Everyone has heard, since the advent of sunscreen, that you need to cover up from the sun or else you'll get skin cancer. Nowhere is this more true than New Zealand, which receives some of the most direct sunlight in the world due to the convenient hole in the ozone above the country.
When arrived in Kaikoura (which will be reviewed in another journal), I decided to take a walk along the peninsula walkway, so I lathered on the sunscreen and wore a jacket and long pants. I figured I was good to go, so I took off on the four-hour walk. It was a brilliant day, meaning the sun was out in full force, and I quickly had to take off my jacket…but forgot to put on sunscreen on my now-exposed arms. Four hours later, I found that I couldn't even touch my arms because they were so burned. Bending my elbow at all or slightly moving my shoulder caused me to scream in agony…so sleeping on my side that night was quite fun! Even worse, I found out all of the places that I missed because they had turned red as well. I had spots on my forehead and neck, and my ears were a shade of red normally seen in the capsicum (red pepper) section of the supermarket. I was quite a sight…and everyone in the hostel let me know that. Even worse, my skin started peeling just as I started the Queen Charlotte Track and was still peeling when I started the Abel Tasman Track a week and a half later!
So, let that be a cautionary tale. Even if you feel that you don't burn where you live, you will in NZ. The first thing people commented on when they saw me after my trip was how dark I'd gotten--and I wore sunscreen religiously after the incident in Kaikoura! I kept a tube of SPF30 with me at all times, and made sure I coated myself in it, even if it was a cloudy day.
Also, try to prepare yourself with clothes that will cover up more of your body. I made sure that my hiking clothes would cover up as much as possible without being excessive. I knew that only packing pants would be a bad idea, so I took some pants and some zip-off pants, which I could wear as pants until it got unbearably hot and then could convert to knee-length shorts. All of my shirts had sleeves (I couldn't deal with getting burned on my shoulders while carrying around my big backpack) and the majority of them had collars so I could keep the sun off my neck as much as possible. I always wore a hat to keep the sun out of my eyes and off of my face.
The main point of this entry is just to make you aware that the sun is a serious risk while you're out and about in NZ, and as long as you follow the Australian "slip, slop, slap" mantra (so you "slip" on a shirt, "slop" on some sunscreen, and "slap" on a hat), you'll keep yourself as safe as possible.