Abel Tasman and BeyondAuckland, Fall 2009

Abel Tasman National park is New Zealand's most visited tramping grounds, and for good reasons. Unlike the mountainous Tongariro, or the black sanded landscape of the Waitakere Region west of Auckland, Abel Tasman is white sand and rolling hills, dolphins, penguins and low-tide hiking routes. It's at the very Northern tip of the South Island, and it's a popular 5 day walk, or kayaking-walking combination. It was still a bit cold when I got there, but I imagine that in the summer it's very crowded. The water is beautiful, and after a day of tramping, swimming in the ocean and barbecuing in the outdoors can't be beaten, at least in New Zealand. I did take a quick dip in the water to wash off some of the sunscreen and sweat, but was shivering by the time I got out. Since the conditions were so good when I was there, and the walking was easy compared to other hikes I've done, I was able to walk about 16 km in one day, which amounted to about 6 - 7 hours of walking. Some of the track pass through private property (private property in a national park, I know!), but the locals are nice and helpful in directing you toward the fastest routes. As my water taxi told me (the track is a straight path, and not a loop, so taking a water taxi can save you from redundant tramping), these people owned property here before the government decided to make it a National Park, and that they can live there as long as they own it. It seems like some pretty amazing real estate, and although they have to deal with hordes of trampers coming through in the summer, they can be pretty confident that it's not going to get crowded, or that some developer will make their waters dirty or destroy the natural landscape. Anyway, so I hiked in there for about two days, took some nice pictures, met some nice people. The Department of Conservation hut sites for the Park are very nice, I guess because it's so popular, and there is tons of space to set up tent, which I did, or sleep in the hut itself for a little more money. After Abel Tasman, I drove south along the west coast, excitingly known as Westland, where I took a tour of a brewery, and sampled some refreshing apple cider. Most of it was pretty unremarkable, except for the views of the Southern Alps that I started to experience on my right hand side, and my trip was considerably slowed by me having to stop the car to take pictures. I met some fun people on the road, and even picked up some hitchhikers, to keep the drive entertaining. I met this one German dude, real hippie-like, with dreadlocks and an Eastern philosophical attitude, looking to get to Queenstown, where I was headed. We hung out for the rest of the trip down, saw a glacier together, and camped out by a lake, had a campfire, and talked about life. He talked to me about smiling at people when you walk by them on the street and about how anything you want, if you stay determined in wanting it long enough, will just come to you. I was somewhat skeptical, but he offered the evidence of a recent gifted guitar he received after wanting one his whole life. I'm not sure his sample size was large enough, but perhaps he was on to something, and it's always encouraging to hear someone tell you to "hold onto your dreams," even if maybe it only is a guitar. One day me and the german hippie, Paul, tried to do some fishing off the beach. Paul had recently fallen in love with surf fishing, which is where you use a massively large fishing pole to get your bait far off into the sea, and we set out to do the same. After sitting there for a half hour, waiting patiently, and applying liberal amounts of bug spray (if you haven't been to the South Island, you might not know what sand-fly is, but they are probably the worst thing about New Zealand). Anyway, we were just sitting there patiently, alternating casts into the pacific, bringing the line in every ten minutes, and the a local yokle (as my father would say) showed up. He came to chum the waters with his left over fish/deer waste. Paul didn't seem to excited, but I was amazed to see this guy pull a whole deer skeleton out of his car to throw into the ocean, and a big tupperwear of old crab legs. Needless to say, the seagulls went crazy. But the local told us that the only thing you could catch off the beach we were at was sharks, and on account of them not having much meat (we were hungry), we decided to get going. We actually arrived in Queenstown later that day, and I dropped Paul off at a hostel where he was going to look for work and explored the city myself for a few hours. I spent the next couple days there, experiencing the South Island's night life, until I picked my friend up from the airport to do some more adventuring. Queenstown is actually quite a nice little city. People say it reminds them of a ski-town in Colorado, and I couldn't agree more. In fact, it is a ski town, but also a place to go bungy jumping, sky diving, etc... There is a beautiful lake that you can sit and read Moby Dick by if you don't want to spend a lot of money, as I did, or you can engange in countless other activities, all at least $100, including paragliding, heli-biking (they seem to combine everything with helicopter rides in this country) or ATV-led Lord of the Rings tours. I didn't do any, but they might have been fun. After Queenstown, me and my friend had planned to do a great walk, the Kepler Track, in Fiordland. It was supposed to last 4 days, but on account of a pending avalanche, we could only do the first two. Well I think it worked out in our favor, for we saw the most beautiful part of the walk, which was really stunning, and spent the rest of our week there doing other mountain, waterfall, and Sound gawking. If you ever come to New Zealand, and you have a lot of time, I recommend that you go to Fiordland last, because it really is the most beautiful, and you might be too spoiled from the views there to appreciate anything else. That might be a controversial claim, but I was really awed by what I saw there. And not to be undersold, but the coveted Milford Sound, basically the tourist attraction of New Zealand, is epic-ly beautiful. It wouldn't be worth trying to put it into words, and I think for the life of this blog, the word beautiful is starting to lose its meaning on account of overuse. But that's really what I think of when I think of New Zealand. So me and my friend finished up there, flew back to Auckland, and I've most recently spent the last few days furiously studying for exams, which are now thankfully over. Besides a few library books, in fact, my obligations to the University of Auckland, and New Zealand in general, are coming to a close. I've had a great time here, but I think I've seen all the natural beauty that I can handle for a while. I'm going to spend these last few days, instead of tramping or kayaking somewhere, hanging out with the people in my student community, paying dues to an social sphere I may have neglected for the grandeur of the natural landscape. I guess you could say I'll just be hanging out. Anyway, I may post again if something happens that it's really interesting, but as I said, I think it will be a low-key next week, and I leave for USA on Nov. 20, which for me, is only 6 days away. Thank you so much, readers, for following me on this journey into Oceania, and I hope that you felt like you learned something, or were at least as entertained by it as I was over these past 4 and a half months. I return home to a well-missed family, a cat with an ear infection, and the warm beachy weather of that place I call home: Miami, FL. I'll probably get a job when I get back (no one ever said New Zealand was cheap), and just generally prepare for my last semester of college, and have a serious think about life after college. Now that I know what traveling is all about, I think I have a better idea of what I might do differently next time--what to bring, who to bring, where to go, etc... I haven't been to South America for awhile, and I think that when I was there I left a piece of my heart behind. So maybe that is on the horizon. Or maybe it's just graduate school. At this point, it's not really clear, but when I know what I want, I think I'll get it. That's what Paul the hippie said, after all. Again, thanks for the read. If you ever want to contact me outside the blog, please do at joshuamalina@gmail.com Cheers, Josh
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