New Zealand 2013

This trip filled (and enrollment closed)  on July 5, 2012.

See Ellie’s blog for great stories and pictures from the trip!

When: Jan 22 – Mar 5, 2013

Where: New Zealand, South Island

Who: 10 students (ages 14-19) plus trip leaders Blake, Julie, and Cameron

How Much: $4500 plus airfare

The Journey is the Reward

Want to voyage from one side of New Zealand to the other? Yup, we thought so. Join Unschool Adventures for the adventure of a lifetime.

View UA NZ 2013 in a larger map

Trip Purposes

Every Unschool Adventure trip is created with specific purposes in mind. Here’s what we’ll set out to accomplish:

Walking from One Side of New Zealand to The Other

If you love the outdoors, you’ll love this trip. New Zealand is world-famous for its natural beauty, and we’re going to spend six sunny weeks walking across it. (It won’t all be walking; occasionally we’ll need to take a boat or bus to get safely from point A to point B.) One way or another, we’re going to cross the mountains, foothills, valleys, beaches, glaciers, lakes, rivers, and fjords of New Zealand’s South Island.

Farm Volunteering, Camping, and Unplanned Fun

When not walking, our group will stay in towns, cities, or farms. There are many organic farms in the region where we’ll be hiking, and we may have the opportunity to stay and volunteer on them as part of our trip. While in a town or city, you’ll enjoy plenty of unstructured time to explore local towns, use computers at internet cafes, relax, and create your own adventures. Potential group activities might include going to a movie, inviting travelers who we meet to one of our home-cooked dinners, playing card games, attending a local music show, or creating music ourselves. Unschool Adventures students and staff are pretty darn good at devising fun, spontaneous adventures on our trips.

Learning to Pack Light, Move Fast, and Enjoy the Traveler’s Life

This trip will show you how to get around the world with little more than a pack on your back and a smile on your face. We’ll spend roughly half of our nights sleeping under the stars at a farm, campground, or a wilderness campsite. The other nights we’ll spend in traveler’s hostels with hot showers, beds, kitchens, and laundry facilities. You’ll carry your own sleeping bag, shelter, and personal gear while also walking up to 10 miles per day. If you’ve ever wanted to do a long backpacking trip, learn how to cook a simple meal from scratch, or gain the skills necessary to plan your own long-term travel adventure, this will be an opportune learning experience.

Remember the scene from Lord of the Rings when Legolas, Aragorn, and Gimli were running across the mountains? That will pretty much be us. Minus the orcs.

The Greenstone Track—one of the final legs of our voyage

Trip Itinerary

Our trip will start on the South Island’s east coast and end on the west coast—that won’t change—but much of the in-between will be planned as we go. Below you’ll find a rough itinerary of some possible destinations.

Part One: Dunedin

After flying into Christchurch, we’ll take a bus to Dunedin. Recover from jet lag, hit the beach, and prepare for the journey ahead! (3 days)

Part Two: Rail Trail

The world-famous Otago Rail Trail is one possible way for us to head west. Many small towns lie along the Rail Trail, which ends in the town of Clyde.
Alternatively, we may hike to a farm in this region and volunteer there. (7-12 days)

Part Three: Wanaka

Our voyage might take us to Wanaka, a gorgeous town where we can relax by the lake. (5-7 days)

Part Four: Queenstown

Queenstown, the world adventure capital, will almost certainly be on our itinerary. Here we can relax, eat great food, and possibly partake in some adventure activities! (5-7 days)

Part Five: Greenstone Track

From Queenstown we’ll boat across Lake Wakatipu and hike the world-famous Greenstone Track. Along the way we’ll stay in established backpacker’s huts. The trail ends at “The Divide”, which separates New Zealand’s wetter west coast from its dry east coast. (5 days)

Part Six: Milford Sound

There’s no easy way to walk from The Divide to Milford Sound, so we’ll hire a bus to take us there! If you haven’t heard of it, Milford Sound is one of those “you have to see this place before you die” places. (2 days)

