There and Back Again

A Canadian backpacking through New Zealand

Back again
  It has been 5 weeks since I left New Zealand back to life in Vancouver. It has given me the chance to reflect heavily on my seven months in New Zealand and the effect that travel has on one both physically and mentally. Because you’re not the same naive person who got on a plane at the beginning of your trip, you may look like him, but you’ll never be that person again. Like a rock weathered by the elements, experiences change us, and something like travel gives us the opportunity to have experiences outside of our comfort zone and to explore new ideas and ways of thinking we wouldn’t have otherwise known had we stayed at home.
  Not to say that home is anything easy to get used to once you’re back, you’ll feel like a stranger in a yet familiar place filled with familiar faces. People recognize you and will try to relate but you’ll find it difficult to relate to those who only dream or talk of travel. As well, it puts into perspective your values and how you prioritize your life and the things you hold close, because after living out of a backpack for seven months, you become suddenly aware of how much you really don’t need at all. The extra clothing, old receipts and various electronics become cumbersome and a burden. As you discard some of your vapid belongings you begin to appreciate what really counts, not just externally, but internally as well. And learning to appreciate yourself is important because it teaches you to grow and take care of yourself and to be less dependent of others, especially of relationships and friendships. And having passed this crucible, you find yourself ready to really open up and share your life with someone else who understands you, for you finally understand yourself.

Back again

  It has been 5 weeks since I left New Zealand back to life in Vancouver. It has given me the chance to reflect heavily on my seven months in New Zealand and the effect that travel has on one both physically and mentally. Because you’re not the same naive person who got on a plane at the beginning of your trip, you may look like him, but you’ll never be that person again. Like a rock weathered by the elements, experiences change us, and something like travel gives us the opportunity to have experiences outside of our comfort zone and to explore new ideas and ways of thinking we wouldn’t have otherwise known had we stayed at home.

  Not to say that home is anything easy to get used to once you’re back, you’ll feel like a stranger in a yet familiar place filled with familiar faces. People recognize you and will try to relate but you’ll find it difficult to relate to those who only dream or talk of travel. As well, it puts into perspective your values and how you prioritize your life and the things you hold close, because after living out of a backpack for seven months, you become suddenly aware of how much you really don’t need at all. The extra clothing, old receipts and various electronics become cumbersome and a burden. As you discard some of your vapid belongings you begin to appreciate what really counts, not just externally, but internally as well. And learning to appreciate yourself is important because it teaches you to grow and take care of yourself and to be less dependent of others, especially of relationships and friendships. And having passed this crucible, you find yourself ready to really open up and share your life with someone else who understands you, for you finally understand yourself.

Akaroa
In my last two weeks in New Zealand I felt it was best to take it easy and decided to do just that by taking up the evening receptionist job at Chez La Mer in beautiful Akaora. It’s a weird feeling being so close to going home and having a lot of time to yourself in this place like I did which was reflective if anything. Though, working at Chez La Mer gave me the opportunity to reflect and open up to others who worked at or were passing through Akaroa. As well, this was definitely helped by the atmosphere that Chez La Mer possesses because with no TV people are forced to socialize and interact with one another by the fireplace. The staff and I organized shared meals from everyone in the hostel in a smorgasbord of sorts, which allowed everyone to try different meals and experience different cultures in a friendly and social environment. In saying that, there were always great times to be had, and I thought about extending my stay to enjoy Akaroa more but unfortunately we have to move on eventually.  
Kaikoura
 With the season coming to an end and winter on the horizon, the chance to go dolphin or whale watching in Kaikoura was slipping.  I managed to get there eventually after being stranded in Waipara where I spent the night in a train carriage converted into a hostel. Upon arriving in Kaikoura the next day though, I couldn’t help but be reminded of home with how close the mountains and the shore were to one another. Which allows exceptional beauty to the surrounding coastline of which a number of tours are offered to go see the various types of marine life in Kaikoura. I settled on kayaking with fur seals, figured it was the most economical and intimate of my options. Luckily my luck was well spent, besides being able to paddle up close with fur seals, a pod of Dusky dolphins as well passed through the area . And seeing them flow effortlessly around your kayak is a surreal experience and you can’t help but feel childish almost for how close of an experience this was.

