Abel Tasman National Park has golden beaches and water so clear that kayaks in shallow water simply appear to be floating in space. I bask in the sun and climb some of the 57 km of trails that wind and twist through dense trees. I wander beaches and explore tiny side trails.
Absolutely Brilliant” reports the Sea Conditions board of the whale-watching shop in Kaikoura. But a cruise doesn’t appear to be in the works for my afternoon. It’s 11 am, but without a reservation, I am the 34th person on the waiting list.
Driving more than 2500 km around New Zealand is an endeavour filled with hazards. But winding roads and falling rocks and monsoon rains are to be expected. It’s the bridges I’m not prepared for. Constructing highways through challenging landscapes has led to bridge designs that are rather shocking by North American standards.
The miserable cold and rainy weather of last night is still in full force this morning. It doesn’t look good for heli-hiking. I figured that I would destroy my budget and take the rare opportunity to go on an absolutely extravagant excursion (as if this trip wasn’t already).
It’s been some time since there’s been internet access and an equally long while since things like paved roads, gas stations and towns with populations in the triple digits. We reach the relative metropolis of Fox Glacier by midnight, despite our little car fiasco.
The road from the Purple Cow Hostel in Wanaka to the glaciers of the west coast takes us past Puzzle Town and it’s massive 3-D maze (open on Christmas day!). We push on through amazing mountain vistas toward Haast and through Mount Aspiring National Park and the Blue Pools. Weird mailboxes. Abandoned and dilapidated shacks.
The site of the fifth highest annual rainfall anywhere on the planet, Milford Sound sees some 9 m (30 feet) of rain pour from the sky each year. And most of it seems to be coming down tonight. After driving through places like “Devil’s Staircase Bluff,” so many rivers that they’re numbered rather than named.
Two hours from Christchurch, through low, grass-covered hills, we swing around a bend. The road stretches out across a massive plain of grass and flowers and sparse trees, sliced in two by the grey road — a straight shot that stretches out until it disappears at the base of the Southern Alps.
AChristmas carroll singalong concert in the park. Mean black swans the size of 8-year olds. Casinos and strip clubs around every corner, almost as frequent as churches. There are steaming and wheezing and erupting geysers. Volcanoes. Boiling and belching mud pits. It all has an intrinsic juju that evokes the…
From my hostel (with its own rock-climbing wall!) in downtown Rotorua, I walk the 3 km to a Maori village, where after $17, a musical performance and a few hours, I realize it’s not the place I originally wanted to go.
On the bus to Rotorua, light is fading and we’re rolling across Middle Earth. Well, northern Middle Earth. Sheep and horses and merinos dot roadside pastures. They’re around every curve out here, and an hour south of Auckland, there have been a lot of curves.
I normally begin a trip recounting the items, often essential, that I’ve forgotten. And while this excursion isn’t without a few minor wayward objects, the major gear is all with me. As the days tick by, however, I’m now progressively losing stuff. At this rate, it’ll be me and whatever I can stuff into my pockets.
Kia ora, everyone! It’s that time of year again. Time to polish those brass knuckles for yet another pre-holiday stampede-like trip to the mall. Time to take a page from Elvis’ playbook and shoot out those radio speakers after the bazillionth grocery store listening of Chimpmunks Christmas songs.
A light drizzle coats the back of the camera hanging around my neck. Released from the steel gray sky, the tiny drops aggregate on the plastic as I stand lingering, idling amidst the ebb and flow of travelers. A stiff, cold breeze abruptly enters the mix and the reaction is instantaneous amongst the crowd: scarves get wrapped tighter and jackets get zipped up higher and gloves are pulled more snug.
Casting off for an extended voyage is a paradigm shift in the experience of usual, brief sojourns. I cherish the basics: Having only beginning and end points to a trip. The freedom to think of time as a minor, abstract detail — able to move in any direction, to capitalize on any moment. Spontaneity. Serendipity. Experience. As for so many travelers, these themes have become my very definition of escape.