Gateway to the South Island

After a sunny ferry ride over the Cook Strait and along the Queen Charlotte and Marlborough Sounds I arrived in the little cozy town of Picton, a place that thrives on tourists on their journey through the beautiful settings of New Zealand.

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I walked out and luck was on my side when I saw the shuttle of my hostel parked outside. I didn’t know they provided a shuttle but the lady was more than happy to take me along with the other passengers. Tombstone Backpackers is a nice comfy hostel on the outskirts of the town of Picton. The owners Garry and Nikki are very friendly and make you feel at home immediately. A five minute walk brings you right into the city center where you have a great variety of foods. As I was in a harbour town my obvious choice was fish. I found a takeaway place called Kiwi Takeaways where they served great fish & chips for a reasonable price.

After I filled my belly with fishy goods I was ready for a evening walk. This place seemed to be filled with fantastic hikes, starting from half an hour up to a couple weeks through the Sounds. Since I had to be in Nelson the next day I thought it would be good to keep it light. I choose for the Upper Bob’s Bay Track. This track leads the way up to Harbour View Point. From there I walked down to Bob’s Bay to take in some more impressions of the beautiful Malbourough Sounds. I returned via the more flatter path of Lower Bob’s Bay Track to walk back into town by sunset.

Perfect !

Celebrations in Wellington – Part 2

A couple days later we decided to take a day trip to Cape Palliser, a decent drive along small and near the end also unpaved roads but worth the scenic trip. You can greet the seals (but keep your distance), climb up to the lighthouse or grab a hot chocolate at the Lake Ferry Hotel on the way.

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It is a couple hours past midnight on January 1, 2016 and I am dwelling through the streets of Wellington, New Zealand.

I just celebrated the new year with Julia, who lost her brand new phone in the crowd, and Mike, who had to work during until 2 AM. They are laying passed out in beds. Right before I decide to call the night quits as well I see the night sky turn lighter and decide to climb up Mount Victoria for the first sunrise of the year. Our hostel rests in the bottom of the mountain and it takes me a half an hour steady climb to reach the viewpoint. First workout of the year is a fact. Definitely a first sign I need to get in better shape. Maybe a good goal for this year.

I was definitely not the only one with this idea. Even more so, Together with a handful others I choose a good spot and took in all the fantastic views over Wellington Harbour. After an hour the tiredness of a sleepless night kicked in and I walked back home.

The next day, Julia comes knocking on my door with the great news that two guys from the hostel downtown have found her jacket and her phone. They uploaded a selfie with Julia’s phone on her Instagram account with the notice they found her found and she could pick it up at the hostel. Great story which we celebrated with Domino’s & Wine, a tradition that started during our travels.

Not much later the split of the tripod was near as Julia gathered all her stuff and left for Nelson with a job and a ferry ticket in her pocket. Off she went on that grey summer evening. Saying goodbye was easy cause I knew I was gonna see her again anytime soon.

In the meantime I’ve got a job as well at a hotel on the West Coast.¬†I found a job quite easily on a online job board. A great website to look for a temporary job while you are on your Working Holiday Program.

And a couple days after Julia left Wellington, Mike dropped me at the same ferry terminal, a bit overpacked but excited to start a new adventure I hugged Mike goodbye and embarked on a journey to the South Island of New Zealand.

Celebrations in Wellington Part 1

December 19, 2015

Mike, Julia and myself just finished our grand road trip across the North Island of New Zealand and had stranded in Wellington with the van. Mike had found a job there. Julia and me both needed to feed our piggy banks as well and decided to call this city our home for a little while and celebrate the holidays together.

The first days we explored the city and found cool spots and bars.

Te Papa Museum : A diverse and interactive museum. Make sure to see the (temporary) exhibition of Gallipoli РA moving story of the terrible war that begun for many New Zealanders there at Anzac Cove on April 25, 1915.

One Big Parade : A beautiful drive along the beaches and bays of Greater Wellington. Start your drive at Oriental Parade and follow the coast all around Miramar (turn left at the Windy Wellington Sign for a slightly longer route) and continue all the way until Te Kopahou Visitor Centre. Make sure to stretch your legs at Lyall Bay and watch the planes come in. If you feel like continuing on unpaved roads after this car park make sure to have a 4 wheel drive cause we got stuck with our Lola (the name of the van).

A couple days later Julia already made plans to leave for the South Island after New Years while Mike got the job in a bar down Courtenay Place. Courtenay Place and Cuba Street is where most of the bars can be found. I was literally torn between staying in Wellington and find a job or leaving for the South Island as well but would decide depending on the job.

As we were preparing to go out for dinner on Christmas Eve I heard Mike scream from the bathroom. He just pulled a muscle in his back and was in serious pain. We jumped in the van and brought him to the emergency room. Luckily he was released a couple hours later with some painkillers and a good story in hand.

Merry Christmas ! At least we were together

Isn’t that the point of this holiday anyway ?

What kind of Backpacker are you ?

During my travels I have frequently rested my head in hostels. From really cool hostels in Bangkok, London and Bali to really shitty ones in Miami, Pnom Penh and Alaska.

What makes the hostel experience is not only the quality of the mattress, friendly staff or if there is breakfast included but also who you are sharing your room with. It can be great when you share your space with people who have the same ideas of traveling like you do.

But it could also be a torn in the eye during your stay.

Here are some examples of backpackers I’ve encountered during my travels.

The Ghost

The Ghost is someone who you will barely or never see during your stay at the hostel. This person mostly wakes up at the break of dawn and goes out exploring the whole day and comes back late in the day to shower and go to sleep. The backpack is there but even looks totally unpacked.

