Five months into my travels and I am on road trip #5 in New Zealand! I road tripped the North Island three times, did some house-sitting in Wellington over the holidays, and then traveled to the south island for a second house-sit. I planned road trip #4 with a German woman around the northern part of the south island. Now I am heading further south, road-tripping with Carolina who I met 5 months ago in Iceland! I’ve mainly been camping as a means to experience the countryside first-hand and save money on accommodation.
After traveling here for over 2 months, I can honestly say I never imagined so much beautiful and diverse landscape in such a condensed space. New Zealand truly has it all: rolling green pastures, monumental glaciers, native tropical forests, pristine sandy beaches, rocky coastlines, snow-covered mountains, active volcanoes, hot springs and pools—the list could go on and on. This is what I came here for. It’s a hiker’s, camper’s, roadtripper’s dream come true. Good thing I’m all three!
What I’ve been up to this last month
Last check-in, I deviated my blogging norm and gave you my top 10 travel moments from the previous 4 months instead of giving you the old run-down on the items in my bag, my health and psyche, and/or other illuminations. This time I’ll go back to my old check-in format. As always, however, I will list the highlights of things I have seen and done over the last month. So here we go…
- I took the Arahura ferry from the North Island to the South Island at sunset
- I met and chilled with the foreman of the ferry and sat in the captain’s chair
- I got a ride to Rangiora with 3 Maori natives and discussed the stigma their people face
- I house-sat 3 well-behaved dogs and one cuddly cat for a week in Rangiora
- I was hosted by a speech therapy student who worked camera crew on the LOTR films
- I went caving in waist-deep water and up waterfalls—twice!
- I stood on top of limestone rock formations overlooking a beautiful mountain valley—thrice!
- I found a German woman who became my travel companion for 10 days
- I drove a car for free from Christchurch to Picton
- I took a rental car, nicknamed Frogger, on an epic 31-day journey
- I camped all over the East, North, and West parts of the South Island
- I jumped in waves at the beach near Picton
- I drove the scenic Northern Fjords along Queen Charlotte Drive
- I saw massive kites flown in the skies of Nelson and walked to the “center of New Zealand”
- I trekked part of the Abel Tasman great walk and camped at New Zealand’s best beach
- I learned about New Zealand’s 1080 (poison) drops
- I watched fur seals sunbathing on the crazy rock formations on the West Coast
- I observed driftwood and sand sculptures at the beach in Hokitika
- I picked up Carolina in Christchurch and began a one-month road trip
- I ate a meat pies from Sheffield Pie Shop
- I saw a forest fire fought by helicopters and planes near Lake Pearson
- I hiked the Bealey Spur Track and signed the book in a really gross hut at the top
- I tried eel caught by a traveler and smoked over a fire at a campsite near Greymouth
- I determined I hate sand flies more than mosquitoes
- I tramped to the Fox glacier
- I helped out a stranded Korean doctor
As you can see from above, I left an item behind and was lucky enough to be reunited with it! So I think this calls for an item update.
I also sent some things home with my friend who visited for a 10-day road trip: black Ibex dress (worn for Chiang Mai Halloween only), ex officio bra (not enough support), mosquito-repelling bands (didn’t really work in Thailand), anti-theft wire bag protector (too heavy and never used).
The story with my camera case is awesome! I realized I had left it behind in the free car I transferred to Picton. I contacted Budget, spoke to a woman there named Sally, and she confirmed it was still in the car currently at the mechanic. She was sweet enough to offer to deliver it to me in her hometown near the Abel Tasmn—we’d both be there in a few days. She was the nicest woman ever—and a New Zealand local. You bet I’ll be writing Sally a real nice review to Budget Corp soon.
I’m very sad about my Olympus Stylus Tough camera breaking! It was not so “Tough,” after all. After a few minutes playing in some waves, it got water into the battery compartment and the camera would no longer turn on. Strange since I had already took it diving down 6 meters! Olympus won’t cover it and neither will my protection plan since I am outside the USA. Who knew? The hassle and cost of shipping would have already been the price of the camera, anyway. There was no way I was going to go without a good camera just as I was starting to travel the gorgeous South Island of New Zealand. Alas, I was forced to buy a new one. Pricey, but worth it for the beautiful pictures it takes—and luckily my family just gave me some gift money over the holidays to cover it. Thanks Mom and Dad!
A reminder to keep deviating
I really try to avoid too much complaining in my writing, especially about other people. But let’s face it, every person you meet will not always be pleasant in life or in your travels. Instead of just complaining about this one negative fellow I met recently, I’m going to share with you the realization I came to: The negative ones we meet in life are there to help remind us of something positive we are doing or need to do. This one negative gentlemen I met reminded me why deviating the norm is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing right now.
The story takes place as I was preparing to write this very blog in the dining area of a hostel on the West Coast of New Zealand. Carolina and I were taking a camping break and parked our car in the very cramped and narrow lot out front. I did my best to park so people could still get around me and out of the lot. Later on, an older adult staying at the hostel stormed into the kitchen, “I hope none of you have that car out there.” “Oh, that’s mine, what’s wrong?” “You’re blocking everyone!” As soon as he said this I grabbed my keys and rushed out to take a look.
A car was now parked opposite me on an angle blocking the path I had put effort into keeping open, and now the car that was previously behind me had left making it look like I hadn’t pulled all the way back on purpose! Ahh! I jumped in the car to back into the space behind me, opening up the way.
The man ended up standing next to my window flailing his arms and shouting at me the whole time I was trying to concentrate on backing up. When I got out, he kept yelling and complaining saying I could get closer to the wall. To appease him, I got back in and pulled closer. Calmly, I got out and said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know the other cars had changed positions leaving my car in the way. And this is the best I can do. There’s plenty of room now.” But he continued to yell at me all the way up the driveway back into the hostel. What was I supposed to do? I had done what he asked straight away, no complaints. I don’t do well with people yelling at me especially when I know I’m right or only mean to be considerate to others. The man nearly brought me to tears until his wife finally came in and said “Just drop it” and they went upstairs to bed.
I was left sitting at my computer in shock over what transpired. This was the first time I encountered such negativity in all my 5 months of travel. As I pondered this fact, I tried to connect to the Wi-Fi again and was reminded of the name of the hostel. Ready for it? I seriously didn’t even notice when I had booked earlier in the day. The name of the hostel was, “The Ivory Towers.” I exploded with hysterical laughter resulting in all of the already-whispering backpackers to stare wide-eyed. I was laughing because you might have read somewhere one of the primary motivators for me taking this trip was to get my head out of academia—the ivory tower—and open myself up to the rest of the world. I had suddenly realized the first person I met in my travels to upset me so much was at a hostel called the Ivory Towers. Oh, the irony!
As a trained scientist, I’m not one to believe in fate or signs from the universe or spiritual prophecies. I believe sometimes we just see exactly what we need to see when we see it. Clear as the New Zealand sun the next morning, I knew I needed to leave the Ivory Towers hostel to get on with deviating the norm. And so I did.