FrOm The land dOwn under 42 degrees south & pure adventure:12/4/13 excerpts from electronic mail by hannah barry
The self-affirmation of being exactly where you are supposed to be in life is completely unsettling and empowering; the two tied together synonymously. And I am lucky enough to have felt this validation throughout the past month, as well as moments in this year. Floating as a hobo wilderness gypsy into the rugged parts of New Zealand, I find myself smiling at the lush landscapes and wandering back into reality from my dreams at 5.00am just to hear the morning song of birds … this country does not cease to mesmerize me. In the last month my movements have been vast and frequent, and the traveling continues on, along with the characters and the stories … so as my British mate would say, “What’s the craic?" 1. The Return to JAFA land. As soon as I landed back in Auckland, I felt at home. A big smile slapped on my face as I rode the airbus to Kelli’s flat realizing that the sun no longer sets at 5.00pm and that the temperature was closer to 20 degrees than 10! Despite being back in the city, I soaked up every minute to reunite with friends … considering Kelli and I had less than 24 hours to catch up before she jetsetted off to Brazil for work! But the fun carried on as I had a lucky second trip down to Papakura with Paul and Lisa to house-sit his parent’s farm. Creek hiking to waterfalls and admiring Paul’s mountain biking skills was the perfect dose of a warm welcome back. I even got to celebrate Judy’s birthday dancing the night away at a flash(y) bar in the city center, and took a day trip out to Whatipu beach to plunder my feet through the finest black sand. Just as I had unpacked my bags I was repacking them into White Magic to head south to Taupo! 2. Farewell to White Magic. By the time I had driven maybe 20 minutes down the motorway, the HOLD light began to flash on my dashboard, and a strange sound started tinkering in my bonnet. Before I knew it, AA was on the phone and I was stuck on the off ramp with a steaming hood … my car luck in this country is just as good at the Panthers winning streak, prior to this season. Well sure enough, the head gasket had blown. For un-oriented car people, like myself, this basically translates into the worst possible problem as the head gasket seals the compression of coolant to the engine in order to keep your car from overheating. Soon enough I became the lucky winner of riding in a tow truck for the 3rd time since arriving in New Zealand! 3. Gundy. Tow Trucks are quite the monsters, especially the double-decker ones that are more than 19 meters long. With White Magic strapped to the second level, I quickly scaled what seemed to be equivalent to a fireman’s ladder into the passenger seat embracing life’s curve balls. I silently thanked myself for making the decision to increase my car insurance to an AA Plus membership, thus allowing a tow to Taupo fo’ free! But the praise quickly subsided as I observed the juju-like feather necklaces hanging from the mirror, a gothic skull perched in the middle of the dashboard, and metal naked stripper icons welded onto the screen guard … seconds later the driver door opened and up popped a long-haired, leather-faced man with a CD collection from Metallica to Pink Floyd. “You can call me Gundy!” I realized I was in for quite the journey. With no more than 3-minute silence blips over the next 5 hours, I soon knew most of Gundy’s hobbies and life story. A hippie at heart, this man is a testament to “living free”. He is the hippiest, rock n’ roller, surfer I have ever met, that reads tarot cards, refurbishes old school buses, believes in aliens and that chickens are dinosaurs that the aliens beamed into small scale for human survival. Gundy quickly educated me on the trucker diet of a sack of apples, Rollino cakes and Moro bars. I couldn’t help but indulge … for I knew this was one of those “once-in-a-lifetime” moments where you just gotta ride the bull! 4. Living Large. My return to Taupo was absolute gluttony as a carrot cake sat perched on the counter for dessert at Mama Carole’s. A home-cooked meal is a true treat to a hobo wilderness gypsy … and requires full indulgence. I do declare that Mama Carole has the
elegance of a true southern lady as she provides the best hospitality in all of Taupo! This “homecoming” was filled with friends, laughter, some good ol’ G&Ts, my favorite eggs bene brekkie, and dancing to John Newman tracks while whipping up some mashed potatoes! I was living large. 5. I’m On A Boat Man! Sure enough gluttony and living like a Queen was short-lived before I found myself on the Interislander Ferry crossing the Cook Strait to the South Island. AT LAST! The wait was over, and I soon was surrounded by the Marlborough Sounds. Bundled up on the deck I fantasized about being an explorer discovering uncharted waters like Captain Cook. 6. Tramps. With the arrival on the south island, so began my first solo tramp in the country. Tramping, also known as backpacking, is a true facet of the Kiwi culture as there is an array of irresistible environments to explore. The Department of Conservation of New Zealand is quite a thorough outdoor organization as it makes these experiences incredibly accessible and enjoyable. Every time I drive through this country its natural, wild beauty captivates me - and somewhere close by is a track to walk or discover. Fittingly enough, I hiked the Queen Charlotte Track for two days. It was an adventure full of sandy bays, torrential rain, and fighting wekas away from my food. I relished in the solitude of having the forests to myself. 