01 September 2014

Falling in Love with Aotearoa (Part I)

Gooood morning, Dunneeeedinn!!! I am back!! 9 days and 500 photos later.... And, no, that's not an exaggeration - I originally had over 700 photos before I deleted all the crappy ones.

How do I begin to describe such a fantastic week without giving a detailed hour-by-hour itinerary? Let's start with the blogging list and see where that takes us...  

What I Experienced, Learned, Adventured, and Laughed About 
During My Mid-Semester Break

1. Backpackers (more commonly known as hostels in other countries) are the best! 

Especially for independent, money-saving travellers, like myself. 

I spent NZ$25 a night at this adorable backpacker in Nelson, where I stayed in a room with three bunk beds. Spotless bathrooms, plenty of lounge space, a spacious kitchen to cook meals in, and complimentary fresh bread from the local bakery delivered every morning. There was also an in-house vegetarian café (I mean, really, how could I not be at home here?)

The location was great, too, because it was right next to the "main" street (which, ironically, looks like the main street of almost every other New Zealand city). 

My little home for six nights!
The Cathedral right next to my hostel 
NZ inspired stain glass in the Cathedral
Found this familiar Orthodox icon there! 

Best vegetarian burger I have eaten. Ever.
Live music at the cafe
My first (non-alcoholic) ginger beer - essentially carbonated
water, sugar, and ginger. Sweet and delicious.

2. Three words to describe Nelson: sunny, beachy, and friendly. 

In Dunedin, student pedestrians are unwanted pests, hideous to behold, and forever in the way of The Almighty Cars and Buses. There is no such thing as pedestrian right-of-way. But in Nelson, drivers actually stop at the stop lights and wait for pedestrians to cross the street. They might even smile, wave, and/or acknowledge the pedestrian's existence!

Also, Nelson really was as sunny and beachy as people have told me. Its residents are mostly empty nesters or retired couples, although there are plenty of young families, too, which makes for a laid-back night life. Nelson is supposedly a great location for second-homes and so it gets quite busy in the summer months with all of the tourists and what not.

Lovely view of Nelson. The best part? Beach and mountain views in one beautiful location. Winning combo.
This was my lucky shot of the week!!


Happy flowers smiling at the sun

3. This week was really about me spending time with myself. 

There was a yoga studio just two streets down from my hostel, so I bought an unlimited week's pass for just $30 and did yoga once or twice a day for the duration of my time in Nelson. It really gave me a chance to slow down, put my body back into balance, and reflect on the past couple of months.

I also wandered around town by myself, like to the Queens Garden, where there were lots of happy flowers, a duck pond, and a cute café. 

4. It must be spring!!! Baby calves and baby lambs galore!!

I used to say (and I quote!) "I could never be a vegetarian because I love lamb too much." And then...after I became a vegetarian, but before I came to NZ.... "I'll break my vegetarianism just once while I'm there - I have to! They're known for their sheep!"

But New Zealand softened me more than I was expecting... Just look at those sheepies!! I can't do it. Even if I were starving in the wilderness and my life depended on killing and eating a rabbit or something, I'm not sure I could do it... Sorry, dad. I've become too damn soft.

5. One does not experience the power and majesty of this landscape without leaving unchanged.

My favourite part of break was when I tramped around Nelson Lakes National Park for a day. It was something I wanted to do by myself, so I picked out a couple trails appropriate for my fitness level and set out to explore (with lots of snacks, of course).

Lake Rotoiti at Nelson Lakes National Park

It was so quiet and peaceful. If I had to choose a moment from my time here in which I felt changed in some way, it would be sitting at the top of the parachute rocks, looking across this beautiful lake and the surrounding mountain range, and feeling like I found myself.

I know that sounds incredibly cheesy and like something that would be used in a tourism marketing campaign, but I don't know... there's just something about this place. My pictures don't do it justice.

No filters/enhances needed for these photos - it really was so blue and clear that day.

6. Driving along scenic routes is a great way to see New Zealand.

Most of these following pictures I snapped while we were driving, so it's amazing some of them turned out as nice as they did. (Admittedly it was a lot of trial and error. Blurry trees often got in the way.)

West coast beach sunset. (No filter on this photo either.)

The sheep have no idea how lucky they are. This is as close to heaven as it gets for them.
More scenery that looks like it came straight from Lord of the Rings 

A view of one of the routes we were driving on. Paused at a scenic lookout point here.
I loved these mountains, with all their shades of greys and browns. 

Okay...can you tell I'm addicted to this landscape yet?  I'll stop now.

So this was just Part I of my mid-semester break installment. I think I'll do Part II later this week, after I have gotten some pictures from my friends.

(On Tuesday it turned out some of my complex-mates were staying at the same backpacker I was at, so instead of driving back with Georgia as planned I extended my trip a couple of days and came back with them later. We took some fun group pictures so I'll be sure to share those!)

Here's a big thank you to all those that love and support me. Sending thoughts and prayers your way.


  1. I love your blog! I didn't realize NZ was so beautiful... I'm so excited that you're going on this crazy-awesome adventure!

  2. I am speechless--that is a miracle in my world! What a stunning place. The beauty is like none I have seen before and we have been blessed with many travels. Adding New Zealand to my bucket list. We need a tour guide. Hmmmmm ....... I wonder who would like to go with us?
    Love across the sea,
    Momma Monique