On the post-trek cruise around the sounds
On the post-trek cruise around the sounds
To preface, I’m sitting in the sunshine on the patio of a local coffee shop (imagine that) on a gorgeous NZ fall afternoon, enjoying my usual Americano & thinking of how much I love… well, life. And how, up til now, I’ve been trying to figure out some manner in which to articulate the past week’s experiences that might give you a glimpse into my thoughts along the way.
So.. the Milford. Absolutely stunning, pictures could never do justice. Merely driving through Fiordland is a drool-fest; however, actually getting out into the mountains and really earning the views is something else altogether. The trek itself is about 54 km (33.5 miles) over a span of four days, along which trampers stay in reserved huts (no camping allowed, and to control the amount of traffic through the forest, only 40 people are allowed to begin the trek each day). I reserved my spot in the huts thinking “Alright, a four-day solo journey into one of the most beautiful areas in the world… an ideal time to spend some uninterrupted time with myself and God, protected by the fact that 39 other people will also be somewhere along the way, in the case I twist an ankle & need to be propped up or something. Sweet.” Funny, though, the way things never really turn out the way you expect. Especially when traveling. Since I arrived in the country, I have hardly been by myself for much longer than half a day or so. And most of that would be just on bus rides, one rental car trip, internet time, or walking around a city. I was told before I left by my good friend, Erick, that “you are never alone unless you want to be” when traveling. Couldn’t be truer. Even the bus driver to Te Anau was chatty.
So I suppose it shouldn’t have surprised me that merely 5 minutes into the ferry ride to start the Milford Track, I was already befriended by a lively group of Aussie teachers on a guy’s weekend in NZ (one was retired & the other two would be in the next year or so). They actually reminded me quite a bit of one of my buddies from the Fuller Center Bike Adventure last summer (yeah, that’s you, Geezerman!) 😉 If I’d thought much at all about the layout of the hike, it would have made sense that with all 40 of us starting and completing the hike together, we would be constantly crossing paths in the huts and on the trails, consequently forming some degree of acquaintance with each other. I guess I just assumed that most people came with the groups they planned on hiking with, or flying solo like myself, and that we would all kinda do our own thing.
A couple km’s into the tramp, we crossed paths with two other American girls– both of whom were close to my age, both named Hannah, & just out of college within the last few years. All having quite a bit in common, we got along quite well & I ended up hiking the majority of the track with them & another Aussie guy named Sean, also close in age to us. He was on the hike solo as well & apparently had a lot of similar ideas about it being more contemplative and isolated.
It’s funny how I so often expect to encounter God in a particular way, yet it never turns out as such. I’ve experienced him more through people and nature than in most of the time I’ve spent in a church building– not to completely discount the value of church. However, there is something about a genuinely organic pursuit of life and simplicity that just hits me so unexpectedly and so intensely. And gratitude… just knocks me to my knees.
So often I find myself looking so much to the future that I forget to live in the present. Like… cursing my blistered feet and wishing I was already at the next hut. (Backstory: I did a hike in Dunedin several days beforehand with the wrong socks & ill-suited shoes so I started the Milford already having blister issues… that clearly don’t get better when you try to “walk it off”). Or… missing Rich and being so excited to see him in a few days that I can hardly stand it. And thinking of those winery tours we have coming up that sound so fun. Whatever the reason, I mentally wander off and march right past the incredible beauty surrounding me, lost in myself. Why is it so difficult to be present? As goofy as it sounds, I literally had to remind myself that I was grateful to have the opportunity to hike through this amazing part of the world so that I could develop these blasted blisters. Really, some things just go hand-in-hand. And I’ll take it 🙂 Not only that, but I got to spend four amazing days getting to know nearly half of the group I was bunking with quite well, as happens when people spend so much consecutive time together. And it would strike me randomly along the hike that things would never be just this way again, with the same people or even on the same track. You build really great relationships with people you may very well never see again– merely as friends on Facebook, if even that.
