Back­pack­ers love the North


When sea­soned back­pack­ers Robin Gayraud and Laura Sy­monds de­cided to visit as many off the beaten track des­ti­na­tions in New Zealand they could in one year - they chose North­land as their last re­gion.

The pair are the founders and writ­ers of Back­pack­erGuide.NZ and this year they de­cided to show­case more des­ti­na­tions in the hope they would tempt vis­i­tors to ex­tend their stay in New Zealand.

Dur­ing what they call ‘‘New Zealand’s Big­gest Gap Year’’ they chal­lenged them­selves to tackle 365 ac­tiv­i­ties in 365 days.

Gayraud - orig­i­nally from France, has been in the coun­try for seven years while Sy­monds ar­rived three years ago from the United King­dom. Both fell in love with New Zealand and feel proud to pro­mote their adopted coun­try to others.

‘‘We kept the best leg for last,’’ says Gayraud.

‘‘The win­ter-less North has so much to of­fer with a huge va­ri­ety of both spec­tac­u­lar land­scapes, sur­pris­ing wildlife and fas­ci­nat­ing his­tor­i­cal lo­ca­tion. It is al­ways a crowd pleaser even in win­ter.’’

‘‘We spent day 334 to 341 in Whangarei tak­ing part in some ab­so­lutely un­for­get­table ac­tiv­i­ties from an in­cred­i­ble dive at the Poor Knight Is­lands which is prob­a­bly my favourite ac­tiv­ity in NZ to date, to an un­sched­uled visit of the Whangarei hospi­tal af­ter Robin tripped on stairs when com­ing down Mt Manaia,’’ Sy­monds says.

‘‘Af­ter tack­ling 350 ad­ven­tur­ous ac­tiv­i­ties across the coun­try it was prob­a­bly the lamest way to break a cou­ple of bones,’’ laughs Gayraud.

Sky­div­ing is on the agenda be­fore the trip ends in the Far North.

Both have been im­pressed by the kind­ness of lo­cals and their care for the pris­tine New Zealand wildlife.

And they’re not shy to sing their praises of Whangarei which they found ‘‘a back­packer’s dream be­cause it fea­tured many stel­lar free or cheap things to do such as vis­it­ing the Abbey Caves, the pic­turesque Whangarei Falls or the colour­ful Quarry Gar­dens.

‘‘We are glad to have ded­i­cated a week to show­cas­ing the town and all it has to of­fer.’’

❚ Back­pack­erGuide.NZ: NZ’s #1 guide for back­pack­ers is free on­line. To fol­low the cou­ple’s trav­els go to http:/ /www.back­pack­

Laura Sy­monds and Robin Gayraud view the Whangarei Heads from Mt Manaia.

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