In the end

In summary it was wonderful. It was expensive, it was inspiring, it was beautiful, bountiful and met expectations we didn’t even know we had and did I mention extremely costly?

Our trip, it was, fantastic. Bookended by flight times only and front loaded with the triathlon we sailed about our way through islands north and south, drifting to places learned at along the way, coaxed by words of locals and the well traveled, to sights to see and places to be.

6000kms Lucky’s tires spun while we were at her helm. Already bald they managed to Shepard us without incidence over our 30 days of ownership. By “without incident” we are obviously ignoring the 5 birds that flew into her windshield and a few cliff toppling near misses along the Queen Charlotte motorway.

What more about each other and one another did we learn? I’m not too sure nor am I sure there’s a need to. On the seemingly endless spiral of analysis I usually find myself paralyzed or near drowning somewhere, somehow. To be able to drift along with someone, a vague itinerary on one hand and a willingness on the other is bountiful. The financial ability to escape reality and to fund the escape cannot go forgotten or misrepresented. We could have bought orphanages, could have bought real estate with the coin we dropped (not sure exactly what we would have got but non the less). Instead we chose our trip. And like everything that really happens to you it is now, neither here nor there. It is now embedded in the memory book, in the phantasmagorical “record book” of our lives, our moments, a little bit of spice to the who we are, our trip to NZ.

Now on the plane from NZ I can already feel the vacation buzz fading and the travel bubble receding as we fly towards home, towards reality towards our life together away from the azure, the exploding and the endless rolling hills. I can’t be more excited, as I turn the page for this next chapter and reflect upon the dog eared well used chapter that was New Zealand, magnifico.

See you in 9 years NZ suckas!!

NZ, the end.

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Villa Maria – wine tour accomplished

Our last night in Auckland. Return Lucky & pack the bags…but wait what’s that sign? Go around the round about one more turn. Indeed Villa Maria – one of our favourite wineries (the only one that we really know) is less then 1km from our hotel. Oh no you didn’t just say $5 winery tour and it happening in an hour. Quick drop at Lucky, surprised receptionist still has a job because she just lies or is too bored to answer your questions..she looked different with extensions maybe it wasn’t her…anyways. We pay the ridiculous diesel recovery fee ($350), irritated but we don’t have time to make a stink or rather I don’t have time to 🙂 Its winery time.

Its a 5 minute walk from the gate to the winery and we stroll in reflection among the rows of grapes that will eventually ferment themselves into the nectar of our nights….The sun, as always shines brilliantly for us as we sip our syrah and smear the ducah on the oil ladened turkish bread. Ahhhh We’ve learned a lot about Villa Maria wines and yet we can’t recall anything, we remember vaguely the rude winemaster walking us through a taste test but its insignificance is really all we can now sense. We are numb, among the chirping birds, saturated in our nostalgia for a world so similar to ours but backwards just a bit and slightly sideways (and fuckng expensive).

Cheers and Adieu NZ.

Mt Tong

Our penultimate stop -Tongaroro National park. A 3 day (sorta) 2 night hike amongst the sacred lands bearing volcanoes, fancy huts, and people from all areas of the world walking purposefully, aimlessly and always respectfully. Could it be dangerous, parading oneself in volcano territory? Nahh..there’s machines that measure stuff, tell people somewhere, somehow when things will blow…there’s innocent schoolchildren by the dozens climbing up and over, that’s gotta be the epitome of safe – a school trip, right?

So we climbed too, we hiked we trekked, we tramped, until earth became snow and frosted volcanic cone tops filled our retinas and challenged our quads. Lactic acid building, the sun on our faces warm against the gobs of borrowed sunscreen we needed to shield the powerful UV (bc the weak ozone), we took it all in. All 360 from Mont Tong, gawked at Mt Doom and slid down for lunch. A reprieve amongst beautiful emerald lakes sitting like slaves at the foothills of the pointed mountains, the sulphur rich smell thick in our nose. The beautiful strange outdoors. We were happy and well justified in our recent gear acquisitions our Salomon hikers (on sale) and my back pack (on clearance though oddly not purple). Not only did we discover we are neophilias (not the other kind sicko), and so its nice to have new but seriously I only bought the back because its Arc’teryx and my sister has one that is the same age as I am, is purple and is still cool. Sold.

