I’m back in Queenstown again! It’s been six months since I was last here. It’s also been two months since I left Paihia and I’m more than ready to settle down again and take a rest from travelling. Seriously, living out of a backpack and being on the go all the time can be pretty tiring. Traveling from city to city, moving from one hostel to the next, constantly packing and unpacking, having to familiarize yourself to new places, getting around in unfamiliar territory, and having to constantly introduce yourself as you meet new people all the time gets exhausting after a while. I’m looking forward to having a break and getting back into a normal routine again.
A lot has happened since I returned to the South Island. For nearly the whole month of April I worked a few hours a day for accommodation (through HelpX) at two different places around Abel Tasman National Park and Golden Bay. The work was mostly random chores: painting, chopping wood, cleaning, clearing bush for building projects, cleaning up storm damage, and eradicating invasive plant species from the forest. For the latter part of the month, I met up with my friend Ben (a French guy I worked with in the Bay of Islands) and we were able to work together and explore the area for a few weeks. Golden Bay was very nice and once the weather cleared up after a rather harsh Easter weekend storm, we managed to get out and see some really nice places. One of the highlights of our time there included a visit to Wharariki Beach–a big long sandy bay with lots of interesting rock formations, sea cliffs, caves, and even a little natural pool where baby seals play in. And despite being a rather popular beach for tourists, it’s big enough (and isolated enough) to where you can walk out away from the crowds and feel like you have the whole place to yourselves.
Once our work was done there we hitched on down the West Coast to pick up Ben’s van, which had broken down a few weeks earlier in a town so small you would have missed it if you blinked. Fortunately there was a mechanic there and he was able to get the parts needed to get it going again. We then spent a couple days driving through Arthur’s Pass to Christchurch, where we ended up staying with a host family for a night. I forget exactly how Ben knew them (something like his father’s friend of a friend), but they were so nice and warmly welcomed us into their home. They even made a nice dinner for us! I couldn’t have been more thankful for their generous Kiwi hospitality.
Afterwards, Ben and I parted ways as he went back to tour the North Island and I headed further south. Since being back on the South Island, I’ve managed to get around nearly the entire time by hitchhiking. Normally I would just take the bus, but I ran out of rides on my pass and wanted to try something a little more adventurous anyway. Hitching around New Zealand is still a popular way for travelers (and even locals) to see the country. Getting around in this manner requires a lot of patience and flexibility–I stood outside once in the rain for almost two hours. You may not get to where you’re going right away, but sometimes little detours can take you to some amazing places. It’s also good to have some degree of cautiousness as there are always weirdos around, no matter what country you’re in. But all the while I’ve been hitchhiking in New Zealand, I never had any incidents or uncomfortable moments. Instead I met lots of very nice and interesting people; both fellow travelers and locals, young and old.
So that’s what I’ve been up to for the past month and half! It’s absolutely beautiful right now in Queenstown. I thought it was a beautiful place last time I was here in the spring, but the city really is at its best in autumn. The surrounding mountains are topped with fresh snow, the trees are showing off their vibrant fall colors, Lake Wakatipu looks so much clearer than from what I remember, the days are still somewhat warm, and at night the air is crisp and pure. I’ll be here for two months–until then I’ll be working and planning the next adventure.