The Permanent Resident

This person is the opposite from the ghost. (s)He will be constantly lingering around the hostel and be on his/her computer all day watching movies or just napping. It makes you wonder if they are here to see something. Definitely some food leftovers, dirty socks and an stained t-shirt are lingering around his/her bed.

The Early Bird

This person wakes up before anyone else and starts making noises trying to collect all the necessary things to prepare for the start of breakfast. (s)He makes his/her bed before she leaves the room and is most of the time a very tidy person. (s)He might be found in the lobby reading some travel guides and goes out of the door well prepared and with a plan.

The Night Owl

This person comes back into the room in the middle of the night, drunk. (s)He trips over bins, bags and his/her own feet before stumbling into bed. Turn on the light anyway and sometimes bring a ‘friend’ along to chill, no netflix needed.

The Grand Slammer

This person is someone who will constantly walk in and out of the dorm room. Planning is supposedly not his/her forte.

The New Best Friend 

This is the one with the golden ticket. As soon as you enter the room you start talking to him/her. With a simple introduction and the standard question (Where are you from?) you might have set the tone for a new friendship. You notice right away you’ve been traveling to the same places and have a bunch of common interests. Soon enough you are exploring the neighbourhood together.

Beside these stereotypes there are of course dozen of other types of backpackers.

What kind of backpacker are you ? Or which one would you be ?

 

 

Whangerei Away

Aaaahhh good old Whangarei.

This must have been one of the places I’ve felt home the most in New Zealand.

Of course this was all because of two beautiful souls who I was introduced to during my travels through Canada last summer, Auntie Karen and Uncle Rick. Two of the kindest kind I know on this planet.

I had the privilege spending three weekends with them in this precious spot of New Zealand, away from the big travel crowds.

Whangarei is a three hour bus ride away from Auckland (we booked our tickets with Nakedbus) and were dropped off at the port of Whangarei, where a bunch of sailing boats rest peacefully in the harbour.

On my first visit, Uncle Rick was ready to pick us up. At that time I was traveling with Julia, a name you will encounter frequently in my blogs, and she is definitely worth mentioning cause she always manage to deliver a great story to tell.

Whangarei Falls : Nice spot if you seek some refreshment and wanna make a fairly easy walk.

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Ocean Beach : Great place to go surfing or relax and get a tan (or sunburn in my case).

Mount Manaia : A not so crowded steep climb with incredibly rewarding views.

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Abbey Caves : Way less crowded than the other glowworm caves and totally free. After a little walk through the meadows you arrive at the caves (mind the sheep poo). Be very careful cause it’s really slippery and be prepared to get wet from head to toe if you want to see the glowworms deeper in the caves. Make sure to bring a flashlight and when you are in the caves, not to¬†shine the flashlight towards the worms but away from them. Be prepared for magic.

Smugglers Cove : Starting from the small parking lot with excellent toilets it is a nice hike over a small hill to reach this cozy cove that once was a haven for pirates. You can also combine this with the Busby Head Track if you wanna see some more cool views.

Definitely worth a visit !

Leave it all Behind

Ever dreamed of going abroad for a year to work and travel there ?

Yeah, me too.

I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.

These days everyone knows someone who is going/went abroad to another country for a longer time to work and travel. You see their pictures on Facebook about snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef, conquering mountain tops in the Canadian Rockies or bungee jumping in New Zealand.

And you think to yourself. I wish I could do all of that.

Well,¬†you can, but you didn’t realise it yet.

Continue reading Leave it all Behind

What’s Another Year

What a year !

I’ve been from the highest highs to the lowest lows this last year.

Literally and figuratively.

From snorkelling in Indonesia to hiking up to the Annapurna Base Camp.

From spending a night playing cards with the Shan State army in Myanmar to going to the emergency room in China.

The year started with a ‘Where’s Julia’ game after we lost her in the bars of Wellington and will end somewhere in the streets around London.

My New Year’s Resolution. Keep up the blogging and hope to inspire you to travel, laugh and frown with my (hopefully more frequent) stories.

Here is a video of some of the highlight of my Asian Adventure.

Happy Holidays everyone !

Wim

Lake Pukaki

If you were impressed with Lake Tekapo, then you definitely will be stunned by the beauty of its bigger sister, Lake Pukaki.

The drive around the lake is very scenic and deserves some stops. While you are driving and if the weather permits it, you will see Mount Cook appear.

One of them is Peter’s Lookout along Highway 80 (also known as Mount Cook Road). From here you can take a bunch of postcard photos but make sure you save some space and batteries for your next stop, Mount Cook Village !

Lake Tekapo

We survived our first night with the three of us in a two person tent.

The summer is noticeably gone with much cooler temperatures at night. We wake up to a grey sky morning at Mc Gregor Lake, which is only a short drive from Lake Tekapo.

After our breakfast at the lake and getting a full tank we were ready to drive up to the rooftop of New Zealand, Mount Cook National Park.

 

The Grand Trip : The Kickoff

So the Grand Road Trip of 2016 has begun.

During the next six months I will be travel from New Zealand up to Mongolia and back.

It will be a roller coaster adventure filled with beautiful scenery, diverse cultures, meeting new people, trying new foods and go wherever your heart desires to.

The adventure started last Thursday when I finished my job in Franz Josef Glacier. My  friend Lotti and me left our little home away from home behind after working here for the last three months.

Destination : Christchurch !

A lot of driving on the first day but we had places to go still. The route went from the gloomy roads of the West Coast over the majestic surrounding of Arthurs Pass down to the meadows of Canterbury.

There we picked up our missing member of the new tripod and set course to Lake Tekapo.

A little after sunset we arrived at our campground at Lake Mc Gregor. We put down our tent for our first night camping. While setting up our tent we got attacked by a swarm of mosquitos. We dived into our tent and fell quickly asleep.