7. Ode to the Red Dog Adventures. After testing my gear against the elements on the QCLT, I headed west to Nelson – the sunniest place in all of New Zealand. Arriving in Nelson for all of 20 minutes, I soon had company in room 205 of my hostel. A witty British physiotherapist and charming Canadian HR rep quickly became friends after spending Friday afternoon with the locals enjoying a beer tasting at the Founders Brewery. Soon enough I had convinced them to venture into Able Tasman National Park for a multi-day adventure of sea kayaking and tramping. Of the all the gear we brought, our favorite was a book called Red Dog; anecdotes of a Kelpie dog that wandered throughout Western Australia, and became famous not only for his coat, but also silent but deadly gas bombs. Each evening we looked forward to card games followed by readings from Red Dog with bellies full of pasta. The days in the Golden Bay were full of vitamin D after leaving Able Tasman and returning to Nelson. As much as I wanted to stay with my Red Dog crew, I had to push south in order to reunite with a long lost Farm Girl of Gwynn Valley. 8. A GV Thang. Without summer camp, New Zealand would have remained a distant land buried in my mind. It was due to five years ago working at my beloved Camp Gwynn Valley (GV) in the Blue Ridge Mountains that I befriended the Kiwis. By summer’s end, I found myself promising an adventure to their homeland; the rest is history. The truth is that GV has been a foundation in which I have been able to propel myself into incredible adventures. Being that meeting up long for a west coast worms!
I am not the with GV farm reunion, and and floating
first GV American to pioneer over to the Kiwiland, I planned on girl Elin on the south island for some adventures. It didn’t take sure enough we were hiking through Paparoa National Park on the on inner tubes through caves looking at ceilings covered in glow
9. The Ultimate Playground. Making my way further south, crossing to the east coast via Arthur’s Pass, with my face glued to car and bus windows, the awe crescendoed. From turquoise glacier lakes in Tekapo and Pukaki, to the iced crest of Mt Cook I found New Zealand begging me to never leave. The realization that my year here is coming to an end intensifies every new adventure, making me wish for another year here just on the south island. If only I could bring all of you with me. I understand now why most people bypass the north island, or underestimate how “fun” it is. It has to contend with fiordlands,
licebergs, glaciers, rainforests, braided riverbeds, golden beaches, and the Southern Alps. They call New Zealand a playground for a reason, and I feel like a kid at recess, hoping that the whistle never blows and that the game keeps on going. 10. Thanks. I decided to tell my father during his morning ritual of a bowl of cereal and read of The Charlotte Observer that I was moving to New Zealand for one year. This image of the paper slowly lowering to the table and oat squares getting soggier by the second during passing silence will never be forgotten. Moving over 8,000 miles away from all things loved and familiar comes at a cost, and not just purchasing the insanely expensive ticket to get 40-ish degrees south of the equator. A year is a long time, and life waits for no one. The choices we make in life ricochet in unforeseeable paths. I guess, chowing on a steak and cheese pie on a rainy Queenstown day for Thanksgiving dinner was unforeseeable in a way. But those moments when you are not there to watch friends fall in love, or cheer sisters on from the sideline, or hold hands around a table of a delicious carbo-loaded buffet with family that you second guess the choices you make. The truth is I am lucky, and I am thankful. Because as soon as those proverbial thoughts of â€œWhat am I doing with my life?â€? surface my brain, I think of every step I have taken this year to get where I am. And I know it could not have been done without the support of all of you, through emails, texts, skype sessions, and the numerous alternative communicative mediums. So, I just wanted to say thank you for being there, even when you were so far away, to give me the smack on my forehead and say CARPE DIEM BABY. Thank you. With an email from Immigration notifying that there are only 45 days left before I am given the boot, YOLO (you only live once) is full on. There is no time to waste, and as I said life waits for no one - so letâ€™s go make it happen. Cheers to living a life full of adventure! Until next time.