A Kiwi Adventure
November 29th – December 8th
Luscious green hills topped with an endless bounty of rich forest and fulfilled dreams of natural conservation. A paradise, a getaway, another world. It is composed of white fluffy sheep grazing along the country side and healthy cows digesting dark green grass that spans forever before them.
Conservation of nature is the goal and leaving no trace is the method. The people are kind and the government is understanding. They consult the locals before building on the landscape and provide social health care for all Kiwis, regardless of class. The tax is high, but the standard and comfort of living is so much higher.
This is Middle Earth.
I flew to Auckland, New Zealand on November 29, 2014 from Sydney, Australia. It was a muggy day with an illuminating sun of burnt yellow and orange. While the orange sun contained promising joys, Jetstar’s orange airline did not. A delayed flight from 4:45 arrival to 5:30 led to a stressful evening. After finally getting through customs, I met up with my mom (the small kind Asian women in bright orange and yellow) and my mate Corbin. We walked over to pick up our car at the airport at 6:05 P.M. only to discover their office closed at 6:00 P.M. I was mortified. We had no car, no wifi and were stranded in a beautiful country. Although a bit put off by the stress of my plans falling through, we thought quickly and became resourceful.
I met my relatives for the first time, and thanks to their hospitality, stayed with them (Dom, Miriam, Celine, Dave, Jinkee) during my time in north island.
Although a shaky start, the journey became a ride I could only have imagined in the depths of my innermost being.
Hobbit Holes, Rolling Green Hills and Sheep, Oh My
|A picture of one of the hobbit holes at Hobbiton|
A Peaceful Adrenaline Rush.
Oh Jucy. After finally picking up our jucy rental car we made our way to the Hobbiton Movie Set located in MataMata. For all I thought, this was going to be like any other drive, boring freeways and fast paced folks with little to no scenery in between.
I was beyond wrong (if that’s even possible).
The drive was peaceful and relaxing. We drove with ease, leaning into the bends of the road, as if we too were part of the endless green landscape. I wanted to take it all in. To open my eyes wide open and forever stamp the image of pure beauty in my mind. We took our time, gasped in awe after every turn and felt awake. Now this, this was living. The cookie cutter boxed living of suburbia was nowhere to be found. Just me, an abundant amount of sheep, and an unblemished land was all that there was and would be during the drive to Hobbiton.
At least, from my perspective.
The tour of Hobbiton was not only scenic but educational. I learned about Peter Jackson and the immense amount of time he took in creating the Shire until detailed to his own definition of perfection.
This intricate work (Painting leaves to a desired shade, taking apart and putting together trees, etc.) done by so many nameless workers produced a cultural boom that my generation would embrace and connect on for years and years to come. A cherished series, built up by those who didn’t want the fame and publicized to attract fans around the world. A living Middle Earth to those who just believed.
Thanks for the faith New Zealand.
We finished off the tour with a beer at The Green Dragon Inn and a feeling of satisfaction in experiencing a movie set created in nature to feature none other than nature itself.
Cutting Serenity with High
|Taking in the beauty of North Island right before a zip line|
“They won't see us waving from such great heights, 'come down now,’ they’ll say. But everything looks perfect from far away, 'come down now,' but we'll stay.”
– The Postal Service
After a peaceful tour of Hobbiton I was ready to feed my adrenaline appetite and feel the rush of uncertainty. Corbin, Mom and I made our way to the town of Roturua and stumbled upon the Skyline. We ended up experiencing a Gondola ride, a couple scenic Luge rides down Mt. Ngongotaha, a 383 m zip line through the redwood forest, and a Quickjump with a 10 m freefall.
While the zipline was peaceful and scenic, the Quickjump balanced out the day with a high (literally), providing the opportunity for me to lose control and trust in faith.
I stood at the edge of the wooden ledge, my back to the drop and my eyes straight ahead. My heart beat to the drum of my nerves as I grasped the harness secured around my chest and waist. With no hesitation, I lifted my feet off the hard wood and fell back, freeing myself from the constructs of my own fear.
