A Brief Sojourn in Wanaka

Maybe it’s because the weather cleared up, maybe it’s because the Fall colours were on full display, maybe it’s because I FINALLY got to do some adventure sports – but I freaking LOVED Wanaka!



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Wet on the West Coast

What’s the first thing that springs to mind when I say West Coast? Ok, probably California. But, unlike that warm, sunny, American expanse, the West Coast in New Zealand is generally referring to the section on the South Island along Highway 6 – from Kahurangi National Park all the way down to Mount Aspiring National Park. Renowned for its glaciers, mountains, national forests, and, of course, coastal views, I’m sure it was very nice, except for the fact it rained. Every. Freaking. Day. Which, ok, I admit it is exposed to the sea, so, you know, weather. But seriously! Buckets of rain all the time. And misty drizzles when it wasn’t pouring. I’d greatly wanted to go heli-hiking on Franz Josef Glacier, but it kept getting cancelled due to the weather. Eventually I just moved on because there was no forecasted break in the monotonous rain.


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Let Me Count the Ways

As I’ve mentioned, unfortunately my work visa for New Zealand didn’t pan out, and the past month and a half has been an utter whirlwind as I tried to sort out my path forward. I was waking up every morning with a knot of anxiety so bad it made me want to vomit.


ANZAC Memorial

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Christchurch and Arthur’s Pass

The day after seal watching was dedicated to soaking at Hanmer Springs – a hot springs facility outside of Christchurch. I got an $11 ticket from a deals website (either grabone or bookme, I think) and spent the entire, rainy day basking in the naturally fed pools. As it was overcast, I didn’t even have to worry about getting sunburned!

I spent the weekend on a friend’s sheep station outside of Christchurch; relaxing, exploring, and drinking a fair bit of wine.

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South Island Road Trip: Part 1

There was a lot of driving done on South Island, and I’d say half of it was because, “Well, I have time, so I’m going to take this several hour long side trek to see whatever’s there.” I zig-zagged back and forth across the island multiple times in this fashion; simply exploring waterfalls, beaches, seal colonies, big rocks, star gazing, mountain spotting, glacier hiking, lighthouses, things of that nature. Anything that piqued my curiosity (and wasn’t too difficult) got a look. (There were some LOTR filming locations and a Blue Lake I’d heard about, but as they required 12hrs to 2 days hiking in mountains to get there, I uttered several resounding “Fuck that”s)


Driving in NZ is never boring!

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Farewell Spit

No, it’s not the name of some strange leaving ritual (though now that you mention it…) – it’s the stretch of land right at the tippy top of the South Island. Weather was inclement, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me (good thing, too, because 3 out of 4 days down south seemed to be “inclement”). I had several days before meeting a friend down in Christchurch – no better way to fill the time than exploring! Continue reading

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Plot Twist!

Well, in an unpleasant turn of events, my New Zealand work visa has fallen through. I had been so hopeful that somehow things would work out so I’d get to stay here in this beautiful city I’ve made my home, but after bringing it right up to the wire in terms of timing, my bosses decided not to pursue things further. I received this news while I was waiting in LAX for my flight back to NZ and spent the next 12+ hours alternatively being fine and making future plans and totally freaking out.IMG_1586 Continue reading

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Exploring Abel Tasman

On what turned out to be the last day of good weather for quite some time, I did my first proper tramp – a chunk of the Abel Tasman Track; from Torrent Bay back down to Sandy Bay

I drove in the morning to Sandy Bay where I caught a water taxi up to Torrent Bay. It was stunning weather and we also got a bit of a tour – saw Split Apple Rock and some baby seals. I love cruising around by speed boat 🙂

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Southward, ho!

I was catching the 8am ferry from Wellington to Picton via the Cooke Straight, so I drove into the outskirts of Wellington around 6.30am. There are two companies that make the crossing, InterIslander and BlueBridge. I opted for BlueBridge as it was a whole $5 cheaper 😛 The crossing takes about 3hrs in good weather, and there’s even a movie theatre on board. I would’ve been tempted to watch Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them if I hadn’t already seen it in theatres, but the lure of some stunning natural landscapes kept me on deck.


Wellington Harbour 🙂

The weather was perfect, and I saw a pod of dolphins skimming along their merry way. When we got to the land formations of Queen Charlotte Sound, while the weather wasn’t inclement,  there were all these low-lying clouds around the spikes of earth jutting from the sea and the effect while hauntingly beautiful. A Kiwi who does the crossing often mentioned it was a unique day – you could do the crossing every day for ten years and never see it do this. IMG_8926


One thing about New Zealand for sure – the sky is stupid beautiful!

I’d been planning on helping with the first vintage of some folks I’d met back on Waiheke who had started a vineyard in Blenheim. I stayed in their gorgeous little sleep out and did A LOT of wine tasting around Marlborough. It was delicious and educational 🙂 However, the fruit was taking longer than expected to ripen, so I continued on my journey with a view of swinging back around when the fruit finally ripened.

[Truth is, I never made it back because it took weeks for the grapes to ripen to the right level and I wanted to see the South Island before it got too cold. About a month after I left they were able to harvest a respectable sum for the first harvest and for such terrible weather and I expect a decent Pinot Noir from there in the years to come.]

I took a scenic, winding drive up past Picton and stayed the night at a little hostel that offered free kayaking and was next to the Queen Charlotte Track. It’s one of NZ’s Great Walks and I did about 45 minutes of it the first night – it was terrifically muddy in places and I hadn’t yet found proper trekking shoes. I did come across a wild/escapee goat on the trail. While I didn’t bring my camera with me kayaking, we came across hundreds of little jelly fish – none bigger than my hand and most quite a bit smaller. They didn’t look like they had tentacles, and it was a really cool phenomenon to see so many all at once.

The next day, on my way towards Nelson, I stopped by the Pelorus River – made famous as the Barrel Scene in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

(And yes, I TOTALLY pretended I was an archer elf 🙂 Sadly, I was traveling solo at this point so didn’t have anyone to document my nerdy-awesomeness.)

I spent the afternoon in Nelson. It’s a cute little town but easily done in a day. I happened across their weekly market day,  explored a cathedral, and took a stroll through a lovely garden. The weather was cold and drizzly, but I didn’t want to head to my campsite so early in the afternoon, so I hunted out the local cinema and an afternoon viewing of Kong: Skull Island. It was, as I’d predicted, delightfully entertaining – a great way to spend a less than accommodating afternoon.

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I then proceeded to the campsite I’d picked for the night, just on the outskirts of Nelson. To my consternation, I couldn’t find the bloody place! I’d followed GPS but it took me somewhere that was definitely NOT a place I could legally car-camp overnight. Thankfully, I was able to look up another site that was less than hour’s drive away, free, AND had a bbq! As it was slightly nearer to where I needed to be the next day (Abel Tasman), I turned Shadowfax further West…

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Let’s Talk Rugby

I have never been into sports. I never understood the appeal, and anytime I tried to watch American sports (football, soccer, baseball, basketball), I was bored to tears. I found them, on the whole, to be unnecessarily dragged out and lacking in action. American Football in particular has more stopping and debating (not to mention commercial breaks!) than play. The one time I saw any live sporting event not dealing with horses was when my Mom and Aunt brought me to the local baseball game, and, full disclosure here, I went hoping to score a brat from the brat cannon (True story – I did. And. It. Was. Epic. Ask me about it in person – I’ll re-enact it for you). But, if I recall correctly, we even left from there early as it just kept going and going. So, to sum up, sports are not my thing.

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