Had we continued I’m sure it would have been smooth but, Chad feeling presumably less of a man from us having cut 2 hrs from the previous day’s hike decided to extend the route a little because 2 mountain summits and 5 hours climbing in new shoes with 40 extra pounds on our back wasn’t enough for the day. So when he suggested this detour I said “sure” but what I meant was ‘No, I’m tired and what the hell, lets just go to camp I’m tired and weak but don’t want to show it”. He sensed the discrepancy between tone, body language and answer so kept asking to be sure. I kept opening my mouth to say no but all that came out was “sure” in a mean way. I’m sure it was nested in extremely low blood sugar – a scenario whereby my lines of communication default to read my mind and go by body language only. We went a little while then for some reason turned around, but those 2 remaining hours to the hut were in silence. Everything was restored when we pulled out the beer, not giving a shit that everyone stared as we gulped back the most exquisite stout this side of fakaraka hut. Apparently alcoholic trampers are far and few between.

The reason we had to cut our time short in the National Park was because we were a little off schedule the day before. Basically this is how it went down. We were supposed to leave Welly much much earlier. We didn’t. So we got to the car park late and had to pack our bags (I wouldn’t pack mine while Chad drove, just like I wouldn’t make coffee or in general use the propane stove as we drove I don’t know why he kept asking, its unsafe!!!). So we basically walk from the car park to our hut at like 9pm. The hut was packed and people have to wake up and move their shit to accommodate us. We feel quite audacious as we have paid to be here and there technically isn’t a time restriction on arrival (just common curtesy which we chose to ignore), and let the venomous glares of our new roomies just roll off our backs.

And of course in an effort to be as quiet as a church-mouse you are inevitably loud and bright, evinced by having dropped everything from my poorly packed bag then looking up and around the sleeping room to see if I had roused anyone meanwhile shining my 90 lumen head lamp all about, the room flashing like a rave. Unapologetic (because you just couldn’t say sorry that many times without that also becoming annoying), we climbed into our sleeping spots beside “squirmy worm” who rustled for over 15min trying to find his comfy spot and to my amazement zipping up at least 15 zippers. It was weird but worked to our benefit in popularity amongst the perturbed trampers. So we awoke to smile-less faces and cold shoulders, told everyone we were Americans, borrowed some sun block and summited mount Tong.

The next evening Karma delivered by mean of the Israel group who were at the same hut the previous night. Tonight they talked at such speeds and volume we came out to check if there was an auction or seance going on. It was crazy, but it didn’t bother me because the starry sky was so amazing that it left me warm and content (oh and the beer helped too).

Our final day of tramping was long and sinewy as we traversed the foothills in beautiful metro-dome-like pace. Among extra terrestrial like terrain, following post to post we snaked our way home back to Lucky, said no to drugs and oh yeah discovered we had narrowly escaped Mt Tong’s completely unexpected eruption!!! What the Hell?!! Go figure & good timing.

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Christchurch & Arthurs Pass

101 ways to use a sea can, broken Christchurch, the purple people eater (aka purple power Ranger), the South Island Belt (from East to West we go, over Arthurs pass – eye candy), 1000 steps (literally) & Chad’s on a schedule (Chad, not Sarah).

Apparently I’ve been acquiring a fair bit of purple clothing lately, from various stores. Mostly recent and all on wicked clearance sales I’ll have you know. On wardrobe analyses it seems I’ve brought most of these pieces with me to NZ. I wasn’t aware until Chad asked me what Power Ranger I would be if I had to choose, a part of his multitude of whimsical “What if” questions that mostly began with “if I gave you a million dollars” and followed with a question that to me was irrespective of wether you had a million dollars or not. But when you’re trapped in a campervan with someone for a very long time you just have to give in, just have to concede. There’s no calling uncle. And so I was conceding and remarked that unlike many things, the power rangers really delineate our generations from each other (if 2 years difference is enough to launch a generation) because they were pretty much after my time. My haughtiness was matched by Chad reflecting he though I would like to be the purple one. From what little I knew of power rangers I thought there was only Fire, Wind, Earth and Wind. I was like “Oh” again just going with the flow and Chad’s handle bar mustach starting shaking from laughter. “Because you’re wearing all purple” he kept laughing. I looked down and sure enough I was clad in purple from head to toe. Purple leggings and purple long sleeve. I was a grape, a purple people eater, a fashionable leotard like hipster, a season too late.

