Over the past few months I have sat down in front of this screen, with a notebook on one side and a cup of tea on the other, each and every time I fell into the exact same pattern. I opened up a blank page, checked my notebook for the scrawled list of posts I still have to write, drank my tea, not write a single word and watched YouTube for the foreseeable future.
There was something wrong with that list, other than my terrible handwriting. When I looked at it, it didn’t make me excited to write about and share my adventures with you, as it should. It just seemed like a piece of work, and that’s the last thing I want this space to be.
The other day I had a simple thought, which seems blatantly obvious now but for some reason I struggled to think of. What if I got rid of the list?
The thing is, travelling round the South Island with one of my closest friends from home wasn’t made up of bullet point list and numbers; it was made up of moments and memories, both so rich with joy and colour, I find myself scared at how could I possibly do it justice.
Enough is enough. I want to share some moments with you.
To get to the South Island we went on a ferry, which sailed through the Marlborough Sounds. I had wanted to go on this for months, working on the waterfront I was constantly asked about the ferry or told what a beautiful journey it was, and I was desperate to see it for myself.
The day of the trip I was heartbroken by the weather, as I boarded the ferry the sky was thick with grey. Still, I was happy to be reunited with H so accepted the day and helped myself to an English breakfast. We laughed at a man who thought he lost his ketchup when it turned out he’d squirted it on the ceiling.
I was getting on with a word search and when I looked out of the window, the day had miraculously cleared, the sky and ocean were an idyllic shade of blue and the grey a mere shadow of a memory.
We both headed up on deck and for the next couple of hours all we could do was stand and admire the view. The water was so still, apart from the crystal blue streak left by the boat cutting its way through. It was paradise blue and the islands were made up of a river of pine trees with ripples of needles. H voiced a thought constantly drifting through my head.
“How is any of this real?”
After a long, long journey, H and I immediately headed to the beach and cracked open a cider. For a few moments we sat and admired the view.
Within seconds I was attacked by sandflies and we had to move. Later we headed to the pub. A 50-year-old gentlemen and a bassist were killing it with the likes of ‘Sweet Caroline’ and ‘Dancing Queen.’ Tragically, they made the grave error of opening up the stage. A guy with a tie-dye t shirt took them up on this offer.
“What’s the betting he’ll play Wonderwall?” I leant into H to ask. Literally within seconds he started to play it. He lost the crowd shortly afterwards with Pink Floyd.
The next we drove to Nelson Lakes National Park. Remember that time I was wondering whether either of us would jump in?
We were the first to jump, it was exhilarating but nerve bitingly cold. Thankfully I didn’t see any eels.
I don’t have a lot to tell you about Westport. H and I went to an underwhelming beach, made better by the company. We drank a beer as we watched the the sky get painted in with the pastel palette of a distant sunset.
During the drive we stopped to walk around Cape Foulwind, which – despite the name – was lovely. On one side was a mountain range with curls of mist and on the other was the slated blue ocean, made brighter by the sun struggling to push its way through the clouds. A constant between the two were tumbling stretches of grass dotted with yellow wild flowers. At one point there were seals.
We also stopped at Pancake Rocks, which were pretty impressive and easily admired, but someone with geology knowledge would probably appreciate them a lot more. It was probably the first time in my life I wish I knew more about rocks.
Lake Mahinapua was a notorious party spot for the Kiwi Experience. Each night had a different fancy dress theme but I imagine a similar level of intoxication for each bus. Our theme was: “What would you like to be when you’re older?” In Greymouth I got some cardboard, gold string and yellow tissue paper so I could make myself a large smiley face to wear. I wanted to be happy.
The next day, after a breakfast of pancakes and bacon, I made myself a cup of tea and walked down to the lake – I thought it would be wrong to not see the thing. It felt somewhat strange to be walking through a forest with a white mug full of tea, but pretty quaint at the same time.
I was not disappointed. It was so wonderfully peaceful and the lake acted as mirror to the magnificent landscape surrounding it.
I was disappointed by the goldmine town of Ross. The less said about that the better.
This place was a dream. Everywhere I looked there were green mountains with mist curling over the top of them. It was one the most Middle Earth places I’ve been to in New Zealand.
The glacier itself was pretty cool (pardon the pun) but the walk in the valley itself was incredible. It was so majestic, green hills either side with waterfalls running down them and an ice blue river running through the middle.
The next day was rainy so I decided this went hand in hand with a rain forest walk. I had the place to myself and it felt pretty magical.
I sat on a rock at Eely Point with the water rippling around me and the mountains in the distance. I cried a little when I first got there. Work had been tough and this place blissfully reminded me of why I was on this side of the world. There was barely a cloud in the sky and everything was so gloriously blue. I dipped a hand in the cold water, wanting to add to the senses and make it feel real.
The views from Rippon vineyard were absolutely unreal. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in my life.
Sadly, not everything in Wanaka was this serene. There had been a sunset cruise around the lake (I jumped in twice and neither time was graceful) followed by a karaoke night in the hostel, with a free shot every time you sang. I lost count of the number of Sambuca shots. Some of them came back up when I was recovering by the lake the next day. But hey ho, there were worse places to feel rough.
This place was full of what ifs, as at one point I had debated moving here. The more I wandered through, the more my worries settled. I was reassured my instinct to stay in Wellington had been right. I walked around the lake by the border of the botanical gardens. The sun came out and created an autumnal glow throughout the trees . It was incredibly pleasant, but it wasn’t home.
I saw one of my old friend’s from Wellington. H and I went out for dinner and drinks with B’s friends from work and the night ended, unsurprisingly, with us getting drunk. The real surprise came from the cowboy bar with hats. And finding out Graham Norton had his own wine.
I stood alone on the top deck of the boat, the wind was strong and there were was a gentle but consistent rain. I was completely alone but not lonely. It was so empowering and surreal.
I was still on the top deck as we sailed past a waterfall. I looked up and time seemed to standstill. There were was a tunnel of white water above me and as I looked it felt like it was going to fall on me, but it didn’t. I just watched it flow and it was utterly hypnotic.
I had only heard of the place due to a former Tinder date being from there. My favourite part of being so far south was the drive to see the most southern point of New Zealand. It felt so satisfying, knowing I’d traveled so much of the South Island.
Though at times, as we were driving, it felt as I were still in my Yorkshire countryside – with flat farmland and grey sky stretching for miles.
From a blustering beach to spot sea lions, to a blistering sunny day at Nugget Point, this was a gorgeous place to travel through. We wandered through prehistoric forest to find some waterfalls. We tried and failed to spot rare penguins, but we did see a dolphin leap through the waves with its small shape glistening in the sun. It was like something from a film and seeing H’s sheer joy at this moment was absolutely lovely to see.
There were such dramatic waves near that beach, with big puffs of white breaking apart as they hit the shore. It was like watching the ocean in slow motion.
The highlight was not walking up the steepest street in the world, but rather seeing old friends I used to work with at Foxglove. Catching up with Y & J over brunch was lovely and I wish I could have spent more time here.
This was my last stop at the South Island before flying from Christchurch back to Wellington the next day. I felt accomplished, finally feeling like I’ve seen the country I’ve called home the past year and a half. The thought of leaving New Zealand is becoming more and more real. I don’t know whether I’ll ever be ready to leave.