Roadtripping around the South Island of New Zealand with Mad Campers NZ

Meandering down windy roads with each turn giving us a glimpse of staggering peaks and breathtaking fjords was a routine that was easy to get used to as Caroline and I spent a week roadtripping around New Zealand in a Mad Campers NZ van.

One of the first things I learned upon arrival in New Zealand is how quickly the weather can change. While it’s a good idea to have some hikes in mind, it’s important to realize that sticking to a firm schedule likely won’t work out. We had a list of ideas and adjusted our schedule day-by-day based on the weather. Our Mad Campers NZ van gave us the flexibility to keep our plans loose and take full advantage of the good weather when it came. No pre-booked hotels, nothing holding us to a certain place at a certain time – we drove the van around and slept wherever it ended up being convenient. New Zealand is full of “holiday parks” where you can sleep in your van, so van life is quite easy.

Hike Outside of Queenstown

Our first overnight hike (which I promised not to disclose the location of) was a few hours outside of Queenstown. Five hours of slogging through mud and climbing over fallen trees led us to a peaceful river where we set up camp. The next morning we hiked up the river to the glacier for some absolutely stunning views. The hike ended up taking much longer than we anticipated and we didn’t get out until around 10pm. We were SO excited to be back at the van. We immediately cooked ourselves a nice dinner, drove to the nearest holiday park with availability, set up our bed in the van, and went to sleep. It was cold outside, but the van was nice and warm. My tired and sore body really appreciated the padding of the bed.

A Couple of Days of Relaxation

After our first hike, the weather turned bad and it rained for two days straight. We took advantage of the downtime to catch up on work, edit photos, and let our bodies recharge. Sometimes we ate at cafes and sometimes we cooked in the van. And let me tell you, sleeping in a van is soooo much nicer than sleeping in a tent when it’s raining!

Mitre Peak

When the weather got nice again, we drove down to Milford Sound. After taking a few photos at the sound, we got on a Milford Helicopters flight to the foothill of Mitre Peak. We camped there that night and woke up to a beautiful sunrise. We hiked the rest of the morning and got picked up that afternoon. Mitre Peak is a beautiful mountain that rises directly out of the ocean. It is peaceful and not heavily trafficked, so you’re likely to have the mountain all to yourself. Be careful if you hike – it’s easy to get lost near the bottom and it’s very exposed.

Gertrude Saddle

Gertrude Saddle has gotten extremely popular in the last few years – and for good reason. It’s a fun hike with gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. The hike is about 8.6 miles out and back and took me 5.5 hours with an overnight backpack and sprained ankle. The beginning of the hike is through some trees, but the remainder follows a river/river bed until a short scramble and then a boulder field before reaching the saddle. The trail is fairly well marked, though I did get briefly lost coming out of the trees on the way back. I’d recommend downloading the AllTrails map just in case. The beginning of the hike is basically walking over loose rocks, so if you have a bad ankle like I do, be careful! The scramble section has cables, so it’s fairly easy even if you aren’t comfortable on rocks. The boulder field is well marked with cairns and markers and if you follow them, it’s not bad. While Gertrude Saddle is very safe on a dry day, people have died when the weather has been bad. Numerous signs along the trail warn hikers of the danger. Do not attempt Gertrude if it has been raining! We were the only campers the night we stayed at Gertrude Saddle. It was peaceful, but very windy and cold! Be prepared if you plan to camp.

Why I Loved Traveling in the Mad Campers NZ Van

Our van was the perfect little home for our weeklong road trip. It was a great combination of convenience and comfort. We had the flexibility to travel as we pleased, but always had a comfortable warm bed, a mini kitchen, running water, and even a bathroom. I wouldn’t travel around New Zealand any other way!

Hiking Mount Rōtui in Mo’orea

If you’ve heard of Mo’orea, you probably associate it with beautiful beaches, sting-ray filled lagoons, and fancy resorts. But you may not have heard about the rugged mountains and stunning views they offer. During my visit to Mo’orea, we decided to hike a mountain and chose Mount Rōtui – a magnificent mountain that overlooks Cook’s Bay and offers a stunning view of the amphitheater of an old volcano. Fun fact: In Polynesian mythology, Mount Rōtui is purgatory for dead souls before their rise into Paradise.

About Mount Rōtui

Mount Rōtui is an 899 meters/2949 foot high mountain located on Mo’orea. It is the second highest peak on the island and, though challenging, is possible to hike (many of the mountains on Mo’orea are not hikeable).

