Southern Sky

Permanent holiday can get a bit monotonous. That’s what I realized (among other things) during these six weeks in the bay. Time to shake things up a bit and take a flight. Good exercise for my spontaneity, I booked 8 days ahead with not much else set up for when I would set foot on that Southern Island again. Main objective: See good old friends and find some winter. Set sails and my mind on the future of this journey, and admire the clear southern sky again.

Mission complete? Halfway. No snow, except on the mountaintops (which still looked amazing). Met and had a grand time with one friend but weather prevented the other meeting. A mighty antarctic storm passed through –again– and set the south under water, as well as the hiking trails. A good excuse for a very laid-back time with loooots of coffee.

The More Lovely Island

Starting at the beginning. It was an early one at sunrise, changing from bus to airplane in Auckland and landing a thousand miles further south (it felt), in Christchurch at sunset. For that glorious view over the snow-capped peaks the trip paid off. Out into the crisp winter air, this city suddenly felt so homely. I traced back my steps, same hostel as in November when I first set foot on this land.

The next day the mountains actually called. I was to spend three days in Hanmer Springs, a little village calling itself an alpine Spa Resort. Well yeah, still a speck of houses, motels and bars in the middle of mighty mountains. The first day was the only dry one, so after a warm welcome by my friend Sophie I hit the forest trails. And found snow! Only remainders but slippery enough to keep me away from the infamous waterfall.

Full-time relaxation = coffee x spa x friends

Then the rain started. Most alike West coast winters in Canada, relentless. Cold. Perfect for checking out the namesake springs, which didn’t disappoint. Mineral pools, massage pools, sulphur pools to 41 degrees. Way to spend the evening and re-emerge as a new human being, it felt.
When Sophie, who hosted me generously, didn’t work in her busy café, we went for coffee, lunch, coffee again and a walk in the mud. Priceless to have the company of an old friend going similar ways. She luckily convinced me for a short glimpse into Hanmer nightlife on Saturday before it was time to get going again, free drinks included. Visiting friends is most awesome.

City Peaks

I thought it shouldn’t be hard to hitch hike back to the city, but couldn’t expect such a lovely ride, not even waiting a minute till a local couple picked me up. Just what I love most about travel, we had a great chat and she, a Maori teacher, taught me basics of her language. A free ride to the Port Hills of Christchurch, where my next mission waited.

$25 for a gondola ride? Oh I could just walk. Got quite a few surprised looks and comments about hiking up the path with my 10kg pack, and felt like a real hiker. Till I get back to my bike (left in the north)! Anyways, it was another wonderful day when I made it to the top. The views over Lyttleton Harbour took my break away more than the chuffing up. Downhill was another story as the path turned into ankle deep puddles and a creek alternatively.

For that effort I treated myself a funny capsule hostel at the airport. So quickly that my time in the south ran out, I’m sure it won’t be long till I return. This is the true NZ, where people are kind, the mountains are huge and the sky is endless. See you there soon.

Bonus…

Auckland isn’t quite the big bad city. Between my morning flight from Christchurch and late bus back north I had to kill a day there in the end. A 30min ferry ride took me to the peninsular suburb of Devonport. Two volcanic hills, 360 degree views including skyline, as promised, an abandoned military base with tunnels to explore. Finally I stumbled across a photo exhibition about Kaikoura. Some of the photos featured my friends. Like a short trip back to the past I never left behind me really. But we keep moving on, even while staying in one place, one country (okay this zig-zagging is not really “staying” in the true sense anyways). Time to tackle the last half year and embrace the surprising sides of life.

Next: Horticulture encore, the last strike of the pine trees – Northland Ep. #2

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