After changing we walked through Christchurch, a city built to uphold staunch christian principles in the wake of british colonization. Ironic in a way that it was unwittingly built on a major fault line from where Hell could ravage it, opening its mouth to suck souls and structures to its merciless underbelly while leaving in its wake the shattered and weak, trembling. Although some consumeristic rallying is visible by means of a cheeky hip sea can mall, the “red zone” which is pretty much city center is tipped more towards a state of demolition still then a state of construction on the scales of rebirth.

Next it was Arthur’s pass. Mighty mighty Arthurs pass that blesses its guests with “gobsmaking” beautiful expanses of the NZ Alps. Large looming alps shield you from North to South as you travel across the belly of the South Island, in a valley bottom littered with the beauty of yester-era’s glacial advance and retreats. Arthurs pass (like the chilkoot) was needed for gold seeking pioneers lured from the west or south to strike it rich on the east. Like the klondike, super human (and horse) feats were needed to pass the Mountainess gaps so poor might become rich and the rich might become richer. This incessant human need or greed for comfort or excess required a journey of over several days, ridiculed now by the high speed 4hr track that lead passengers not only across but to its many ski-fields and awesomely quaint pockets of holiday homes.

It led us to a (free) D.O.C site called greyneys cover, a little resting spot right beside the road. I was somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of a vehicle skidding off the road and slamming into us while we slept but a little more disconcerted with the abandoned car parked within 20 feet from us. Our only neighbour in this high altitude crossing. I was convinced the owner was dead in the washroom so I didn’t use the washroom. When Chad opened the door and showed me he wasn’t dead in the bathroom I was a little relieved and still decided not to use it. You never know when he was going to come back to die in the washroom and I just wanted to be safe.

We woke without a scratch so I put the knife back in the kitchen cabinet and we ran like fools over 900 stairs (one way) through more kick ass NZ DOC trails. Posed at devil’s punch bowl and made like man men for Picton – Ferry or Bust folks. Of course there was an argumen nestled in their somewhere as I attempted to abort the agenda for some winetours in Charddy country. After a stern talking too by Chad’s alter ego (who looks just like him but has a hadlebar mustach) I was back in line and supporting the manifesto. No margin for error, the plan must succeed. A tiger may indeed beable to change its stripes.

Queenstown – adrenaline & lice

Queenstown – A little bit of tramping, some luging and a whole lotta ferburgering—-We finally saw some Merino’s and freshly shorn they were, walking, munching and pooping right through our campsite and quite possibly in the D.O.C. washroom itself (manners). As I’m sure their coats or ex-coats were on their way to make the clothes on our backs we sauntered throughout their pasture land clinging like sheep on tiny undulating tracks that bordered the lake of our night stay, for our morning canter. The morning run was essential to shake out the hangover cobwebs of another evening’s overindulgence. I’m certainly starting to feel like an alcoholic, regardless if the partying is just the two of us in our camper van however I’m pretty sure the hobbit bewitched our mix and match Wanaka brewery 6 pack so this time it wasn’t entirely our fault, we were in a trance. Regardless, It was rich scenery, the beautiful majestic mountains carpeted in a range of earthy pastels randomly punctuation by small sharp shrubbery. The lake so clear every pebble detectable from shore.

