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Published: March 24th 2010
(Day 720 on the road)
When the New Zealand Immigration sends you a sms to remind me you that your visa is about to run out, you know it's time to leave the country soon. With my van sold and only one week left in New Zealand, I had wanted to do one final hike. However, it went somewhat different from how I had planned it. I went back to Arthur's Pass, a National Park close to Christchurch that offers unlimited hiking but very few established or maintained treks, and consequently more adventure coupled with much less trekkers than many other hiking areas in the country.
Hitch-hiking to Arthur's Pass Village, normally a two-hour drive, was much harder than expected and turned into a five-hour ordeal. At one point I was standing over an hour by the road in the middle of nowhere, hoping one of the few cars would stop. Maybe I should have shaved,I don't know. I did however meet a number of interesting and kind people who did give me a lift, including Esteban from Ecuador and an 82 year old Dutch man who had immigrated to New Zealand in 1952 after falling in love with a local
girl during a holiday here. Why haven't I met a girl like that?
I started to get lethargic almost as soon as I had settled by the warm open fire at the cosy hostel in Arthur's Pass Village. Sipping tea, reading my book by the fire, catching up on emails, having the Japanese girls that work here as cleaners let me win at Monopoly - I soon felt unable to leave. The prospect of a four-day trek on mainly unmarked terrain hike out in the cold, rainy mountains didn't seem very appealing in direct comparison. It was an unusual notion for me considering how much I love hiking. But maybe enough is enough, three months of hiking all over the country has made me less ambitious somehow. Plus, after having finished all my hikes so far without any injury or near-misses I was keen not to break an ankle on my last hike. So I took it easy. Very easy actually, doing not very much at all for five days in a row, during which time I only left the hostel once.
Accepting that I wouldn't do any more hiking anyway, I then went back to Christchurch for
a few more days before catching my flight over to Fiji. Spending time in the city's great museums (especially the Art Gallery), discovering a small Japanese places that offered the best okonomiyaki I have tasted since I left Japan, using the free Internet at the library, sweating in the sauna at the local pool and enjoying a few tasty NZ lamb steaks kept me well occupied. Ah, the pleasure of having abundant time and no pressure to have to do anything.
Well, and that brings 107 days of travelling across New Zealand to an end. Despite some negative experiences with a number of locals
who were not too fond of the high numbers of visitors to their country, I had an absolute fabulous time here. The vast majority of people I met were extremely friendly and genuinely interested, and opposed to many places in Asia if someone was friendly here there was no hidden agenda to be weary of, unfortunately all too common in places like Thailand or Vietnam. Driving around in my own van (and being able to sell it in the end) offered me the flexibility and freedom I had been hoping for, plus it saved me a considerable amount of money compared to
staying in hostels and taking public transport. On the down-side, I wasn't too impressed by most of the cities here
, all too often sorry affairs without any character or atmosphere (there are exceptions of course, Wellington and Christchurch come to mind).
But the main thing I came to New Zealand for was of course the sheer beauty of the country, and I wasn't disappointed on that account at all. On countless hikes all across the country I got up close and personal with nature, taking great pleasure in its grand mountains, deserted valleys and pure lakes. It has left a lasting impression on me.
Now however, it is time to move on and follow the sun north. Last week Suzanne and I found ourselves in a snow-storm, a sure sign that summer is over here. So let's see what Fiji has to offer.
Next stop: Mana Island (Fiji).
To view my photos, have a look at pictures.beiske.com
. And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon
(and most other online book shops).
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