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…
A uniform – a sentence, an expectation, a decharacterisation. A faltering smile and another “How are you today?” but you don’t care much for an answer, another coffee machine with altered basics. But the sun is very real and the sea is very real and the pint Claire hands you is very real, as are the laughs, for a little while. Oh, it’s always very real until it isn’t. The very real becomes distorted from your view out of the bell jar and it doesn’t matter how much effort you put into belonging it always fails eventually.
Padding bare foot on warm pavements, onto warmer sands and into mild waters. Salty tumbles, tan lines, lingering grains in unwanted places. The sea has always been the greatest of presences in the grand scheme of things, a drifter needs a means of momentum to drift after all. It’s not getting easier to remedy the gnawing but some moments feel better. Better comes with getting used to accepting the disease as it rages in a new environment and sometimes that ‘getting used to’ has to be enough.
A bank holiday.
Tay street cafe, my local, is bustling with shaggy haired sea God’s and bikini clad swimsuit models. I never feel envious or insecure anymore and I suppose that acceptance comes naturally when you realise you are, effectively, invisible. A wallflower indulging in her greatest potential. Out on the waves, surfers wait for their turn to ride. The swell is good, or so I gather from the lads next to me and the whole scene is reminiscent of Bondi or Byron Bay. As has become natural to me over the past three years, I seek out a spot nearest the most bustling stretch of tide. And I could be happy there for hours, watching the easy grace, fluid twists, the sure footing and the wipeouts. I get itchy feet just witnessing it all but as always my musings of getting out there and learning myself are snuffed out by the uneasy churn it illicits in my chest.
These are a couple little scraps from my journal, some of the less self indulgent (believe it or not). After Mount Moments 01, which was a random little idea I decided to make this series a little testament to anxiety and what it’s like to travel alone, suffering from it.
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.
My heart is shuttered from all of the new which surrounds me, it still lingers on the nurturing grounds of home. Here I am invisible again and I can’t stir my sinking self into action. Their faces are all sneers despite the reality, their whispers all conspiring against me despite tell tale words of other priorities. My palms sweat as I make my way to the kitchen but I pretend to be fascinated by the noticeboard just before it and hastily retreat to the dorm room. Even there when conversation is made I’m not present, my heart is racing, those barbed fences locked in place around who I actually am. The parts that do escape are echoes of the charm and wit I know are rioting deep down impatient to be freed. It’s nonsensical to be so afraid of new people, of this new place. But I’m homesick for the people I love so wholly, scattered around the world. My home is no place and that’s all that Mount Maunganui is in this moment. A place, a spectacular place with so much potential. But I’m lonely and afraid and a place just isn’t enough.
Tauranga is a handful of city with a less hectic vibe. There are some halfway there towers of buildings, professionally dressed people dotted about the cafes and a lot of cool projects on the rise. When I feel like I need a little city wonder it doesn’t really do it for me but then there lies the charm of New Zealand, it’s tiny cities and easy flow of life. There is a starbucks in Tauranga and it is the main reason I ever ventured there in the first place. Starbucks has always been my constant as I’ve bummed about travelling, always a familiar mug of coffee in a nearly identical space. But nowadays when I head to Tauranga it’s for this place, The Nourished Eatery. It lies just a two minute walk from the city centre bus stop and first snagged me in because it advertised, not only vegan food but Flight Coffee too. And Flight Coffee is my preferred bean for sure.
They do an Iced Maple latte that you can have with any choice of plant based milk (every single thing here is vegan, not even cow juice is available for the drinks). I always go for rice milk and they serve the components separate so you can chose your own level of caffeineyness. Of course I just chuck all of it in there. I always want to go for one of their smoothies but I can’t get over how good this iced coffee is.
As for food, well, it’s just as impressive. There are the expected raw treats on display which do look yum but me and my sweet tooth always sidetrack them for the good, indulgent, baked stuff. So far I’ve tried their custard passionfruit donut, apple and cinnamon muffin, choc chip cookie and Banana loaf. Now I just always chose the banana loaf. They manage to make all of their cakes so fluffy and light which is always a problem I have when I bake vegan bits myself.
From the menu I’ve only ever tried the avocado on toast, it was insane. They give you so much avocado and the seasoning is wonderful thing. I don’t really have the foodie lingo to truly amp it up I guess but as far as vegan food goes this is a top choice here in New Zealand, definitely one of my favourites and of course it’s a local, independent, business which is always a bonus.
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.