Remember that time I traveled the South Island of NZ for 2 weeks?
Yeah, it’s probably the most exciting thing I’ve ever done thus far.
Anxiety gutted my insides renting that caravan. Promising not to harm it, despite the many destinations it would see. Not just that, but if we would make it to our destinations in a timely manner increased my angst. We had a field trip to attend the second week of the trip, and being late was a no, no.
The first night we managed to make it to Moeraki Boulders.
We woke the next day to a harbor, trampoline, and you guessed it,
Next was Dunedin (Duh-need-in). Weird pronunciation, I know.
A kind kiwi showed us the way to the art that lines the city streets.
It was only fitting to see the art gallery after that.
Southward we continued to see the adorable blue penguins. They were so, so precious.
We then headed even farther south the following day to Bluff, a city resembling Gary, Indiana to catch a very special ferry.
I had a latte at the one open cafe, pet a local garden cat, and prepared myself for a mystical masterpiece:
Our arrival on the island was greeted by a half-asleep village (winter is off season) and the hill to the appropriately-named Hilltop Backpackers lodge.
I dream of owning a cat, a fire place to dry my clothes, and a garden much like the hostel there.
The people of the home invited us to trivia night. We lost, but there’s something very special about going to the only pub on an island with the locals.
So incredibly welcoming and cozy was this place for what would be a rainy first day. Luckily the bush kept you dry enough for a tramp or two in this Jurassic Park, and then it was back to the hostel. Non-human visitors were often lingering upon returning the hostel. Two reoccurring Kaka loved to make their presence known on the porch.
That night we searched for another bird; the kiwi. No such luck for our quest, but a New Zealander, who happened to be an experienced fisherman, warmed us up with paua shoved in our face.
Strangely, the particular recipe reminded me of falafel.
The following morning we rose to catch yet another ferry to an even tinier island: Ulva.
Lemme just say:
I learned that day parrots are my favorite and Wekas are jerks.
One stalked me along the beach, another tried to steal my lunch, and later one attempted to taste my ankle. Jerks, I tell ya.
When we came back to Stewart it waaaaasss:
HAPPY HOUR at the pub.
Off we went with new-found friends.
We left the pub that night with beer in our bellies and anticipation in our hearts.
Again began the nightly kiwi search. This time on a star-lit road, and into the muddy bush.
This time we didn’t even hear them, and the cold shouted for us to call it a night. We did have a ferry to catch at 8am the next day to the main land.
Oh well. At least we heard them the first night, and at least the Milky Way greeted us this night.
A clear dawn gave way to a most wonderful sunrise. I do like that my blog happens to be the medium gradient of an early sun soaked sky.
The peachy atmosphere sent us back to the main land, off to Te Anau: home of the glow worm caves.
Into cave darkness you descend in total silence. Nothing to hear but the rush of underground water nothing to see but bioluminescent specks. It was not just spiritual but psychedelic. No pictures, just memories.
Milford sound came next. And no words.
A well-deserved break of travel followed in Lake Wanaka. A day of cafés, galleries, puzzles, and a lavender farm! Though not in season, the ice cream and alpacas were ever so sweet.
Another day, led to another adventure. It appears the childhood waters of my imagination do exist, and are located on the Blue Pools Walk in Mount Aspiring National Park. The refraction of light on the glacial water was renewing, reenergizing, and centered me.
After came waterfalls and a glacier.
We managed to make it to Greymouth that night. Easily the nicest Holiday Park of the trip. I awoke to a beautiful sunny day, a nice place to shower, and a moment of silence to enjoy my coffee in the opened-back of caravan.
This place also had a bouncy attraction. You can bet I played on that.
Sunny, sunny days continued at the West Coast. I memed the pancake rocks by of course eating pancakes there. Then sat on the beach getting my feet soaked by the ocean, finding traces of pounamu, and questioning how I ever became so lucky to experience this incredible island.
Hanmer Springs was our final destination before our field trip. We swam the night away, and watched more and more steam rise from the springs as the temperature dropped.
Kaikoura then came. I cannot tell you how special of a place this is without visiting. It is a marine treasure, and my understanding of it began at the Marae.
I will admit I was so, so nervous. The welcoming into the Marae was traditional and we all flocked in like a bunch of chickens. We were welcomed and sung to in Māori, and we too sung back. I managed to hongi the locals without being too awkward as well.
The communal aspect of the Marae became very clear. This was my home for those two days, and it was our responsibility to treat it as such.
I met an awesome group of students, and we ended up having a lot of fun together. Tim, Bridget, Dippy, Kate, Marcus, and Josh were all characters.
The bonding experience began with us pulling mattresses in to the Marae, and being instructed to keep them lined up with no space in between. This experience was about being together, even if the person next to you was a total snoring stranger. We were also all to cook and clean together.
The local leader came that night to tell us to introduce ourselves with a mihimihi. This is an introduction of yourself in Māori. I had practiced mine all week, but was still nervous. However, this was a safe space and after I was done I was praised for my pronunciation.
The leader then introduced us to the carvings all around the walls. He explained Uenuku, the god of rainbows. It is said that his footprints are found on a local mountain in Kaikoura. Tahu Pōtiki is also displayed. Ngāi Tahu are the people of Tahu. The remaining carvings told stories of the area. My favorites being about the basket of tapu, and the boy who lacked humility and eventually died for it (his head falls off every time you open the door). The one I gazed up to at night was a circle of life representing the seasons, and Tāwhirimātea (god of wind). You are reading this because of him, ya know.
What I really loved about this evening was how welcomed I felt. Being told the gods had brought me to Aotearoa for a reason while sitting under them was exhilarating, enlightening, and uplifting. To be told the importance of pounamu. How it is their gold, how it outlives you, and chose the Māori in its long-life journey was beautiful. I felt connected to something so much greater than myself.
The next morning only continued this feeling. We were to tag Paua in the Ocean. The seals watched us from afar as we dipped our feet in the salty waters. The sensation of holding Paua in your hand is really something. Like a little moving sucker, you realize how magnificent they are, and why the Māori see them as royalty. I was immersed in this new world and loving it. I found many, many crabs and starfish in the fun as well.
I learned in the trip a lot about Ki Uta ki Tai (the concept that Ngāi Tahu use to express natural
resource management). The history of the rare Hutton Shearwater, the whaling of the region, and the forests of Mt. Fyffe.
It was on the tramp with our guide Barry where I felt an overwhelming connection to where I was. There was the same love and respect for your surroundings. The trees spoke the same language of ecology as back home. My home of nature in the Great Sand Dunes of Empire, Michigan.
Because whether her name is Papatūānuku or Mother Earth, she is our everything. She brings us this life no matter what part of her you live on. It reminded me of the respect I needed to pay back to her in my own special place of her.
This life we live is often challenging. We face both the burdens and beauties of nature, but there is no greater gift to live the life you love, love the life you live.
Find your voice.
Remember that you are an artist.
Be wrong, be right, as you will always be learning.
Accept farting as funny.
Love. It is a vulnerability but not a weakness.
Don’t laugh to fit in.
Do not fear to be hated.
Be savagely thankful.
Be continuously in awe of the power you possess.
Stand. -Shayne Koyczan