Part Seven: Return to Christchurch
We’ll return to Christchurch from Milford Sound by bus (via Queenstown or Wanaka). Rest, rejoice, and fly home with a tan! (3 days)


Everyday Activities

  • Daily group meeting and check-in
  • Internet access (including e-mail and Skype) available in most towns
  • Do-it-yourself lunch (students must purchase their own luches—staff will ensure that students have sufficient food for the outdoor treks)
  • Helping with group meal preparation, clean-up, and packing.
  • Free/unstructured time for exploration, photography, journaling, R&R, and spontaneous fun

Have More Questions?

Contact us via e-mail or phone and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

This trip sounds epic! Who’s leading it, and what are their safety credentials?

Blake Boles and Julie McPherson will be your trip leaders. Blake and Julie are certified Wilderness First Responders. Both have led multiple outdoors trips before and are highly experienced route-finders, backcountry cooks, and hiking group motivators. You couldn’t ask for a more solid team to lead this trip.

How remote will we be? Will we ever be “really out there”, without access to emergency help if needed?

The walking that we’ll do on this trip will largely occur on the trail networks surrounding New Zealand’s roads, towns, and cities. (Visit this site to get a feeling for our options.) If we need to leave the trail due to a medical emergency (or any other emergency), we will be within a few hours walking distance of help (and usually much less). Trip leaders will carry cell phones at all times (subject to normal coverage restrictions) and a well-stocked first aid kit. While hiking the Greenstone Track we’ll be rather deep in the wilderness, but that’s a highly popular track and there will be dozens of other hikers and the occasional backcountry hut ranger available to help if needed.

How much are the extra costs on this trip?

The program fee does not include certain variable costs including: airfare, lunch money, and personal spending money.

International airfare from Los Angeles to Christchurch varies widely, with a conservative estimate of $1400. Six weeks’ lunches at $5/day are $210. There is no visa or fee necessary to enter New Zealand. We recommend bringing at least $150 for spending money (for snacks, internet, etc.). In total, the estimated extra costs are $1760. (Also, please remember that you’ll need domestic airfare to/from Los Angeles.)

This trip sounds pretty active. How physically fit do I need to be?

You should be ready to hike 6-8 hours in a day with 30 lbs. on your back for multiple days in a row. If you’ve never done long-distance hiking, Summer/Fall 2012 will be a good time to give it a shot! Packing as light as possible will be to your advantage.

Where will we be staying?

We will stay in youth hostels (with showers, heating, kitchens, and computer access) while visiting cities and towns. While on trail, we’ll camp under the stars, using our personal backpacking and cooking gear. On the Greenstone track, we’ll stay in New Zealand’s well-maintained backcountry huts which provide mattresses, drinking water, toilets, hand washing facilities, heating, and cooking facilities.

Will I be able to keep in touch with my family?

Students will have access to e-mail and Skype at all major cities. Trip leaders will be available via e-mail and will carry an international cell phone in case of emergency.

What kind of food will we eat?

Most of our meals will be home-cooked or build-it-yourself grocery store meals. We value student input on food choices as well as student assistance with shopping, prep, cooking and clean-up. We typically prepare large, diverse vegetarian meals.

I have special dietary restrictions. What’s up with NZ grub?

NZ has similar food to North America. Omnivores and vegetarians will fare just fine. Vegan and gluten-free students will have challenges, but they won’t go hungry.

What special gear do I need?

You’ll need a pack suitable for multi-day backpacking, a broken-in pair of reliable walking shoes, a few warm, synthetic clothing layers, a tent or tarp shelter (you may be able to share a tent with another student), and a simple cooking setup. UA will provide the stoves and fuel for backcountry cooking.

I really, really love the Lord of the Rings. Can I use this trip to dress up as a Lord of the Rings character and charge through New Zealand searching for Orc Hordes?

Yes, as long as you don’t get arrested.

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