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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Pieces of: Franz Josef…

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From beaches and lakesides to mountains and hot pools. Franz Josef is grey and that very tangible colour doesn’t transition for the three days we mourn there. Trapped in a hostel with violent clouds that press down and seep into our moods. The whole bus is sullen, moving slower, talking lower, life is at a stand still as we wait and wait for the clouds to lift. Maybe you feel it’s a little melodramatic to be so fixated on the weather, a little eye roll worthy even. But in Franz Josef our two main activities were hiking on the infamous glacier or, in my case, skydiving over it. The skydive there is the highest in New Zealand at 19,000 feet and the view one of the rarest in the world. Not only that but it is voted the second best spot in the whole entire world to skydive. It didn’t happen though. The clouds made flying conditions unsafe and guaranteed that if we did make it up into the skies we probably wouldn’t catch a glimpse of very much. So it was a sullen slump but made for a quick recharge moment, I ate a lot and bonded with others on my bus lots. So there’s that. And I did managed the tiny hour or so trek to actually see the glacier. Not a complete loss but not a trip highlight either. I truly think that this could have been a trip highlight had the sun broken through for just half a day but you win some, you lose some and the disappointment here only made for an amplified experience at my next destination…

Light and Love, N x

Pieces of: Kaiteriteri (Abel Tasman)

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Christchurch > Nelson > Kaiteriteri…

If I regret anything from my South Island experience it’s not spending more time in Kaiteriteri. A place of abundant beauty, soft sunlight and warm sand. Another regret is not taking more photographs. The colours during the day, of toasty orange sands and glittering sapphire ocean, remarkable blue skies and lively green shrouded cliffs in contrast to the smooth violets and navies as the sun called it a night. The air was warm, breeze pleasant. It makes me smile to think of it.

The morning of the day we left, we got to kayak along the shoreline of the Abel Tasman national park. Though a couple of my bus chums snapped a few shots and took a couple videos I’ve yet to chase them up and I didn’t dare sacrifice my camera or phone to the waters in case we did, in fact, capsize. Despite the lack of evidence my memory still serves the trip true at the moment and the feeling I get remembering the place is enough.

There was no time to hike through the park but maybe I’ll go back there and live the wonder of it fully. The kayaking was a treat though and actually one of my most favourite memories of the whole trip. The weather was stunning, the water so blue, the instructors so fun and informative. They could tell us Maori tales and sprout facts (that could very well be bullshit) about the national park. They told us the legend of the split rock just off of its shores too, telling us to paddle over and touch it for luck. Me and my kayak partner, Erin, did just that. I vaguely remember it being about a feud, that some valuable possession once stood there and turned to rock over the years, split in two by a God to appease the squabbling pair. I’m sorry I can’t recite it fully, the story is at odds with various others I’ve heard about the split rock since and then those again are at odds with what I read on the internet. There is also a story with its origins in Greek Myth (which baffles me) that a couple other travellers told me back at the hostel, something to do with Zeus (isn’t it always?). As much as Greek Myth fascinated me, I prefer the Maori tale.

The traditions and beliefs of New Zealand’s people really do amplify the experience. I’m a firm believer in the magic of nature, of our earth and all of the stories and traditions that the Maori people are grounded in gave every part of my South Island tour such soul.

 N x

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