Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” - Gustav Flaubert.
It started in New Zealand with no expectations. I knew it would be beautiful and I knew it would be worth it but I didn’t know how beautiful and how worth it it would be.“It looks like a green screen.” I know I’m not the only one who had this thought because I heard someone else say it. The mountains took my breath away, literally. We wandered through the streets, lit up by the bars and late night dessert shops nearby. People were stumbling down streets and getting ready for a night on the “town.” (I put “town” in quotation marks because the town is literally four blocks) We however, were on a mission for the $8 personal pizza we had a discount code for from our hostel. #cheapperks If you know me well you know I don’t really eat bread or dairy in any shape or form. I don’t think I’ve had a whole pizza in seven years, but man that was pizza tasted amazing!!
Up bright and early, not on purpose. The choir of snoring strangers kept us up through the night with their not-so synchronized snores and rumbles. We snagged coffee from the cutest little coffee truck and set out to schedule our day! A ride up the gondola where the view got better as we got higher. Our first adventure would be zip-lining through the forest! Strapped into my harness and soaring through the trees, I now know how it feels to be a bird. I learned so much about how New Zealanders “kiwis” strive to be sustainable. Only taking from the Earth what they can replace. Who could blame them for trying so hard to protect their gorgeous home? It inspires me to be more sustainable. I was blessed to live in such a free and amazing country, why wouldn’t I want to protect it? You're giving back to what gives to you and you make this place a home for future. Sustainability is going beyond recycling all the beer cans after a Saturday night and doing more to make a difference by only taking from the Earth what you can replace.
After learning about the legend of the Lake Wakatipu and the bird that got drunk from eating seeds that would ferment inside of him, we set off for a scrumptious lunch at Voodoo Cafe, a few samples of hokey pokey gelato (made with famous Manuka honeycombs), and a hunt for our next thrill! We stumbled into happytravels after deciding we wanted to do the JetBoat ride. A cutie named Devon helped us out and even let me borrow his sunnies so I wouldn’t be squinting through the wind. Him and I both agreed I rocked his RayBans pretty well. The JetBoat ride was such a thrill! Speeding down the river with the rush of the wind and a view of the mountains you can only imagine. I loved the quick spins our driver would do, splashing water everywhere and almost turning the boat over. Another quick hour of fun and we were off for another adventure - the Ice Bar! Freezing cold, but it’s a must do experience to sip a cocktail out of an ice glass while bundled up in a wool jacket and warm mittens. The ice sculptures are remarkable and the experience may literally take your breath away.
Another morning, another cup of joe from the cute little coffee cart, and we search for our bus to Milford Sound! Our first time aboard the InterCity bus, little did we know we’d meet some amazing people, all traveling different journeys aboard the same bus. Milford Sound is actually incorrectly named, because it is not a sound at all but a fiord which is created by a glacier. For two hours I rode the Milford Sound cruise down the fiord where I saw amazing waterfalls, many which were temporary because of the current rainfalls. A long ride back to Queenstown and we were ready for some dinner! Lamb was a must try in the region so we order lamb ribs and lamb kabobs. Hugeeee fan of the ribs - they were full of flavor, the kebabs on the other hand were not my cup of tea or stick of meat? But overall 9/10 on the lamb. But if that wasn’t filling enough we headed to get drinks at 1876, the passion fruit mojito was super tasty however, the boys were not. Haha me and Julia did meet two guys in town for a wedding from Melbourne! After an awkward encounter of figuring out where everyone was from Julia and I were asked to be their wedding dates...it’s a shame we were leaving the next morning!
Up and on the bus to Franz Josef! Now this is a long journey...we stopped along the route to get some spectacular views, such as the mirror lakes where you can see the reflection of the mountains when the water is perfectly still. We stopped at a salmon farm where I had sashimi! It was delicious and pretty cool to say I’ve been to a salmon farm and saw one of the very rare white heron’s in New Zealand! New Zealand is definitely known for its bird population everything from Kiwi, Kea, and Kakapo’s. A 10 hour journey to Franz Josef but we made it! Our bunk beds were waiting or us along with our new German roommates. Super cool girls who had been traveling for months; however, they didn’t warn us about the sand flies we would be meeting the next day. We enjoyed our free soup complimentary of the hostel and hit the hay!..not literally.
Complimentary breakfast? Yes please! Another action packed day beginning with a big bowl of muesli (myüs-lē), which is still can’t pronounce. 9 am and we're off to kayak the Franz Josef Glacier! Oh what a peaceful morning in the middle of a lake without a care in the world. We paddled along a bay where Kiwis habitat. I learned about a native bird in Australia that will mate for life with its partner. If the female bird dies however the male bird will commit suicide, flying high and then zooming straight into the ground. True love man… except if the male dies first the female just moves on. That kayak sure wore us out but it didn’t stop us from my favorite adventure of all, quad biking! Now this country girl knows how to ride a four wheeler, I’ve been doing it since I was six; but this was nothing like riding a four wheeler on a backroad! Sharp turns through the rain forest and deep puddles from the river were a challenge. But two hours zooming amongst the mountains and through the trees, I’ve never felt so empowered. Is life really this simple?
We spotted a sign for karaoke at nine so we had our plans for the night! We put on our nicest outfits, dirty jeans and flip flops, for our girls night with our German roommates. Our bag of popcorn and Uno cards quickly turned into battle of the sexes, a bottle of wine, and a pack of beer around a bonfire with our new friends from Chicago, England, and Asia - you didn’t think two girls started a bonfire right? Unfortunately, the bar would not let us sing karaoke because the crowd was not big enough. The town is sooo tiny one of the 5 people in the bar was our quad bike guide, now you have an idea of how tiny. But could you imagine waking up every morning and getting to meet new people and watch them fall in love with your country and home? There were very few people I met who were actually born and raised in New Zealand, but those that were, were very proud of it.
Another early morning
another complimentary breakfast
and another bus ride to another hostel.
Our bus set off to Greymouth where we then boarded a train! My first train experiance was so amazing, mainly because of the views. We crossed through Arthurs pass and soon enough we were in Christchurch before sunset. My first time in almost a week feeling like I was actually in a city.
A day exploring the city that an earthquake could have ruined, but instead it built a community. The art museum was fascinating and the botanical gardens were gorgeous. The quaint city had coffee shops around every corner and street art along every alley. We celebrated national margarita day with an overpriced raspberry margarita before heading downtown for dinner. The lantern festival was taking place around Cathedral Square that evening. Food trucks lined the walkways along with chinese crafts and gift stands. It was such a fun event to see families come together and children play.
It hit me that it was our last day to explore. I think it’s not sinking in that a week in paradise and simplicity is coming to an end. But is it really? I mean I’m going back to Australia to live for crying out loud, where I have so much more to see and do! This trip has made me appreciate the opportunities I have to travel and explore. I have one life to live here on Earth - do I actually want to waste that time working so hard for this idea that one day I’ll have enough money to travel? From the people I’ve met and learned from all you need is two legs, one passport, and a lot of ambition and desire to see the world. After this trip I will be seeing so much more of Australia, from the suburbs of Sydney to the deserts in the Outback, I don’t want one regret leaving this country. I’m not going to look back one day and remember the likes I got on an instagram post or the interview for my first job - I’m going to look back on the moments, the incredible memories and the experiences that shaped me into the person I’m becoming.
Shoutout to Julia for going on this adventure with me! We really did 'rough it' for the week.