Live A Life Worth Living

“Not that way ! That’s a jump for snowboarders” I heard my friend scream while I was concentrating on how to come down properly down a green slope for the very first time. My friend James told me a couple moments prior that I could use the whole slope to practice my skiing a bit. Everything except that part apparently.

After numerous face plants, cursing and going backwards I tried to finish the night with the bit of grace I had left in my body. Thankfully I wasn’t going to fast and could crawl back out of that lane to come down the ‘normal’ way.

Not bad for my first Monday in my new hometown. It’s been a turbulent week so far with the inevitable ups and downs.

A week ago I was still packing and sorting out what luggage to take with me while squeezing in my last goodbyes with friends and families. Those things are definitely the least fun part of the whole journey. Even though I promised not to tear up I couldn’t contain myself any longer when my little niece hugged me goodbye. Like she knewI went on a long big journey. The idea of seeing her again in a couple months comforts me.

Now the hardest part was behind me I stepped on the train towards Paris with my travel companion Kim. In Paris we would embark on our direct flight to Vancouver. With three bags and a heavy heart I got on board the plane that would bring me to my new life. Permanently this time. No fixed return date. That’s a bit of new concept for me. A million questions and some doubts race through my mind but deep inside I know I’m making a good decision and following my dreams.

After a few movies and chats with my neighbours and a sore bum we start our touchdown. With that touchdown starts an awful migraine. The exhaustion, last-minute stress and lack of sleep is getting the best of me.

The immigration procedure is going very smoothly and before we know it we are on our way to our hotel in North Vancouver where we are residing for the first week of our journey. An Advil and a hot shower later we are ready to meet up with Kim’s sister and brother in law in Coquitlam for a quick hello.

The next day is set aside for all the necessary paper work.

Getting a SIN number so I can get a job here in BC, opening my bank account, getting a phone plan and gathering information about exchanging my drivers license to a BC license. Make sure you book off enough for these things, they are quite time consuming but all worked out smoothly.

The next couple days consisted of getting used to the new time zone and going on new hikes in the area. Breathing in the old familiar fresh air while staring at waterfalls in the snow definitely feels like a warm welcome, although we were soaking wet and shivering on our way back.

Today, it’s job hunting day, a bit later than expected but more motivated and focused than a couple days ago.

As for now, this is were I will leave you, sitting in a Starbucks near English Bay and with a dozen job ads open on my computer. Back to work, looking for a living for a life that’s worth living or something like that.

Until the next update !

Oh, and just so you know, in Canada you should park at least five meters away from a fire hydrant…

Cheers

52 Weeks Filled with Mementos

Welcome to a New Year, Welcome to a New Blog –

While everyone is stowing away their christmas ornaments for another year, I’m stowing my life away for another quest. Most likely the biggest one so far as I am leaving with no actual expiration date on my adventure. And this my friends is so liberating and scary at the same time.

And now I am sitting here in my room filling boxes with stuff I have gathered over the  years. More than ready to toss out those old cds from the 90s with embarrassing songs and that leather jacket I never wore because I bought it too small in the first place. Golden rule is, if you have never used it or wore it in the last year, toss it. Except for momentos. A lot of mementos from my travels I simply can’t throw out. It is just too damn precious. The memories you made, the experiences you encountered, the people you met on your road of life. Cherish every single on them. From the awkward little love note from your high school sweetheart to the drunken polaroid group shot from your trip overseas or that awesome pebble you found in the Mongolian Desert last year.

Still trying to decide to do something original with these momentos and take them with me or just leave them in the shoeboxes at leave them at my moms’ for now. Any ideas are more than welcome in the comments.

So here is to a New Year, A New Life and another 52 weeks filled with Mementos, which I will try to share with you on a weekly basis. Hope you and I both enjoy the memories we will make this year.

