After leaving behind beautiful Queenstown, I headed up to Christchurch. I was lucky enough to have incredible weather for the drive, and I had amazing views of the Lindis Pass, Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo. The drive itself was quite long, but I entertained myself by playing (and losing) round after round of “goat-boat-float” with the bus driver. Basically, if you see a boat (it has to have a motor), a float (for carrying horses) or a goat, you call it, and once you have all three you win. You can also try to block someone by calling goat, boat or float before they do. Boats and floats are easy to find, but goats are impossible! There are millions of sheep, but not many goats. And shorn sheep look remarkably similar to goats from a distance, the tricky little devils! It’s a fabulous game for a long bus trip, and can get very intense and competitive.
Christchurch was once a lovely city, but the whole city centre was completely destroyed in the February 2011 earthquake. They have built a neat little outdoor mall made out of shipping containers that is certainly worth a visit. Other than that, the city is mostly a giant construction zone.
North of Christchurch is a beautiful little town on the east coast called Kaikoura. It is renowned for whale watching, dolphin tours and seals. A group of us walked along the road to the seal colony and got close (but not too close!) to the great big cutie pies. They were lying on the rocks right next to the cars! I walked all around the peninsula back to the hostel. The sky was completely cloudless and I had an incredible view of the mountains. I have been relatively lucky with weather for New Zealand, and for that I am grateful. I have done some drives twice, and they are not the same at all when you are stuck in a cloud! I feel like I have seen most of the country at its best.
I originally had no intention of stopping in Picton, but I am so glad I did! I hiked the Snout Track, a four-hour return walk that leads right out into the Queen Charlotte Sound. It was a ridiculously hot day, but the views were worth it.
Every Tuesday evening in Picton, the local sailing club invites backpackers to provide weight for their weekly yacht race. Because I had “previous sailing experience” (I used to sail lasers and hobie cats at camp over ten years ago), I was taken on as an extra crew member and ended up doing much more than add weight. I helped work the genoa sail and the spinacre. We were in the first division, and we ended up coming in fourth place! I managed not to screw up too badly, and I was declared “not bad for a newbie.” My prior experience was not particularly helpful. I remembered the names of some parts of the boat and how to tie a stopper knot (go me :P), but other than that, it was a bit like trying to fly a fighter jet when you only know how to fly a Cessna. The basics are the same, but there are so many more parts! All in all, it was amazing night, and it felt so good to be on the water. Sailing is one of my all-time favourite activities. After the race, I was treated to rum and coke and bacon covered scallops by the skipper. Delicious! We headed out later that evening on a glowworm walk, which was magical. The owner of the hostel drove a large group of us to a forest path, and our way was lit up by hundreds of glowworms. I never get tired of seeing those creatures in New Zealand.
I decided to wrap up my time on the South Island with a few days back in Nelson. I really loved the town when I visited at Christmas, and my relatives kindly offered me a bed, so I seized the opportunity to sleep in my own room for the first time in almost three months! I was joined by my friend from the bus, to whom they also offered a bed. We explored the town together and enjoyed the peacefulness and beauty of the area. It was so wonderful to be in a home after spending so much time in hostels. We were treated to delicious meals and magnificent Kiwi hospitality. I can’t wait to show my relatives around Canada when they visit!
I told some of my colleagues that at one point I would write in French, so here it goes! Please excuse any grammar mistakes…
Ma famille m’a ammené un jour à Golden Bay, à l’ouest de Nelson. C’était une journée vraiment extraordinaire ! Le ciel était bleu, il n’y avait pas un seule nuage, et la mer était calme, ce qui est peu commun pour la région. On a fait une jolie balade pour voir les Te Waikoropupu Springs, où on retrouve l’eau la plus claire en Australasie. On a vu des couleurs magnifiques ! Wharariki Beach est un autre endroit très sympa à Golden Bay, mais j’ai brûlé mes pieds en marchant sur le sable noir. Il faisait super chaud ! À Farewell Spit, on voyait presque le coin nord-ouest de l’Île du Sud. Ma famille à Nelson m’a beaucoup gâté, et j’apprécie beaucoup tout ce qu’on a fait pour moi.
What I Have Learned So Far
You don’t need nearly as much as you’ve packed.
You don’t need to freak out about losing your wallet until after you’ve checked that it’s not under your bum.
Jungle Speed is a fabulous way to make friends and to get your arm pulled out of its socket.
A view is always better if you’ve climbed up to it from sea level.
Pies make great lunches on a hike.
If the wind is blowing you off a track, you should duck behind a rock or a strong and sturdy gentleman.
Always look right, then left before crossing a street in New Zealand. Seriously.
If you smile at people, you will make friends easily.
Photos can never do anything justice.
Some of the best things about being a backpacker are meeting new people from all over the world and finding out that we are all different yet the same, having an adventure each day (even if it’s just trying a new ice cream bar!), seeing the worst day ever turn into the best day ever (though occasionally it’s the opposite!), doing about eight things that you’ve never done before in one week, and never knowing what’s around the corner.
The worst thing about being a backpacker is not the sleep deprivation that comes from living in a dorm and being woken up at ten, eleven, twelve and one by people coming in, then at five thirty, six, six thirty and seven by alarms going off. It’s not eating boring food every night because it’s cheap and easy. It’s not leaving things to dry on your bunk then forgetting about them until you need them four days and four cities later. It’s not constantly worrying about your passport or your finances. It’s not lugging around a backpack in the rain trying to work out where your hostel is on a map in a completely new city where you know no one. None of those things will matter in the long run. The worst thing about being a backpacker is constantly having to say “goodbye, see you on facebook” to amazing people who have touched your life, and who you would love to see again but likely never will. I will definitely always cherish the times we had together.
My time in New Zealand is coming to an end. I am sad to leave, but so excited for the next phase of my trip!