Pieces of: Lake Tekapo…

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Lake Tekapo was always just a stopover place when I was planning the South Island, a moment to gather myself between the lively scene of Queenstown and the end of the route in Christchurch. In fact, it ended up being, like many of the smaller stops on the way, one of the most memorable. I suppose it has to do with limiting your expectations. As a daydreamer and a romanticist I tend to put too much hype in the way of future plans. Lake Tekapo didn’t strike me as spectacular so all it could really do was surpass that and surpass it indeed it did.

I make friends with another solo female traveller on the bus between Queenstown and Tekapo. An intimidating look sets on her face and I’m apprehensive to start up conversation on the drive. She speaks first though and she’s bloody hilarious, a girl from Finland roaming around a couple countries before she devotes herself to the army back home. We clamber up Mount John, a small forty five minute hike, and chat like we’ve known each other for years. We even scout out vegan food in the village together and are reluctant in our farewells in Christchurch, just the next day.

The scene of it all is something magical all on its own and you’d think that by this stage I’d be over the remarkable natural treasures of the South but nope, each stop has something that sets it apart from the others. Here it’s the sprays of Russell Lupine’s, a wildflower that has quick become my favourite and one I’ve only spotted here in New Zealand, blooming around the still glassy surface of the Lake. Up on Mount John’s peak we take in the full view of Tekapo, tones of purple, pink and turquoise, accented in that lush evergreen that trademarks these lands for me. There’s an observatory up top which we both skipped out on. As with most activities here, it’s pretty pricey and we fancy a free, mellow, star show by the lake later anyways.

On the drive in, our tour guide gets us all stoked for clear skies filled with constellations. For most of the night we aren’t at all fortunate and everything is instead blotted out by thick clouds. Luckily after a restless couple hours trying to sleep on a squeaky bunk, I get up and go for a walk in the early morning hours, I’ve never been so grateful for a sleepless night. Of course I didn’t have my camera with me and it’s not like it would have captured the site all to well anyways. But the sky was filled with stars. I grew up in a city and other than a couple camping trips where the light pollution was left behind, I’ve not had such an opportunity to really see them. It frustrates me some, that such a simple sight, should be so rare but simultaneously renders me speechless that such a small moment could leave such an imprint on me.

Light and love, N x

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Pieces of: Wairere falls….

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When I’m ‘Settled’ into routine and have to put travelling on hold, it’s little adventures and road trips that keep my spirits up. A friend took me to Wairere Falls the other week and it was a right test for my lungs and my poor little legs. Despite the pain once we reached the summit the trek up seemed like nothing. We weren’t expecting the waterfall to be so impressive anyways so even the road leading to it took my breath away a little. The first view point is about half way up and gives you a stunning view of the waterfall itself set into the rocks and lush greenery, you might very well feel like that’s enough and want to retreat but you have to troop on because waiting at the top is the real treasure. The day we chose was a windy one so the waterfall was actually floating up to shower us,  water droplets catching in the sun rays and pure views of green rolling hills. It took about an hour and half, round trip, if I remember rightly, with options for longer more advanced routes. Here in New Zealand there’s always something waiting to stun you around every corner, this place is in a league of its own. I’m keen to check out more of the trails around and about Tauranga and if you ever find yourself in the area be sure to give this one a go.

Love and Light, N x

Hobbiton…

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging..”IMG_2422

IMG_2416“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” IMG_2203IMG_2160“Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?” OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Just a bit daft

This is a little bit of a fun one. A once in a life opportunity to be catapulted into one of my most treasured fantastical worlds. Little Hobbit homes on lush green hills, rolling just like Tolkien described. Huge, cinderella pumpkins and budding blooms in pops of vitality. The tour is annoying, like a school trip, everybody overcrowds to get that photo and even take pictures of me and my friends as we act silly in our giddy amazement. It’s still worth it, all of the touristy frustration is okay because this is Hobbiton and this is a very real enchantment. I think I suppressed my expectations for the week building up to the trip. It had been on my bucket list forever and was the first thing I wanted to see on my arrival in New Zealand. Granted it was overpriced and you didn’t get nearly enough time there but it’s just one of those things that’s such a treat if you’re even a little bit into Lord of the Rings. And so much effort went into that movie, the things you learn about the set and the design; individually painted leaves, smaller and bigger Hobbit holes to allude to size difference and the importing of specific cattle and tree types to get Tolkiens world just right. It’s a testament to the whole team behind the series to have this permanent piece of their hard work here.

