A South Island Kickoff to Summer

Dear Reader,

I am in the midst of summertime here in New Zealand and I finally found a place where I can settle down to write about it. Here is what’s been going on…

Once exams were finished, me and four of my friends took a road trip down to the South Island and began our summer with a hike on the Routeburn Track. This is one of the 9 “Great Walks” that are raved for giving hikers the best nature that New Zealand has to offer. The track was a three day excursion that took us through river valleys, forests carpeted in moss, and lakes tucked between mountains. Each night we camped at designated campsites that housed very diverse groups of people. For example, at dinner time I was able to talk to a guy from Germany, two recent high school graduates from Seattle, Washington, two guys from Israel, and one guy from Deerfield, Illinois—just 40 minutes from my hometown.

As far as the track itself, the Routeburn was definitely a great walk. There were fantastic views and weather for most of the way, although on the last day of the hike I found myself literally walking through rain clouds since the track was still at high elevation. This was the final stretch of the trail though, so we all picked up the pace and were able to finish the track and find a hostel that the night with soft beds and showers—luxuries after roughing it for a few days.

Campsite the First Night
Campsite the First Night
River Valley
River Valley
Mountain View
Mountain View
Lake in the Mountains
Lake in the Mountains

At this point we were only a short drive from the well-known Milford Sound so the next day we made it our top priority to visit them. But just like the day before, the weather was rainy and cloudy. Despite the weather, we visited Milford despite and it actually turned out to be a pretty cool view. We enjoyed seeing the sounds so much that the next day we visited them again just to see what they looked like on a clear, sunny day.

Cloudy Milford
Cloudy Milford
Sunny Milford
Sunny Milford

So… after seeing Milford Sound on two separate occasions, would I consider it to be the 8th Wonder of the World? Eh, probably not. Although, I only got to look at them from a distance. I’ve heard kayaking or sailing through the sounds is an amazing experience… just a bit too pricy for me. Maybe next time though!

The rest of the roadtrip was spent making our way north and stopping in the major South Island cities like Queenstown, Wanaka, Christchurch, Akaroa, and Kaikoura. We finished our trip in Nelson and it was at this point that our group of 5 split apart and went our own separate ways—except for me and my friend Kyle who plan on traveling together for more of the summer. After we all said our goodbyes, Kyle and I drove to a region called Marlborough Sounds, which is kinda like Milford Sound but lacking in those intense peaks that jut right out of the water. Yet Marlborough had plenty of cool things that Milford did not. For instance, one time I went swimming off a random dock and only realized when I got out that I was swimming with a pod of stingrays! Also, the weather in Marlborough was much warmer and the clear skies, green plants, and vibrant blue waters really gave off a summer vibe.

Looking Out Over the Sounds
Looking Out Over the Sounds

And one more thing… the most incredible sunset I have ever seen! The instant I saw this view, it put in me in complete awe. I was driving down a windy road at the time and as I came around a bend this view just hit me. I immediately pulled off to the side and sat with Kyle on a grassy hill just to take in the awesomeness of what was in front of us.

The Sunset
The Sunset

Once me and Kyle were done exploring Marlborough Sounds, we began our time wwoofing at a vineyard/olive grove called Antipode. In case you missed it in my last post, wwoof stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and allows people who are interested in learning about the organic lifestyle to volunteer their time working on an organic farm. While driving up to our host’s property, I was feeling a bit nervous. What if they don’t like me? or I don’t like them? What will the work be like? Tons of questions filled my head, but then as soon as I met Jacqui (our host) my nerves disappeared. I am honest when I say that Antipode is probably the best place for any wwoofer, or any person in general, to visit. From day one I immediately felt welcomed into Jacqui’s family and lifestyle. Everyday Kyle and I would work with Jacqui on jobs ranging from tending to the grape vines in the vineyard, doing landscaping around the property, and filling up olive oil bottles for retail. We also joined Jacqui and her family in preparing and eating amazing breakfasts, lunches, and dinners and were even welcomed to join them in watching their favorite television programs like New Zealand’s Got Talent.

The Vineyard
The Vineyard
Olive Grove
Olive Grove

I learned so much from my time with this family, and not only about wine and olive oil. During mealtimes and evening tea, we had great conversations with Jacqui about topics like education, agriculture, and psychology and even got to hear a bit about Jacqui travels from around the world with her husband. Being at Antipode was also nice just because I got to be in one location for a bit and not continuously on the move. Traveling is fun, but having that sense of home and comfort was something I was missing. I will endlessly be grateful to Jacqui and her family for providing that and I sincerely hope to meet them again someday.

Now as I write this entry, I am on the inter-islander ferry heading back to the North Island. I suppose it is appropriate to label this as a transitioning point in my summer—from South to North, and from great experiences with old friends and new into the unknown adventures that lie ahead.

Cheers,

Scott