New Zealand: South Island Highlights
1. Couchsurfing (www.couchsurfing.com) in Christchurch.
2. Randomly competing in a sushi-making contest. I was the only Caucasian competing against a dozen managers from a sushi-chain restaurant. Although my chopping skills were definitely not up to speed, they found my efforts quite amusing and entertaining. I think they may have even put the video on You Tube…
3. Mark and I discovering our favorite breakfast spot, Oasis. Fresh baked muffins and moccachinos all for 5 NZD. What a steal! Over the course of the following 5 weeks, we greeted any excuse to make it back to Christchurch just for the delicious muffins/coffee. Ironically enough, Gabe, the guy’s couch we surfed on, ended up getting a job at Oasis after we took him there for a farewell-thank-you breakfast.
4. Mark and I buying a 1989 Nissan Prairie, which we named “Prairie Fire”, in honor of our brother Cliff whose cheeky prank on a former co-worker still makes us laugh out loud to this day. ( Cliff, we even toted around Tequila and Tabasco Sauce in the back for 5 weeks!) The best part about the car….it had a SUNROOF. (Revert to a post below about my obsession about convertibles and sunroofs…as you may guess…I was in heaven.)
5. Horseback riding in Kaikoura.
6. Wine tour in Picton.
7. Trail-running the Queen Charlotte Track. They estimate that the hike should take 5 hours. Mark and I did it in an hour and 45 minutes.
8. Sunday morning Church at the Nelson Cathedral. One of the best services I’ve been to.
9. Getting lost on our way to Motueka. We were going to only hike 2 hours into the Abel, spend the day on the beach and hike back out. We (by “we”, I mean “I”…) ended up driving to the end of the Abel track and instead of driving back, we left our car in Totaranui, caught a water taxi to our original campsite destination and then had to hike out the entire track the following day. Most people do the Abel Tasman track in 3-5 days. We did it in one, hiking out in the dark.
10. Missing the low-tide crossing and Mark having to carry his pack, me and my pack across thigh deep water. My brother Mark, the “Sherpa”, is an all out champion.
11. Driving up Golden Bay to Whanganui Beach where Mark and I spent the afternoon walking through rolling green pastures lined with sheep, plunging down sand dunes like rabbits leaping through the air and eating lunch inside a cave while playing ankle deep in the water, tempting the torrent waves to come get us like a boy tormenting a dog on a leash-only this dog was frothing white water like it had rabies and was on the loose!
12. Soaking in the natural rock pools and Japanese bath house at Maruia Springs.
13. Driving through Lewis Pass: U2 blaring through the speakers of the car, feet on the dash, sun warming me through the window, my brother-my sidekick-driving, and my hand stretched high out the opening of the sunroof. Top 5 scenic drives of my life.
14. Picking up Mark’s friend Trevor, a warm-hearted and hilarious guy who added a ton of great memories and fun energy to the trip.
15. Driving through Arthur’s Pass and stopping at Castle Hill to watch a bouldering competition.
16. Thinking I was going to fall and break my skull when Mark forced me to boulder one of the rocks. I shimmied up the rock with great fear but savored the view and the adrenalin rush from the top.
17. Car camping alongside rail road tracks, beach roads, gravel turn outs, parking lots, streets, sports fields, farms and rivers. To save money we would car camp for 2-3 days, staying at hostels only when we needed a shower. True backpacker style!
18. Climbing Avalanche Peak, an 8 hour hike off of Arthur’s Pass.
19. Caving and exploring the pancake rocks at Punakaiki.
20. Meeting up with our 3 Danish friends, Kris, Soren and Morton, every 5-6 days. It was a joyous reunion every time we saw each other. It’s truly remarkable how tight-knit you can become with other travellers in such a short time.
21. Ice Climbing on Franz Joseph Glacier and being stuck in a “rescue mission” when my crampon broke as I was climbing out of a crevasse.
22. Meeting Lou and Ann, one of the most inspirational couples in their 60’s, who retired 15 years prior and have been sailing around the world ever since, breaking their adventure only once or twice a year to visit their children and grandchildren back home in the states.
23. Becoming acquainted with Ed, a Scottish-traveler living and working in Queenstown. We stayed at his place, went out with his friends and experienced a “local” perspective of QT. (Note that “local” virtually means anyone living in QT longer than 3 months as everyone is practically a foreigner.)
24. Eating a Fergburger-one of the most mouth-watering, gourmet and delicious burger ever created.
25. Hiking the Routeburn Track.
26. Kayaking and staying overnight in the Milford Sound. Imagine a bay surrounded by rock, rainforest and hundreds of waterfalls spilling down towards the shoreline.
27. Learning how to Zouk, a type of South American dance, with a Brazilian dance instructor named Rodrigo.
28. Enjoying a picnic and bottle of wine on a blanket with a handful of friends at Screen on the Green, a series of mini-documentaries, played for the public at a park in Queenstown.
29. Canyon Swinging. 109 meters high. 60 meters free fall. 150KPH. 200 meter arc. This is basically set up like bungee jumping but you swing through a gorge at the end instead of bobbing up and down. The great thing about canyon swinging is you also get to pick how you want to jump (backwards, somersault, dive, upside down etc.). I went backwards and upside down–which was an amazing rush.
30. Seeing Mt. Cook while on top of a neighboring mountain.