Fox

If you hear about Franz Josef Glacier, Fox Glacier might be mentioned as well. These two glaciers are like two peas in a pot but it looks like Franz is stealing the spotlights in most cases. But as both glaciers are massively retreating these days the only way to get a good sight of the glaciers now is on a helicopter tour (hiking up to the foot of the bottom of the glaciers is forbidden nowadays)

If you are deciding to make a stop in Fox Glacier and you want to explore the area, then Lake Matheson is worth a visit, preferable in the early morning when the clouds have not closed the curtain over the Fox Glacier. The fairly easy loop gives you some nice viewpoints of the area. IMG_9921Another great spot (if you got the time for the detour) is Gillespies Beach. Keep your mosquito repellent handy here because the sandflies are everywhere and they leave you with a nasty itch.IMG_0182

There will be Rain

Welcome to Franz Josef Glacier, one of the wettest places on earth.

Be prepared to have a rainy day during your stay here in this beautiful place on earth that is squeezed between the mountains and the ocean and creates its own special micro climate.

This tiny village is a mandatory stop along the scenic Highway 6 between Greymouth and Queenstown and has a handful of great things to offer for everyone.

Going for a hike ?

Well, needless to say, this lush area has plenty of hikes to offer. If you have only a couple of hours to kill the most famous and visited one would be the Franz Josef Glacier Walk that departs from the village. If you don’t feel like doing the walk or don’t have the time you can take your car up to the Franz Josef Glacier Car Park. From there it is a half an hour walk to the end of the trail where you can have some views of the retreating glacier. The sights of the glacier might be a tiny bit disappointing to you so if you would like to see the glacier in full glory you’ll have to dig deeper into your pockets and arrange a helicopter tour over the glacier. These helicopters tours depart from the village and need to be booked well in advanced as on some days the unsteady weather might give the helicopter tour companies very limited windows to fly out to give you a clear view of the glacier. IMG_9867Got some more time and want to get away from the crowds on a more challenging track ? Great ! Two of my favourite hikes in Franz Josef would be Alex Knob and Roberts Point.  These two tracks are both considered a day trip and you should prepare well for these hikes (water, food, appropriate hiking gear). The views on top won’t disappoint. IMG_0092Thirsty ?

After you return from a day around the glacier you must be hungry and parched. The village offers something for everyone. The Landing and King Tiger might be your best options to fill your tummy while Full of Beans might have a good cup of coffee for you.

And at night ?

Looking for something to do at night ? There is even a brand new movie theater in town which is playing the newest movies out there and if you want to go for a good drink after then Monsoon is your place to go. You drink, they pour….

But always have a rain jacket handy… because there will be rain. But keep in mind, it is up to you to go outside with your rain jacked in the rain and have a laugh with your friends or complain in your room about the shitty weather outside. This place remains a very beautiful place, even with a little rain involved.

West Coast Drive

At the break of dawn, I am rolling myself out of a bed in a dark dorm room and gather my stuff into my backpack. Wouldn’t be survived if I lost a couple socks in there.

Time to get some fresh air during my morning walk to the bus station. This would be a long but very scenic ride from Nelson all the way to Franz Josef. A fantastic drive along the West Coast of Southern New Zealand. Filled with hugs between the highway and the coastline.

The bus ride makes its way Murchison, known for its whitewater rafting, and swings it way from there to the coast close to Westport. From there, your eyes get a six-hour treat on beautiful ocean views.

IMG_9638Make sure to make a stop at Punakaiki to see the famous funny shaped Pancake Rocks and get blown away by the thunderous sound of the blowhole (check the tides online before visiting but expect a higher volume of visitors during that time). I was lucky cause the rest stop of the bus ride was just during high tide and then you get the full spectacle of the blowhole. 

 

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From there the windy road continues until Greymouth, the biggest city on the West Coast. From here a lot of passengers transfer to the Tranzalpine. This train takes you through the beautiful Alps of New Zeland all the way to Christchurch. Beside from that the city seems to leave me with a rather sad impression. The once economical thriving city now seemed to have its better days behind it.

A few miles further, at Kumara Junction, you have one last chance to decide  if you are making your way east to Christchurch over Arthur’s Pass or if you are further down the West Coast. The bus driver chose the latter one.

The next stop you will come across is Hokitika, a cozy little touristy town to make a stop for fuel for the car and for yourself. There are plenty of eateries and a big supermarket available to satisfy the stomach. There are a lot of artists in town that you can see at work during one of their workshops if you have the time.