Next we marched into town and marched up Queenstown Hill, a beautiful climb instead of a gondola ride got us to the peak for some nice panoramic shots. Queenstown is the self marketed “adventure capital” of NZ and you feel kinda like you need to be extreme when you are there, at least for an hour or so or in some cases a few seconds. I think you can bungy jump from most street corners there but we happened to stumble upon one at the top of Queen’s hill of which jumpers were about to go. Its been a lifelong goal of mine to watch someone bungy because for me it is the most unimaginalble thing I coulud ever see myself doing. So on our way to the viewing doc an overly bubbly teenager?? (I’m no longer able to guess ages) was quick to tell us she was going to bungee. She had long dark hair that flowed easily to her bum and waved like a hanky in the wind as she flapped helpless, almost lifeless, like a rag doll on the first few of her bounces. It was a second rate performance only to the senior citizen who went next, he looked dead. For more then a few awkward seconds and almost the entire bungy experience his eyes were closed, he was entirely silent and he was suspended on his side unresponsive to any of the operators calls and instructions. Whereas the other jumpers all had some fanfare (the girl the most and the indian a completely emotionless and clearly disaproving father), he had none and it was curious to think what fueled his jump (he was wereing trousers an an old man’s sweater with shirt colollar stiking out fro teh top, prim adn proper.)

So I got my extreme quotient even though it was the voyeuristic kind. We decided to feel a thrill ourselves (as tramping wasn’t enough) so we went luging. At rapid fire pace we banked corners and raced along the steep grades and death defying S turns with tunnels at speeds so fast the self propelled wind was nearly robbing us of our vision. 2 rounds of that and we were done! So maybe it wasn’t bungy, or skydiving and maybe it was for people of all ages but it was fun.

We had now worked up enough of an appetite for some Ferberg. Its a world renowned burger place and its fabby. Like the framed review said “if you are unsure, always go with the classic”. As we did (Chad added some Brie) I only fuelled a deep desire to sleep which I easily did back at the camper van (so nice to drive your bed around with you) whereas Chad was stoking his desire for our next adrenaline filled adventure. When I awoke, Chad was anxiously hovering over me. “You want the good news or the bad news?” he asked. “I rented us scooters, but we only have 2 hours!” he said first with excitement followed by chagrin. Well if maxing out at 40kph weaving through lakeside roads, on the unfamiliar (now feeling more natural) side of the road and sometimes 10kph as you struggle up steep incline while pissing local homeowners off, while possibly contracting head lice is your definition of exhilarating then cool, so it mine.

What a day!

Wanaka – Like Monica but with a W

Thumbs up and handlebars down for Wanaka, in Wanaka.

How to watch a movie? Get yer eats and beer then find a couch, get comfy and seek your leisure. Intermission to fill up then back to it. A la Paradiso style. Safety not guaranteed. Awesome cool. Lakeside freedom camping – did we mention how much more fun free makes things???

Kluane-like mountains shelter us layered among each other like cards interrupted as they shuffle, contouring the kettle lake that holds chilling glacier water. Water simmering perfectly for natural ice bath that becomes our ritual post run. Our treads took us like mountain goats through undulating track that hugged the lakes’ perimeter. Bunnies of all stages of life and likewise for sheep either stared at us blankly or scurried from our stride. Nearly nude we were, letting the cool breeze temper our heated bodies as they glided along away and towards Wanaka.

How to get a shave…follow the black keys till it takes you to the hippest hipster barber around. Tool boxes who’s tools are for the delicate care of the male facade, wrenches and power drills o no not here. Balms and lotions to lube your look, pin up pearl jam and lollies on your way out. Stroke yer face, looking good board yer lucky and head to a town that’s fit for a queen and that goes bump in the night but first a micro brewery – explained and introduced by the hobbit himself.

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Queen & Abel (bow and exit stage right)

After landing on the north tip of the south, we launched ourselves feverously into the queen charlottes (to the right) and Abel Tasman (to the left) at the staunch advice from our ever loved Mer. Wow.

winedy and narrow, yet sealed passageways took us to beautiful little bays and forests cut by the reputed queen charlotte track and latter trodden by our own soles. The route it led or rather we chose to run among was up then down then some up with some down. My lungs rose to the challenge and my eyes easily rewarded by the cacophony of colours smashing into each other competing for brightness. Deep blue to azure running straight up to islands with thick coats of green furry shelter. The occasional multi million dollar mansion hidden among it. As Chad the celebrity bounty hunter recollects, Shania twain pays property taxes this way for her own sprawling mansion.