Having said that, I’m always amazed by how small the world really is; Sean (that I hiked a lot with) arrived on the same bus as me to Te Anau & we ended up staying at the same hostel the night following the end of the hike. He was looking for a way to Christchurch, so he ended up hitching with me in my rental car and we made a road trip of it through Queenstown, Wanaka, Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo. Before we even left Te Anau, we saw three other people from the hike, all of which also we ended up crossing paths with again in Queenstown (two were actually on the same bus). Then we saw the Swiss couple from our hike in Wanaka at the I-site (info center). And yesterday I see a couple from Greeley in a random coffee shop in Christchurch who recognized me as being from CO by my Odell’s sticker on my computer. Crazy, hilariously small world. I love it.
Back to the Milford… it really was amazing. We were forecasted for rain all 4 days and hardly saw any more than a sprinkle. It’s actually supposed to be better in the rain, as waterfalls just come out every which way so I was kinda hoping for it. A few of us from the hike ended up on a short cruise together around the Milford Sound during the time we were waiting for our bus back to Te Anau– I was skeptical of the touristy-ness of it, but it was definitely worth it. I’ll post a few pics at some point. As usual, I’m a bit short on time, so I will have to continue my musings at a later date.. Rich & I head out tomorrow for the next two weeks & we’ve got to pack 🙂 My apologies for any ridiculous typos I’ve likely missed..
What a relief to be back in Dunedin & have a place to get out and explore for a few days. With friends (well, new ones, anyway). After Clinton, George Street almost felt like NYC.
Friday was pretty chill; spent the afternoon at Starbucks (I know) where the WIFI was actually free & somewhat unlimited. Then, the rest of the evening I just hung out with Dana & her flat-mates. Saturday was a big day.. Starting bright & early before 8am, waking up to Snoop Dogg three flats away, everyone with tickets to the annual Hyde St. party was getting all kinds of decked out in awesomely ridiculous costumes. The rest of us…? We took pictures at the gates, went to the Farmers Market, & then back to the flats for a non-Hyde St. counter-party. (Did I mention that I kinda feel old now, compared to all of these uni kids?? Yeah, I do). Ohh, and rewind to the Farmers Market.. it’s next to the Dunedin Railway Station, which is supposed to be NZ’s most photographed building, and similar to the good ones in the States, you can get anything from fruits & veggies to breads, dips, wines, cheeses, meats, seafood, plants, hot food for lunch or breakfast, etc. SO, I get this amazing savory venison crepe with cheese, cabbage & carrot salad with a wine reduction dressing…. that was about as big as my face. It was glorious in every way, and I ate the whole damn thing. Yum. I’ll have to post that pic at some point as well… though it absolutely will not do justice to the degree of yumminess I experienced.
Anyway, after an afternoon of card games & shenanigans, a group of us went out to do the Speights Brewery Tour (the original ale house to open in NZ), where at the end, they turn you loose at the taps to pour as much beer as you can drink in 45 min (deliiiightful, with six different options). Afterwards, I ashamed to say that I stayed in for the rest of the night as my sore throat/cough has been hovering the last few days & started feeling like it was back for another round again… and everyone else went back out downtown. Yup, old lady here. (But I did book a hostel for Te Anau….so I felt moderately productive). And, unlike everyone else this morning, I was up at 8 feeling quite lovely. Ha. Suckers 😉
Sunday was another gorgeous day.. 21C (70ish F) so after wandering briefly through the botanical gardens, I caught a bus out to St. Claire beach (which was more time-consuming than my time on the beach… gotta love public transport on Sundays). Went down to the beach with my pack & walked around a bit (note: the sand away from the beach was softer than the sand closer to the beach…?), then just hung out around town & took pictures of the surfers before heading back.
So, today I am going to be a little more ambitious… hoping it all works as planned 🙂
Post-earthquake city centre
I think this is a Monterey Cypress…
don’t know what they’re called, but they’re pretty!
.. in the rock garden