My blog these past few weeks has been a little quiet. There have been shifts in my life, both place and state of mind, that have dominated my time. But I’m back at it and feeling a little reflective. My favourite posts have been the Mount Moments series for a while now, a very raw and honest look at life and travel. Now I’m back “Home” in Newcastle, England, and I want to keep that same uncut, artistic, feel to this space. Of course there will be more journeys and certainly more coffee’s but I want to embrace every element as a means to create.
In saying that, here are some very standard, amateur, shots of some pretty wildflowers found on a hike in the Cumbrian countryside.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Sunset lighting makes me feel at home no matter where in the world I am. It rests somewhere deep inside with a spreading warmth, a belonging and a detachment. When you watch on surrounded by other bodies, you’ll notice the same awe struck look on each face. There’s a reason so many people indulge in sunsets, take photographs aplenty and try so ardently to capture the colours, the shadows, the magic. Nature is a constant reminder of how insignificant we are and I feel like when you’re confronted with the almost divine impossibilities of the world you can’t help but mellow out into everything surrounding you. This is that united energy, the higher conciousness of realising we’re all lost here really. We don’t know whats out there, why we were put here, what really made our universe and continues to keep it going. This was one of many moments in the South Island that I truly couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing. I was forcing my mind to catalogue the shape of the water in the shadow of the sun, the mist in the air like visible energy dancing around us, the passing clouds so defined they looked photoshopped in the clear sky. I felt alone amongst that crowd of strangers but I also felt so contentedly at ease. The anxiety vanished and I could breathe slow and distinguished. It remains the best sunset I’ve ever seen and part of me likes the thought of one day maybe witnessing another, greater, one. The end of the day in all of its celebrated glory. I’ve seen many sunsets on various beaches, in so many lands but this was spectacular. None of these photo’s have been edited and my camera is definitely not the greatest, I don’t have a fancy lense or any knowledge of how to use it properly, really. And still, this little gallery makes me smile and catch my breath and I hope it illicit’s something in you too. However basic bitch, extra af, a sunset photoshoot may be, they’ll always remain some of my favourites to look at because despite the mysterious beauty, the liveliness of the dieing day, the visuals come to my mind in a rush of scattered words and vivid emotions and that is the magic I’m running toward with every plane, train and bus I take. I’m searching for the simple forms that define ‘living’ and this is it.
This is the West Coast, a stretch of road put up on the list of the best road trips in the world. Can you see why? Imagine the pure, raw, site of it all. That lazy ocean and frayed shapes of the pancake rocks. This little piece of my journey was enough to remind me that seeing an imagine second hand isn’t enough. That as much as I appreciate photography, as much as it may be my favourite visual art form, it can’t quite ignite the feelings of being present and reaching that cosmic level of understanding. Understanding the levels of beauty on our tiny piece of universe. This shit is what the aliens would invade us for. Standing at a view point with that early summer breeze sauntering through the air, temperatures so perfect you’re niether shivering nor sweating, the crowds around you are nothing because what you see, this actual real scenery, has consumed you. The ocean is my home, it’s my councillor, my mysterious lover, the one place I will never tire of returning too and this chunk of road time swelled that connectedness in my heart.
My memory is a little mushed with the particulars of the trip but I’m almost positive that this was the connection between Westport and Lake Mahinapua. I have no pictures of Westport so I’ll quickly say that, though it wasn’t as magical as a lot of the trip, I did paddle board for the first time (such a meditative activity) and did enjoy the hostel heaps, Bazil’s Hostel. Me and a couple of the girls even did an early morning Yoga class and grabbed a surprisingly good cup of coffee before we set off which probably put my mind in the perfect set up to connect with all that natural wonder around us.