any one of these things by 8:30 a.m. that same day.

When you have this sort of access to nature, you tend to develop an appreciation for it. It’s no surprise that I find I am most content and relaxed when I am exploring the outdoors.

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It’s probably also not very surprising that New Zealand had been on my mind for the past several years. To me, it seemed like a logical destination for a multi-week trip. The prospect of driving quiet, winding roads and spending the daylight hours hiking really resonated with me.

It held the promise of being a place I could feel at home, while actually being nowhere near it. So when a direct flight from Vancouver popped up at a cheap price, we jumped on it.

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We split our time between both the north and south islands of New Zealand. Part of the appeal of exploring both islands is that they each offer unique experiences. On the north island, you can relax on white sand beaches set against a backdrop of rolling grassy meadows; on the south island, you can strap on your hiking boots and do the exact opposite of relaxing.

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The first five days were spent on the north island and they felt like they lasted forever. When you’re daily agenda only involves driving to whatever beach you want to go to next, you tend to feel like you have all the time in the world. The beaches were stunning - the weather less so. The good news is it meant I got to enjoy the beaches without getting sunburnt. Correction: without getting *badly* sunburnt. 

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The subsequent 9 days were spent on the south island. The south offers what most people think of when they imagine New Zealand: stunning mountains, alpine vistas, glaciers, and hundreds of backcountry trails. This is where the days seemed to flash by before our eyes. In fact, I can’t even really recall what we did most evenings. The days all blurred in to one as the kilometres racked up on our rental car and our shoes. 

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To sum it up, here’s a recap of how each day proceeded: we woke up early, scrambled together a modest breakfast, hit the road, arrived at a trailhead a few hours later, hiked (or trail ran) for at least a few hours, and then drove a couple hours to our next destination where we would usually arrive between 5 and 8 pm. Quickly hit the grocery store to grab some food and grab a bottle of New Zealand wine (the only thing cheap in that country, but what a great item to be cheap!), eat dinner (and drink the wine), and sleep. Rinse and repeat. 

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Sound bad? It wasn’t in the slightest. 

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New Zealand is a country for driving, hiking, and making your own meals. It’s a country where your feet will be sore, your eyes will be tired, and your wallet will be empty. But we knew this beforehand. This is what drew us to New Zealand. It was a place where we felt we could explore. A place we could road trip. A place we could hike. A place we could appreciate nature. And we did just that.

Tired eyes and sore feet. It was exhausting and amazing at the same time. 

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And I can’t recommend it enough.

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Gear used: Fuji XT1 camera, Fuji 23mm F2 lens.