A beautiful dive into refreshing ocean water later (much to the delight of my aching posterior cruciate ligament – posterior drawer test most likely positive, Left sided) and we were ready for stew beer and a hike. Not before Chad’s typical austere moment, staring wayward out to sea, a subtle frown sweeping across his otherwise smooth brow wondering why he’s so afraid of cold water.

The geothermaly cooked pork roast made its final appearance that night (a run who’s length would horrify my mother) in a medley of sweet juices, green beans and root veggies, what a bang for our buck. Well rested the next day we hit a hiking track to a lookout point, clad in our new hiking gear and very well trusted rain gear.

Another up then down took us to a beautiful clearing boasting panoramic 360 degree view of the area and although the view was no doubt there the only one to bless mine was smiling Chad and his beautiful sultry hazel eyes as we were within the clouds that rained upon us earlier. Some graffiti and a quick ass grab or two later we were back in lucky, who was much more adept at finding traction for her bald tires on pebbled terrain then wet grass (thanks for the push crazy dutch people especially you with the front gum piercing – seriously)

Next thing ya know we’re in Nelson talking to Ayla who then after talking with Felicity had us booked and bound for Abel Tasman – but were we able? cause we were definitely willing.

We were cutting it close but if we could burn out of town and get a going, we could make anchorage bay that night and most importantly make dinner. Tear outta town we did. Supplied and stoked in general we packed as light as we dared and dressed in our best – running gear. 12k trail run with packs and move over trail runner nation. Up and over and along a well maintained track, palmies and pine shielding us along, bridges joining track and best of all smiles from ear to ear as our lungs fought to exchange oxygen for CO2 so our legs could keep us going. Dinner or bust.

It was a hit the sandy anchorage bay beach, a wave out to sea and a we-did-it knuckles + kiss and Felicty was welcoming us aboard the dingy then the aquabackers stay…and before we could say lets jump into the ocean there we were…on a boat (T-Pain style). It was so rad, celebrating the day and the trail and our blessed bodies for taking us to where we now sat, in the splendour of the dark skies broadcasting their stary expanse at the greatest brightness they could, a glass of red in our hands.

Up and at em the next day, some veggie-might for chad and some muesli for me we saddled up and strode 17km again through blissfully outrageous sea side trails shaded by the lush jungle. A spring in our step and the moment of the journey richly seeping through us we came to rest at Onetahuti bay, readily exchanging with the sea, our salt for hers. Some food and a nap later we watched the aquataxi struggle to come within reach of the shore.

With no other option we walked waist deep to meet its stern and find a spot (fuck! is this normal? No). A packed boat later we fought against huge waves that lifted us straight clear of ourselves and slammed us back to the tense sea surface. Had this been part of an adrenaline tour I’m sure the passengers would have a) paid more money and b) been more merry but, this current joy ride was nothing like the friendly scene of calm water taxi passengers smiling at playful dolphins along route as lamented their brochure.

Sure Chad and I along with the young couple beside us should have given our more sheltered seats to the grandmother in the back who took in most of the water but no one was really sure what was going on. There was a clear demarcation between the front of the boat who shouted yoops and yeehaws to the more drenched passengers who’se glares could be felt like knives in our backs without even looking at their sulllen faces, dripping with sea water. It wasn’t till we tried to reverse into the huge crashing waves to get a better position on the tractor that was picking us up (literally) did we really get soaked.

I rememeber looking back in time to see a huge wave twice the height of the boat breaking over top of the most stern seated passengers. I instinctively jumped to my feet to try and move closer into the bow but was held back by the bar of the forward passenger bench. I remember hearing Chad’s demonic tenor laugh start and looked over and saw his eyes shut and his shoulders starting to shake from laughter as the wave overtook us and dreadfully soaked all the passengers. The best part was the (dry) skipper looking ashen and saying “this is terrible” as he looked among the wounded, handing a small hand towel to an elderly lady in consolation that was really in no way a consolation. In the end able we were and forever willing we are.