Well, travel details first: We crossed over to the South Island by Islander ferry It was a perfect crossing, calm waters, fantastic views, stunning first sight of the South Island.
The first impression: very different landscape than in the North, right away you get a glimpse of the Southern Alps. Honestly, I couldn’t wait to get into the mountains. It just opens my heart, puts a smile on my face and fills me with excitement. Lots of great hikes and adventures to come!
The first night here we put up base in a sweet little garden motel in Motueka. We had a mini apartment each, with separate bedrooms (which sorted the snoring/ sleeping situation, as that’s still an issue ). It even had an outdoor pool. The weather was fantastic – sunshine, 27 degrees. We went on a half day hike yesterday, through Abel Tasman National Park. The park is in the very north west corner of the island and a good starting point to explore the Southern Alps. It is also right at the ocean, so our hike led us along the coastline. The views are made for postcards: clear blue water, rock formations, herons on sandbanks. We ended the hike at a remote beach, some of us (including me, of course) took the opportunity to take a dip in the water. After I got over the first shock and was sure to not suffer from a heart attack (and admittedly a few squeals) it was amazing to finally be in the sea. Then we were picked up by a catamaran and went on a sailing trip for the afternoon. I was lounging on the deck at the front end of the boat, at least for the first 10 mins. Then this turned out to be a rather wet spot with water gushing over from all sides. But it was so much fun! We saw seals, penguins and literally went where the wind blows. Loved it. Also, I am very excited as this was just a taster – we will be sailing for two days in the Milford Sounds in a few days.
That night we decided to order take-away, a stop at the liquor store ensured we had sufficient supplies of New Zealand wine (Montana wine, highly recommended!). This group turns out to be so much fun! We had so many belly laughs. It is amazing how quickly a group can bond, we share lots of rather personal stories, probably more than we would share with some of our friends. We support each other and – most importantly – no one judges! That’s the best part of it all, everyone can be whoever they want to be, and/or they may have the opportunity to be themselves without being questioned and put into boxes.
Today we crossed the Southern Alps. Winding roads up and down, amazing views yet again. I know this may get boring for you guys, but my goodness – I wish you could see it. It really is just breathtaking. The time on the mini bus is spent in various ways: reading, listening to music and of course discussion of the most obscure topics. Today we talked about ‘bad hair days’ for at least 2 hours, with nearly everyone (women and men) chipping in and offering insights and opinions. It was hilarious. We really get to know each other very well. In the afternoon we went sea kayaking, which was an interesting experience. We should have paid attention to the wildlife, apparently there were lots of rare birds to see – but my kayak partner and I were rather busy trying to manoeuvre ourselves off sandbanks and not steering straight into the next one. It was good fun, but clearly we missed the point of it being a quiet and relaxing paddle, both of us giggling along.
A couple of days ago I had another moment of anxiety creeping in and I had to get away from the group. All of a sudden I became very emotional, I hid my tears behind my sunglasses, staring out of the bus window. It was the first evening on the South Island and luckily as soon as we arrived at the motel I could grab my iPod and go for a wander. Spend some time with myself. Not sure what triggered it, maybe it is because I literally have no time by myself (apart from the occasional periods of walking on my own during hikes, but that’s no fun either). I am not the only one though who seeks these quiet moments, which makes me feel less weird.
More and more things end up on my ‘reasons to return to NZ list’, I added various regions that I would love to explore further. Ideally you should plan to spend about 4-6 weeks over here, or move here ;-). It such a beautiful and versatile part of the world, shame it is so far away from home.