A short fall, but a huge leap in facing my fear of heights.
I was free. I felt time stand still as I stared at the magnificent trees and clear blue cotton sky waiting for the rope to break my fall. It broke. And I was lowered down into the dark soil that represented stability and safety. As I waited for the crew, I drifted into a mellow nonchalance that could be characterized as peace in testing the ambiguity of ropes and my own ability to trust in a force beyond the physicality of body and into creative sphere of mind.
The Light is in the Tunnel
|Corbin, Mom and I before entering the Waitomo Caves|
Plunge. Shiver. Awake. Alive.
I jumped back into the pitch black darkness in the cave, clenching the partially inflated grey tube under my legs, hoping it would break my fall.
The icy cold water came up all around me as I looked up to a well-lit ceiling, reflecting an ecosystem of glowing warms pooping and feasting on their prey. Gross. But oh was it beautiful. It was a light in a world of darkness to guide the living to the comfort of day and the dreamers to their most innermost senses.
The Black Labyrinth Tour, known to some as just “cave tubing,” is held at the Waitomo glow warm caves in Waitomo, North Island. The tour includes black water tubing, waterfall leaping, and serene floating down Ruakuri Cave for a total of three hours.
The water may have been icy but my heart was ablaze with fire.
I was able to plummet into an abyss of darkness with no worries or fears of falling into the unknown. I knew I would eventually hit that sharp chilly water, so why not enjoy the free fall along the way?
The air cruised over my wet suit and fell flat in my chest as I breathed deeply and exhaled slowly. I wasn't falling, I was jumping. I chose to reach out and taste the pure sweetness of adrenaline and test the waters of my own confidence. I did it. And I wanted to do it again and again and again.
While the jump was a flash of high, the float down the calm black waters was a period of quiet self-reflection.
The dark cave surrounded me much like the dark places of the mind. I slowly moved forward, floating easily with little effort, letting the water and the light from above guide me to its predestination.
Although I fight against the current often to shape my own destiny, I sometimes forget to sit back and enjoy the journey. While trying to reach the light (my goals) at the end, I lose track of the most important aspect of accomplishment. It is the light throughout the tunnel, the learning experience, the fall.
In that moment, I let my limbs go limp and my body grow cold as I warmed the passion of my heart with the light hidden within the dark.
|Flying over South Island, New Zealand.|
December 2nd - 7th
White powdery clouds of lost souls
Breaking through only to be swept away into oblivion of doubt
Transformation, twisting those clouds and churning them into an infinitive heaven
Embracing lost directions and following the pulse of heart blindly
Finding satisfaction, peace in drifting through the qualms and embracing the journey
Oh to fly
Jagged snow covered mountain tops and green hills coated the entirety of south island with a youthful essence. We flew into Queenstown, a small lovely town filled with tourists and unlimited adventure (if the price is right). It was a beautiful day with slight winds and chill. In order to drive up to Franz Joseph Glacier (4 ½ drive), we could only allocate the morning and afternoon to Queenstown. After looking through the pamphlets on adrenaline pumping activities, I yearned to stay longer. Instead of wishing, we decided to choose one activity to capture our time in Queenstown and give us a boost of energy for the long drive.
We decided on the shotover jet, a jet that speeds through canyons on the shotover river . As soon as we arrived via complementary bus, I knew we were in for a treat. We dressed quickly in life jackets and black waterproof cloaks that looked as if we were entering a “matrix world.”
Corbin and I jumped in the boat first and sat in the front with the driver while mom sat behind on the side. As the boat was filled with excited passengers, Corbin mounted his GoPro to capture the speedy ride. The driver suddenly hit the gas and we flew… We flew over the aqua blue water straight from the snowfall of the mountains without losing any momentum. The boat took us through the cool river, twisting and turning and hugging the sides. The rocks were close to my right, so close that I could stick my hand out and graze the side – that is, if I wanted to lose my hand to the force of speed and hard rocky cliff. The water was fresh and the ride was exhilarating. The driver “lost control” multiple times by spinning the boat until we were at the mercy of engine, boat, water and sky. It was fun, it was exciting – it was an energy booster.