Aoraki/Mount Cook-Tasman Glacier

 Arriving back in Queenstown we thought it best to rent a car for the next part up to Mount Cook. I’ve been hitchhiking for a long time in New Zealand but with what I’ve heard about hitching to Mount Cook village and the weather I decided it was best to see New Zealand by your own transport.Of which in this case was an japanese export model: the Daihatsu Sirion . With this tiny car we drove up from Queenstown through Cromwell, Twizel and alongside lake Pukaki before reaching the tiny settlement that is Aoraki/Mount Cook village. In being small though we had no choice but to stay at the YHA unfortunately because it’s one of two hostels in the entire area. But fortunately the next day cleared up weather wise and I was able to enjoy a lot of the day-hikes up the road that take you around the glacial lakes and valleys that we’re carved up by the retreating glaciers that line the southern alps in New Zealand including the largest, Tasman Glacier.

Kepler Track- Luxmore Hut

 After the easy-going cruise through Milford sound, I felt it was time to get back into hiking for the first time since Routeburn. Definitely was not disappointed in Kepler though. The track begins 45 minutes from the lake-town of Te Anau and some of the best views along the track are above the treeline at 1400 meters above sea level as the views are dominated by the town and lake Te Anau and the Murchison mountains. Ultimately though it was just a 2 day hike as snow and rain were going to ruin camping out for the rest of the hike so I returned to Te Anau. Before the hike back I managed to get a glimpse at Luxmore caves, which are an easy 10 minute hike from Luxmore Hut, and shows off limestone rocks and various cave formations such as stalactites and shawls,

Milford Sound
 Being a world heritage site, Milford sound should be on the list of anyone who’s visiting New Zealand. On a sunny day the glacier-cut valleys and fiords of Fiordland National Park really come into view, and it’s worth every dollar spent being able to experience such natural beauty. Even though I’ve been hesitant about touristic activities because of costs and the feeling of being carted around, I caved in on Milford and have yet to regret anything about it. It does indeed sometimes pay off to have someone else show you around and to point out and explain things about the area you may be unfamiliar with. Not to mention being able to stop and take photos which seldom happens when hitchhiking about. Thus this opportunity was very much welcomed and enjoyed on my part.

Routeburn-Caples Track

 This past week I hiked the 55km long Routeburn-Caples track beginning on the Routeburn side and finally peaking at Harris saddle at 4,000 feet and again at McKellar saddle on the Caples track. For the first couple of days the weather worked out in my favor but rain finally came in on the last couple of days along the Caples track heading back out onto lake Wakatipu. Regardless of the weather, the views were amazing as the track skirts above the treeline around the Ailsa mountains before descending into Lake Mackenzie and up again across McKinnon saddle. Despite the sand flies the hike was worth taking time off work and the expensive hut/camp fees, you’re only in New Zealand once right?

Kinloch, New Zealand
 Since the beginning of February I’ve been working at Kinloch Lodge on the northwestern end of lake Wakatipu which lies around the bend from Queenstown and opposite the town of Glenorchy. After your 4 hours of woofing you’re left to your own devices in the various mountain chains in the area. By being employed by the lodge I’m allowed access to the bikes and kayaks after work free of charge so early morning paddles are in order. And finally to top it off, the Milky Way opens up a above on clear nights which is complimented well by a cup of New Zealand’s infamous instant coffee.
Dunedin
 I have yet to update this in a while, I had settled in the town of Dunedin through Christmas and New Year’s in hopes of finding a job here. Of which has over the course of a month been very difficult in this town. To get a better idea, Dunedin is a student town on the bottom of the Otago Peninsula and thus the job market fluctuates with the beginning and end of the school year. After discussing it with locals, it appears the students who stay for their summer holidays take up work in the area, whilst during the school year the remaining students come back and buy into the local economy and are employed in it during their studies. This leaves backpackers with working holiday visas in a tough situation. Businesses are more likely to hire students who are here for the year rather than backpackers on working holiday visas considering our three month limit to a single employer. Fortunately I was able to find a flat up near the suburb of Mornington and I was able to work for accommodation for the last month. In that time I was able to drive out to the Otago Peninsula which is extremely beautiful and home to not only an Albatross colony, but as well as a Little (Blue) Penguin colony of which can only be observed at dusk.

Franz Josef Glacier

 After a one and a half hour walk/hike out of Franz Josef Village brings you within 500m of the Franz Josef Glacier. Along the way you just follow the valley that the glacier cut right out of the earth you see the Waiho river that the glacier itself feeds as well as it empties out in the Tasman sea 19 km away. The size of it apparently changes pretty often, but climate change and the o-zone hole have unfortunately left the glacier in a state of retreat rather than advancing. Regardless it was beautiful to see natural history and the waterfalls flowing down the valley walls.