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks.”

Light, love and the courage to adventure, N x

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Pieces of: Queenstown…

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Queenstown is the backpacker capital of New Zealand. It’s got all of the hikes, water sports, the infamous bungy and of course the wild nightlife. It’s a perfectly fun place to visit…for a couple of days. This is where the strain of being on a guided tour kicked in. I’d based my whole South Island trip on research alone, with an allotted amount of time, before an already booked flight back to England, I’d made a, very unlike me, itinerary. The whole thing was based on the experiences of friends and countless hours of research, so of course Queenstown came out on top.

In the end I had four days there and not all that much to fill them with. The bungy jump had never really appealed to me, I love adrenaline but having to stare over the edge and then throw myself off of a very high platform did nothing at all for my excitement levels and everything for my anxiety. People who had done it gave very mixed reviews and I’d already done my lifelong bucket list goal in Wanaka (read all about my sky dive HERE) so in the end I passed on the whole bungy hype. I don’t regret it by the way, a lot of people have asked me that since.

Other than that there are smaller activities around, the luge gets a good write up, as does the jet boat and the parasailing but I was just over it by then. Overall I’d spent a lot of time, and funds, on activities in the previous stops and nothing in Queenstown really got the blood pumping. It is very touristy, too many people for such a small town. And whilst the atmosphere was thrilling, everyone was putting so much pressure on doing stuff that it sort of sucked the fun right out of it. Not to mention the prices of some of the stuff was just daft. So I did some treks, some sunbathing and some partying and called my time there ‘vacation mode’. I ate a lot of vegan cake and drank a lot of coffees too. It wasn’t a bad time at all, I made some mint memories with some good people but I just wished I’d planned more time in Wanaka and Abel Tasman.

If you are more of the thrill seeking, do absolutely everything possible, type then you will love Queenstown. It’s activity central and the nomads hostel there is a proper good hub for meeting people to do stuff with. Great for my fellow lone wolves out there who sometimes need to grab a group for those group only excursions. But I do feel I have to be honest and say it was by no means my favourite stop, not even close really.

Light and love, N x

Nifty Nooks: Cafe 88…

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Down in the Mount you’ll come to realise the heart of the coffee culture, in this tiny town, is held on the premises of two neighbouring cafes: Luca and Cafe 88. The former I’ve yet to snap any pictures of, though it was my first and possibly my best coffee in the Mount, so more on that soon, promise!

Cafe 88 is always busy. I used to find refuge here during my time living in the hostel across the road. It’s open a little later than a lot of the other cafe’s, closing at 5pm, so it’s always been a good spot for me to kill a few hours with a book and something sweet. The vegan caramel slice is my jam (it features in both pictures) and though Gravity coffee brings back haunting memories of the awful cafe I worked at in Wellington, as well as just being generally terrible, the Barista’s here are skilled enough to pull it off. Also, the girls behind the counter are just wonderful. Always smiling and passing banter between them despite how stressful I bet it gets working there. One of the barista’s, Katie, even hooked me up with a trial shift back when I was hating life working at my previous cafe. The trial was awesome and only proved that the staff are little rays of sunshine. I would of jumped on that job had I not heard back from my lovely little vegan nook first.

The atmosphere, though busy, is always electric. There are a whole host of locals chilling out in the back courtyard and tourists streaming in, enticed by their packed cabinet food. So if you want to feel at home in a place, this one is your best bet. You’ll be looked after and welcomed, no doubt about it, and you can grab something yummy in the process.

Love and Light, N x

Mount Moments 03…

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10/02/2018

My dreams have morphed into the terrors again. The sleep paralysis that echoed through childhood, teen hood, adulthood. Like ice on my skin, eyes on me, hands on me, my mind trapped in another plane, aware so much of the phantom beings lingering just beyond my reach. One grabs my throat, another creeps up my body beneath the sheets, in the corner she stands, completely still, but throws unnatural energy at my paralysed body, a child runs up the mattress beside me, whispers in my ear, stirs the hair there. It isn’t new, its familiar. I take comfort in my nightmares. Latch on to the adrenaline of the terrorising. Work the half awake state into dribbles of awful poetry. It’s been happening for nights on end. But I want it to happen, in some sick self torment, I crave being frightened. Crave feeling something. How disturbing is that?