From there on the road continues inland and after a couple hours we finally arrived at Franz Josef, my new home for the next three months. Of course it started raining when I arrived. If only I knew that it was just the start of it…

The bus driver waived me goodbye and I made my way to my new job in this little cozy village on the West Coast, one of the wettest places on earth. IMG_0020

Layover in Nelson

I woke up early in my dorm room in Picton. Today I wanted to reach Nelson as soon as possible to meet up with my good friend Julia (you might remember her from previous escapades).

Because the bus to Nelson was only leaving around noon I wanted to beat this by hitchhiking my way there. During my time on the North Island I’ve seen my share of backpackers hitchhiking along the way. So, I packed my bags again and walked down the main road in Picton that leads to the Highway 1.

I must admit the first ride was the hardest. Some competition further down the road and not a lot of traffic heading down this way is making me think of taking the bus after all. But then my first ride stops and asks me where I’m going. After sharing my final destination of the day he offers me a ride until Blenheim. Sounds good to me. At least I’m out of this starting point.

Meet Bill, an architect who has been on a lot of adventures himself but now settled down in Blenheim. He drops me off on a busy road at the intersection of Highway 1 and Highway 6.

Thumbs up ! Time passes but no car is stopping anymore. I decide to relocate to a better spot where they can pick me up and encounter another hitchhiker, Fritz. He looks agitated with my arrival but I follow the unofficial guidelines of the hitchhiker and wait in line until he catches a ride. Trying to make conversation doesn’t seem to interest him as he is keeping his eyes on the road and up to the morning sky that is getting darker.

As I am grabbing something out of my backpack Fritz seemed to have luck and got a ride. Without having me aboard he just flees with his new ride. Thanks for the invitation Fritz,  Auf Wiedersehen, maybe not…

And then it starts raining.

An elderly lady passes by and sees me getting wet and picks me up to prevent me from getting a nasty flu. I am grateful. 5 minutes down the road she stops the car and tells me she is home. At least she gave me shelter for a couple minutes and brought me to another place to catch a new ride.

Not much later a new ride stops to pick me up, Tyler. Tyler just finished his shift at the gas station and is on his way to the Pelorus Bridge where he is meeting with his dad to go hiking in the area. We talk about what great of country New Zealand is as we drive through Havelock, a town that dedicated its soul to the Green Mussel.

At the Pelorus Bridge, famous from the barrel scene with the dwarves in The Hobbit I thank Tyler and try to find my next ride. In the meantime the bus already left Picton so I hope to at least beat the arrival time of the bus I was gonna take today.

Half an hour of standing there around the corner of the bridge until a couple picks me up. Jessica and Lucas. They are on their way to Cable Bay and can help me a bit further. They give me really helpful tips about bars and please to go in Nelson.

They drop me off at a lonely gas station right before their exit to Cable Bay. It seems like a good spot to catch a ride and not much later Boris pulls over. I opened the door and asked if he was going to Nelson. He mumbled with a very low voice. I guess that was a yes. Boris was a man of few words and a road temper on a fuse but soon enough I learned he had a good heart when he wanted to drop me off in Nelson but I couldn’t figure out where the hostel was. He drove me through the town twice and tried to make some calls before I ended up at the right place. We say a brief farewell.

Time to check in my hostel. Really liked the atmosphere here at Tasman Bay Backpackers.  Not much later Julia knocks on my door and we go explore Nelson. We end up on top of the hill with nice views over Nelson. Enough exploring for today. Time for a drink before we go home as I have a early bus leaving tomorrow to Franz Josef, my new home for the new couple of months.

A great place to go for a drink in town would be Sprig & Fern

Well… with Julia it’s never just A drink… before we know it we are into the seventh consecutive happy hour of the night… The last moments of the night are still a vague memory but I believe there was some pool games involved. See you next time Julia ! Together with Ron, a dutch guy from my hostel we make our way back to the hostel.

A few hours later the alarm goes off again. Did I even sleep ?

Oh these Nelson Nights…

Off to the Bus Station for a long but scenic ride to Franz Josef !

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 – A 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 ?