Mount Rōtui’s narrow ridges ridges and steep sides can be intimidating, so you should be comfortable with easy scrambling and a lot of exposure. There are fixed ropes in two places, but they don’t look well-maintained so don’t rely solely on the ropes. We hiked Rōtui on a dry day and there were some very slippery areas, so be extremely careful if you hike after or during the rain.

Be prepared for a full day – it takes about 5 hours to get to the summit and 2 or 3 to hike back down.

How to Get There

From the Hilton, walk west on the road toward Opunohu Bay and walk down the third driveway, which has a sign that says “Art Deko.” A bit down the driveway, there is another sign which says “Rotui.”

At this sign, walk to the right along a fence next to a house. Once you pass the fence, the trail will become apparent and is easy to follow for the rest of the hike.

You can hire a guide, which I highly recommend if you are not experienced or are uncomfortable with scrambling and/or exposure.

What to Wear

Choosing the right clothing is crucial for hiking Mount Rōtui – there is a lot of growth on the trail that can scrape your legs if not covered and the heat is brutal.

I wore my Vast Terrain Excel 7/8 Leggings in Black and Aeris Technical Tank in Purple.  Vast Terrain’s premium activewear is perfect for hiking in the tropics because the technical fabrics wick away sweat and are soft, stretchy, and easy to move in – a necessity when scrambling! Vast Terrain’s fabric also reduces odor with EPA registered silver salts that are embedded at the fiber level and kill 99.99% of odor-causing bacteria! I’m sure my hiking parters appreciated that 😉 An added bonus is that Vast Terrain is entirely made in the USA!

Wear hiking boots or sneakers with good traction. The ground can be slippery and the hike is exposed.

I also recommend bringing a hat and light long-sleeved layer for sun protection.

What to Bring

Mo’orea can get VERY hot and the sun is strong, so be prepared! Below is what I brought on my hike:

 

I partnered with Vast Terrain in writing this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

Touring the Great American Southwest from the Inn at Entrada

I received a complimentary stay from The Inn at Entrada and complimentary tour from ATV & Jeep Adventure Tours in exchange for writing a review.

We spent six nights in southern Utah and I still feel like we haven’t even scratched the surface on seeing this beautiful area, but here is what we did:

 

ATV Tour with ATV &a Jeep Adventure Tours

We started our trip riding ATVs around the desert. The views were gorgeous and our guide was knowledgeable. It was a great introduction to the area.



Zion

Most people think of Zion when Southern Utah comes up – and for good reason. Zion is one of the most beautiful national parks I’ve been to. It’s filled with red rocks, crazy drop offs, and beautiful water. The downside to Zion is that everyone knows how great it is, so it can get really busy. To avoid the crowds, we got permits for a technical canyon. Talk about an amazing adventure! It was a tough 15 miles filled with rappels, downclimbs, and sliding into pools. If you have the technical skills, getting permits for a canyon is a great way to avoid the crowds at Zion. We didn’t see another group all day!

The Wave

The Wave is probably one of the most insta-famous and iconic locations in the world, and we were lucky enough to be one of the 20 people to score a permit one day! For those of you wondering, there are two ways to get a permit for the Wave. The first is to apply online at the BLM website four months in advance. https://www.blm.gov/programs/recreation/permits-and-passes/lotteries-and-permit-systems/arizona/coyote-buttes. The second is to show up to the BLM visitor center in Kanab and enter the drawing for a next-day permit. Either way, your chances of getting a permit are very slim. There are about 2,000 applicants a day for 20 permits. If you do happen to be lucky enough, it’s a fairly easy hike – about 3 miles each way, however the trail is not well marked. Please be careful and study a map beforehand. And don’t forget to bring enough water!



The Inn at Entranada

Last but certainly not least, our beautiful accommodation. We stayed in a casita at the Inn at Entranada in St. George. I cannot recommend this place enough! It’s conveniently located about an hour from Zion and right next to Snow Canyon State Park. The Inn in stunning. The staff are friendly. Every last detail is looked after meticulously. The property blends right in with its surroundings, and you enjoy nature even when you’re inside. If you’re ever in St. George, you know where to stay!

A Relaxingly Active Week at Moa Alm Mountain Retreat in Austria

Balance.  When I think back on the week I spent at Moa Alm, balance is the first thing that comes to mind.  If you’re looking for a vacation with balance – in every sense of the word – Moa Alm Mountain Retreat in Austria is the place to go!  I just spent a week at Moa Alm and I left feeling balanced, relaxed, and rejuvinated.