13/02/2018

Loneliness has tender fingers, skilled at subduing you, softly, over time. Bit by bit I just feel hollow, aware in moments, but fleeting. Loneliness is me and I’ve resigned to rooting myself in it. It’s like the universe has sentenced me to myself.

14/02/1018

Two drinks down and my nerves are submerged in the liquor. My tongue is lose, my wit a dagger, swift and hitting the mark. We play ‘never have I ever’ around the table of a bar. Not a half hour earlier I tripped up over my order, rehearsed efficiently over and over in my head whilst we waited in line, I could feel my eyes doing the deer in a headlight act and my cheeks flamed as I forced myself to make normal eye contact with the cute bartender. Now I am lightning, unashamed of my tame and uncertain self but happy to divulge whatever naughty parts of me I keep well hidden. The mystery is unraveled between sips of ale and laughter with company that I might just be allowing myself to trust. Let’s pretend it won’t make me nauseous to replay the words, clumsily spoken tonight, in the morning.

24/02/2018

Mostly, these days, I’m living in moments of contentedness, between wicked snips of anxiousness brutal enough to crumble it all but I won’t let them. Here, I’m in the careful hold of Mother Nature and I feel cared for. The sunshine embracing me, the mountain shielding me, my bare feet on the ocean packed sand grounding me. I’m so grateful to have the homecoming of the tide, regardless of the geographical location. So lucky to have that reminder of vastness, limitlessness, a certainty of all that’s greater than me.

This tiny town may not offer many other distractions but it does provide me steady comfort. Some time to breathe and some time to indulge in a simple life. A life dreamt up by a younger self, longed for so ardently. Here there is time to read and to write and to create. Time to be alone. If only I could teach myself to be alone again. But I will…I am. Slowly during long evenings at the beach with my book and the play of the waves and the plain, too often overlooked, gratitude at having even made it to this point in my life, and more so making it here at all. All alone, by my own means, I made it to this random place I’d never heard of before I set foot in New Zealand. I’m in New Zealand. And my god if I’m not in awe of myself and all I do, all the courage and commitment I throw into living my life on my terms despite that part of me set up for self destruction.

Love, light and wild courage, N x

 

Pieces of: Wanaka

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Where was my favourite stop on my South Island trip? This mellow little lakeside town, brimming with young souls, bordered by protective green giants. I love site seeing and all that proper travel stuff but what makes this lifestyle the one for me is the people you meet, doing all that average everyday stuff in a new place with new faces. Grabbing a coffee, getting drunk, dancing, chatting about the world and your hopes and dreams and finding an echo of it all in the words of someone else. Someone born miles away, with a different upbringing, a different culture, different religion, whatever it is. But you have this little snap of a nonsensical moment on the swaying deck of a boat in New Zealand. That is what I want my life to be, a mosaic of chance encounters and spontaneous moments.

I spent three days here but could have stayed longer. I even contemplated moving here when I came back out to New Zealand, after my trip home for Christmas, and sometimes I still feel like I might just up and move. The only reason I really did stay a little longer was to catch up with a friend, Meg. Meg was once on of those chance encounters on another journey on another land not too far away. I met her in Coffs Harbour, Australia, doing blueberry picking for our second year visa’s and had tried unsuccessfully to reunite throughout the months since when we were always near but not quite near enough.

Meg knew Wanaka well, she took me around to her favourite cafe’s (something we did all too well together back in Aus), she shared her friends with me, her plans with me and showed me all of the reasons why she adored Wanaka. Seeing a place through someone else’s eyes is an odd thing, it should be such a straight forward experience to see a town, a city, a country. But, as with all things, humans are peculiar, as are our perspectives and I think Megs perspective on this place made me see it as something more.

Oh, and I finally got to skydive here too. A final nudge from Meg and a lot of money later and I was throwing myself out of a plane over some pretty gnarly views. It cost a lot more than pretty much every other place I’d researched into but it was an unbeatable experience, I was buzzing off the madness of it for days after. My ultimate South Island highlight.

Light and Love, N x

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