It's funny how familiar I thought I had become with this country, before even standing on its other half.

Nov. 16th - 20th:

After receiving an invite from a friend that was too good to refuse, I booked a flight to Christchurch and made my way, for the first time, to the South Island.

I packed the necessities into my backpack and made my way to the airport for the cheap flight I booked as a "carry-on only" passenger. The man at the desk took one look at my bag and requested $80 without explanation. Apparently it was too big to fit in the overhead compartment which I understood after attempting to squeeze it in the imitation box at the check-in line.

I desperately pleaded for him to let me go because I could not possibly throw away $80 to an apathetic airline. He continued to refuse so I desperately rearranged my pack, pulling on every strap possible to shrink it down in size, and comfortably tucked my sleeping bag under my arm. After holding up the line behind me and causing the man much annoyance, he waved me on free of charge.

When I arrived in Christchurch, Mark had already been traveling for three days and he picked me up in our rental car. He had found a deal to rent a car for $1 a day as long as you picked it up in Christchurch and returned it in Auckland. We now had the next six days to explore New Zealand before getting me back to my 2 o'clock class on Thursday afternoon.

We immediately made our way to the west coast, breaking to sleep once at a pull-off point on the side of the road. Once we arrived, we headed North, frequently stopping to see anything and everything we desired.

Mark drove the whole way. We decided not to purchase the car insurance, so I was perfectly happy letting him stay behind the wheel. Along the trip, our glove box became the storage unit for the variety of brochures, pamphlets, maps and guidebooks we collected. Since the remote areas of New Zealand (basically the entirety of the South Island) don't have radio stations, I read aloud from the booklets while he drove.

We camped wherever we were when night fell and Mark cooked some great pasta dinners on the camping stove. We woke up early each morning, drank a warm drink, ate some muesli and headed on to our next destination.

Kia birds are one of few alpine parrots in the world and it can only be found on the South Island. We met this guy at a look out point on my second day on the island. He was not the slightest bit shy.

After visiting Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers, we drove to Gillespies Beach to camp for the night. When we got there, the rain cleared and we arrived just in time to catch the sunset. We sat next to the fire, ate dinner and drank wine while watching the sun go down over the water.

We arrived at Lake Matheson early the next morning to catch the reflection of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman in the calm water.

Then we ventured on and saw the pancake rocks in Punakaiki and hiked the Truman Track down to the beach.

We continued north to the Abel Tasman, stopping along the way to cross New Zealand's longest swing bridge at 110 meters long suspending over the Buller Gorge.

After hiking a little of the Abel Tasman track and relaxing on the golden sand at Kaiteriteri Bay, we drove east into rain to sleep in Nelson for the night before catching the interisland ferry the next morning. Because of the bad weather, we splurged and payed $12 to sleep in huts at the Pelorus Outdoor Center campground. There were six two-person huts that shared showers (with warm water!), bathrooms, a kitchen, and common area with a fireplace.

The main room was an old school house so it had a large open area with old couches and chairs. The whole place may sound luxurious, but there was no heating in the huts where we slept on thin mattresses on top of wood planks, mice ran freely around the old kitchen, and the cobwebs on the ceilings paralleled the dirt on the floor. At the time, it was a refreshing sanctuary and I would return in a heartbeat.

While we were there, one of the other huts was shared by two Australian fisherman. Neville and Steve were visiting New Zealand to fish for trout. We drank tea and they entertained us late into the night with hilarious stories about their lives in Australia. 72-year-old Neville bounced around and told us about living all over the world. I would have never imagined a man so old to have that much energy and enthusiasm. He explained to us that over the past decade, each time he celebrates a birthday he takes a year off of his life instead of adding one on. This idea is one I do not want to forget as I get older.

Steve was quite a bit younger and in his 50s. He told us he even has trouble keeping up with Neville. He explained that Neville has taught him to laugh more and as he gets older he has learned to take life less seriously.

It was great talking to these old fisherman and I can't say I've ever experienced anything like it. One thing Neville said while talking about his travels around the world is a thought that I want keep in mind while my time here is New Zealand is slowly coming to an end:

"It is the hopeful journey that is more important than the arrival home."

So, the next morning our journey "home" (to Auckland) continued and we hopped on the Interisland ferry to return to the North Island.

More to come about adventures in the North Island on the last day of the trip...

You May Also Like


  1. Hey Kelsey-I just spent the last hour reading all of your blogs. What a wonderful, exciting time you are having. I admire you for doing this. Don't think I would have had the guts to go spend 6 months away. Enjoy your last weeks. I'll be checking back to see what you're up to. Molly Lane