"Find life experiences and swallow them whole. travel. meet many people. go down some dead ends and explore dark alleys. try everything. exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Last Paradise

I don't even know where to begin.   How can I describe my 17-day road trip across the South Island? There is no way words can adequately convey the many emotions, experiences and sights that filled this trip, but I'll give it a go. Keep in mind that to actually explain this journey, it would take much more than a blog post.  Hence, you all MUST visit the south island before you die.

On Friday the 26th, we flew into Christchurch, a now devastated town due to numerous earthquakes and after-shocks.  That night we drove north in our little two-person camper-van, packed with five people and all of our belongings.  As we drove along New Zealand's windy roads, the stars shone brighter than I think I have ever witnessed right above us--the milky-way streaked across the middle and the southern-cross laid low on the horizon.  After an hour or so of driving, we pulled off to the side of the road to sleep (freedom camping!!).  In the morning we awoke to find that we had stumbled upon a beautiful little spot right on the beach.  We ate breakfast with the sun's rays bouncing off the water and the snow-capped mountains in the distance.  A feeling of humbleness and awe swept over me---New Zealand's dynamic landscape continued to impress upon me this sensation as our trip continued.  One of the cooler things that struck me about our trip was the drastic changes in landscape from place-to-place.  I literally walked through tropical forests, over glaciers, across grassy plains, through a fiord, and anything else you can imagine.  One day we were kayaking through blue-green ocean in Abel Tasman and the next, we were walking towards Franz Josef Glacier.
Since I cannot elaborate on everything I did, here is a list of places we went:
  • Kaikoura Seal colony--so many seal were just basking in the sun
  • Ohau Stream-- seal pups swam and crawled their way upstream in order to get to a waterfall where they played right in front of us
  • Blenheim- we stayed in my friend's cousins house.  We visited several wineries (all gorgeous!) and ate a feast of lamb and roasted veggies (including kumara--nz's sweet potato)--very kiwi as.  We talked a lot about how kiwis just "get it"--they know how life should be lived and they do it.  It was here that I first learned the affectionate term "jafa"--just another 'friendly'(another word is more often used...) aucklander--apparently aucklanders are dis-liked by the rest of New Zealand.  My love for Pinot Noir and Reisling was discovered here as well :)
  • St Arnaud- We did a two day tramp around Lake Rotoiti and stayed in a hut right on the lake.
  • Abel Tasman- We kayaked from Marahau to Anchorage, stopping at Adele Island to see some seals and eating lunch at Akerstons Beach.  We camped at Anchorage and tramped back to Marahau the next day.
  • Cape Foulwind- Rocky west coast with steep cliffs
  • Puanakaki/Pancake Rocks- Sweet as rocks stacked liked pancakes.  The waves crashed up alongside the rocks and water escaped in blow-holes showering us with mist
  • Greymouth/Brunner Mine
  • Franz Josef Glacier-we tramped up to Robert's Point and along the river that runs off the glacier
  • Haast Pass- We stopped at several stops along the way including: waterfalls and the gates of Haast.
  • Wanaka- This is a small town on Lake Wanaka. If I could convince everyone at home to move here, I would.  We went to a movie at the Paradiso( you sat in couches and ate cookies at intermission) and then went to dinner at The Cow.
  • Mt Cook- sweet as glacier views...we spent a good amount of time napping on huge rocks in the river :)
  • Te anau- The gateway to the Fiordland
  • Milford Sound- We did a boat cruise that took us out into the fiord.  Dolphins surfed the waves off the boat, a penguin sat atop the rocks and seals slept along the shore. Rudyard Kipling called it the 8th wonder of the natural world.
  • Queenstown- We "showered" in the freezing Lake Wakatipu and hiked the Tiki Trail--great view of the town and the lake.  We also visited three more wineries and a cheesery.
  • Dunedin- We went to Cadbury World, a farmer's market, the Railway Station (which is apparently the second most photographed building in austral-asia), we drove up the steepest street in the world, and saw a sea lion.
This is just a fraction of what we did, but I don't have the time to recount everything because it was all so amazing.  Those two weeks spent living off peanut-butter and soup, tramping  numerous tracks, sleeping in dodgy places along New Zealand's windy as roads,waking up to find ourselves in yet another beautiful area, and just enjoying the world's last paradise were the best two weeks of my life.  While I do believe there are places in the states that live life the way it should be led, there is something enticing about the kiwi lifestyle that just draws you in.  How can it not when you are constantly surrounded by such dynamic and awe-inspiring scenery?

Winery in Blenheim
Tramp in St. Arnaud


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