Moa Alm has different themed weeks, so what you get depends on the week that you choose.  The general concept is the same for every week, but certain weeks cater to different types of travelers and focus on different activities.  For example, there are family weeks, adult weeks, and mountaineering weeks.  I went on an adult week.

First, let me do my best to describe the concept at Moa Alm – a relaxingly active retreat.  “Relaxingly active” may seem a bit paradoxical, but let me tell you that the combination of yoga, hiking, free time, and planned activities is just that.  Every morning starts with yoga and breakfast.  There is usually one planned activity, like a hike, for the day.  You are free to participate in as many or as few of the planned activities as you want.  Dinner is served every evening.  While you will have your own room and plenty of alone time, there is also a social aspect to the retreat.  Activities are done as a group and meals are eaten together.



The Balance between Relaxation and Activity

Moa Alm accurately describes itself as “relaxingly active”.  I could not agree more with this term.  Every day starts with yoga taught by Barbara.  Barbara is an excellent teacher and does a great job of catering the practice to the ability of her students.  I had an ankle injury, and she made sure to give me different poses to try whenever a posture bothered my ankle.  We also went on a hike every day.  The hikes varied in duration and intensity, based on weather and what we felt like doing.  Afternoons and early evenings were generally left open, and we were free to sit on the property and enjoy the scenery, read, hike on our own, go downtown, or anything else we pleased.  While there were plenty of activities to keep us busy, there was also sufficient downtime to relax.

The Balance between Alone Time and Group Time

I came to Moa Alm alone.  I wanted to spend some time alone to recharge, but I didn’t want to be completely isolated.  Moa Alm offered the perfect balance between alone time and socializing with the staff and other guests.  I spent several hours every day alone.  I went on several hikes by myself and had the time I needed to recharge.  However, I also spent time with the other guests and the staff, so I didn’t feel lonely and isolated.  We all ate meals together and hiked together.  We talked about our jobs, travels, and life experiences.  Everyone was extremely friendly and had interesting life stories to share.  We all had a lot in common and got along really well.  I exchanged contact information with and keep in touch with some of the people I met at Moa Alm!

The Balance between Guiding and Letting Us Go on Our Own

While I find overly-guided tours to be too much, I don’t like to be completely alone to figure out my plans.  Moa Alm offered group activities, which we were free to participate in or not.  Additionally, the staff were happy to help us plan things on our own.  Hikes were generally planned at dinner the night before with the managers Hubert and Barbara.  It wasn’t overly standardized and planned.  We could all say what we were looking for (like challening, flat, waterfalls, etc.), and Hubert and Barbara chose hikes that met our requests.  They shared interesting information about the animal and plant life as we hiked.  I had been traveling and hiking before I arrived at Moa Alm and I desperately needed a pedicure.  I told Barbara, and she helped pick a spa and made an appointment for me.  I also wanted to summit a mountain in the Alps.  I had no idea which mountain, so I told Barbara and Hubert I was looking for something not too technical that I could do in a day.  They gave me several suggestions, and I picked the mountain that sounded the most appealing.  They then gave me a map, went over my route options, warned me about the weather, and told me everything I needed to know.  I hiked on my own, but was well prepared with minimal to no effort doing any independent research thanks to Barbara and Hubert.

The Balance between Healthy and Indulgent Food

The cooks are amazing.  Absolutely amazing.  First, let me go off on a little tangent about how well they accommodated my diet.  I am a strict vegan.  I was so busy before I arrived at Moa Alm that I forgot to tell anyone of my dietary restrictions until about an hour before the first dinner.  And I still ended up with a delicious, three course vegan meal.  Wow – talk about being accommodating!

The ingredients used at Moa Alm are as natural, local, and organic as possible.  But there are desserts too!  Like cake.  A lot of cake.  I loved knowing that I was eating high-quality food but it was also nice to indulge a little and eat some cake – it is a vacation, after all!

People Who Really Care


Undoubtedly my favorite thing about Moa Alm is how passionate the staff are.  It really does make all the difference.  Everyone at Moa Alm cares about the retreat and all of the guests.  They love what they are doing and it shows.  They are more than willing to go above and beyond to make sure guests have a good time.  They all have interesting backgrounds and life experiences and are easy to relate to.  Even though I went to Moa Alm alone, by the end of the week, I felt like I was with a group of friends 🙂

I Can’t Wait to Go Back!

I had such a good time at Moa Alm.  It is by far the best retreat I have ever been on.  I can’t wait to go back…and I definitely will!  I’m thinking that next time I may try a mountaineering week.  If you’re looking for a relaxingly active week in the mountains, go to Moa Alm.  You won’t regret it!