Afterwards, we started on the beautiful journey to Franz Joseph Glacier. We stayed on a two lane road that weaved in and out of the mountains with no shortness of breathtaking views.
|Finding peace in nature|
The journey was scenic but required my undivided attention as I drove us on the edge of mountains with nothing to catch our fall. After hours and hours of driving and taking turns, toilet breaks and look out points, we were ready to arrive at a glacier that could invoke feelings of closeness to the almighty divine. Instead, we came to a sign in the road that read “Road Closed.”
I was devastated.
After speaking to a construction worker, I found out the road would be closed until 10:30 A.M the following morning. At this point, I could hardly contain my disappointment. I had a sky dive booked the next morning and no way to get there unless the construction work magically disappeared.
Fortunately, I called the skydive company and was able to push my dive to a later time the next day. Our options were slim; we could stay at the motel or drive further and “camp out” by the road.
We chose the road.
We drove past the “Road Closed” sign with a smirk and look of giddy rebellion. 20 minutes later we reached our stopping point. A metal gate blocked the drive, forcing us to stop and prepare for the night. We set up camp next to a cool and mellow river that reflected the billowing mountains overhead. Corbin and I gathered dry drift wood to build a fire and prove our self-sufficiency from modern day society. A couple of Bear Gryllses, taking advantage of nature’s natural resources. But where… where were the man-made matches? I guess we weren't as independent as we would like.
None the less, we were in the making.
The sun drifted away and the night sky fell before us with a velocity of rapid succession. It was freezing. It was uncomfortable. Little to no sleep was had. But oh was it beautiful. The stars shed light on our situation. A dark sky with infinite bullet holes to let an illuminating love shine through. This was traveling. We do it to lose ourselves in the culture and nature of a foreign land while finding pieces of ourselves along the way we didn't even know existed. A peace from within provoked by an intimate experience only with mother earth. That connection, that strong yet delicate tie that could be broken with a honk of a horn or a negative thought was the lifeline to my own journey. It was the destination. It was the answer to my own wonder and incredulous feelings of lack of fulfillment and life meaning. I was alive.
As fate would have it, the helihike and skydive were both cancelled due to the cloudy fog and rain fall. We stayed a few nights in Franz Joseph to try and ride out the storms, but we had no luck. Instead, we walked as far as we could to the face of the glacier before having to turn back because of the pouring rain. A serene walk, but no sky dive or hike.
|The Walk to the Glacier Face|
|The beach I was sitting at in the small town called Hokitika|
The drive to Christchurch was scenic and enjoyable. Although a long drive, the mountains encapsulated the beauty. The water was aqua blue with a freshness that screamed youth and good health. At Christchurch, we explored the town and attended a cute farmers market that consisted of food trucks and dancing. The next day we traveled the main part of the city by trolley which only took about 25 minutes round trip. We got off and on, making use of the history lessons in between by the conductor throughout the day. All around, I witnessed the effects of the earthquake from 2011 which had destroyed the small city.
|The aftermath of the earthquake on a church|
Although a devastating blow, the community banded together and turned a tragic disaster into a blessing in disguise.
For the rest of the day we learned about New Zealand history at the Museum of Christchurch, walked the vibrant botanic gardens and enjoyed the rest of the night in the community.
We flew back to North Island the next day and had a lovely evening with the relatives and two of their friends. Good company, good food, good beer, good wine - and a hell of a good time. Kiwis know how to host and make you feel right at home.
While the trip was short with plenty left to see, I felt accomplished in making the most of my time and feeling a strong connection with the land that had provided. To see pure beauty unaltered, without the contamination of people and their structures felt heavenly. Paradise. A paradise for those who seek will find a gem in a world of ruin. It is called New Zealand. It is an abode of wonder, a journey to travel, a country to experience – a dwelling to live.