Bubbling mud pools, sandy beaches, lush rain forests, snowcapped mountains, volcanoes and glaciers--New Zealand has an amazing variety of natural wonders. Here are some hints for young travelers eager to investigate this corner of the world.
Start by gathering background information on the country. Descriptions of sights and services are covered in a free publication called "The New Zealand Book." The 1986 editions are available from the New Zealand Government Tourist Office, 10960 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1530, Los Angeles 90024.
If you intend to travel the country independently on a tight budget it would be wise to invest in a copy of "New Zealand--A Travel Survival Kit," by Tony Wheeler, a Lonely Planet publication. The guide is packed with details on where to find a variety of inexpensive accommodations plus information on sights, culture and history. A revised edition was published in September 1985, it's available through bookstores for $7.95.
Other good sources of information on low-cost lodging are the guides published by the Automobile Assn. of New Zealand. Visitors to New Zealand are entitled to membership privileges if they are members of an automobile association at home.
The types of low-cost lodging you'll learn about include campgrounds with a variety of facilities. Site fees are about $4 per adult; often basic cabins are available for $11 to $16 (for two persons) or tourist cabins at $20 (for two persons).
One advantage of staying at campgrounds in New Zealand is that many are equipped with kitchens and dining facilities. They are good places to meet other travelers and all you need for meals are utensils and food.
Most motel rooms in New Zealand also have fully equipped kitchens, and guests are usually presented with a bottle of milk when they arrive and a newspaper each morning.
New Zealand also has a network of youth hostels. Rates are $3 to $6 per night and a $2 guide is available at the hostels or at the New Zealand Youth Hostel Assn., 28 Worcester St., Christchurch. Be prepared for curfews (some as early as 10:30 p.m.); you'll have to rent a sheet sleeping bag if you don't have your own.
One of the most popular pastimes in the country is hiking, known as "tramping." Adventurers don't have to worry about snakes, poisonous insects or bears. If you want to tramp you can get information on 20 popular routes in the guide, "Tramping in New Zealand," $6.95, by Jim DuFresne, Lonely Planet Publishing. The routes are all more than just a day hike. They have huts four to six hours apart and most have easy access to public transportation.
If you don't want to travel on your own there are several companies that operate tours limited to travelers between the ages of 18 and 35, including Newmans Tear-Away Holidays and Contiki's Concept Tours. Both companies arrange lodging in cabins (you'll need a sleeping bag) and at special night stops (multi-share rooms). In addition to trip rates a fee is charged for a food fund which covers breakfasts and dinners.
Contiki trips range from 14 to 21 days. A 14-day, two-island tour starts at $321 plus $58 for the food fund. You can get details from a travel agent or Contiki, 1432 E. Katella Avenue, Anaheim, Calif. 92805.
Newmans' trips range from 8 to 21 days. A 14-day two-island tour starts at $423 plus $80 for the food kitty. Couples can arrange private accommodations at most stops for an extra $32. Further information is available from travel agents or contact Newmans South Pacific Holidays, Suite 305, 10351 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif. 90025.