Km 14903 – Nelson, New Zealand
‘Sweet as’ is typical kiwi slang. They are not talking about your bum, as you might think. It means something like ‘ok’, ‘all good’ or ‘sounds good’.
Kiwi? It is not only a name for New Zealand’s people and a rare native bird. It also describes the well known fruit, which was called Chinese gooseberry before the government changed the name for marketing purposes (1959).
If you want to learn more about cultural differences between Germany and New Zealand, we suggest to look these short and funny animations (our favourite is number 2):
Not until we cycle West of Christchurch for several days, do we see the real beauty of New Zealand. Near Lake Tekapo we climb Mount John and admire the strange turquoise-blue colour of the lake and the snow covered mountains on the horizon. Later we bike along the similarly coloured canal, which is blocked for cars and leads all the way to Lake Pukaki. We camp at the shorelines, jump in the water naked and look at the marvellous Mount Cook (Aoraki in Maori), which glimmers reddish-white in the evening sun. Dinner at the pebbles beach and off into the tent.
Carrying on, we take a short cut via a gravel road until Hawea Flat, near Wanaka. Reyner and James live here for the summer in a small wooden shack each. It’s just a couple of square meters and a bed under the roof. There is running water, electricity and a lot of mountains surrounding the place. I instantly like the place – you don’t need much to live. We directly connect with the climbing enthusiasts, who consciously live their minimalistic way of life. We talk about ‘risk understanding’ and agree that most things are not dangerous as such (like cycling around the world), but there is a lack of comprehension to evaluate risks. A skill which seems to be lost in modern societies and is not taught in schools. The result: more fear. “Who is driven by fear, avoids displeasure, denies reality and misses out on possibilities” (Heinz Bude, sociologist).
We start hitchhiking to meet Gisela, Jan and the little Joana. Later we sit together with our dear friends from Germany and talk as if we have never been away. But we didn’t see each other for more than two years. We set up a fire and plan how we are going to escape the ‘sandflies’. These little biting beasts, which look like little fruit flies and never come alone.
In the van with Gisela, Jan and Joana we drive towards Curio Bay. We enojoy the nice campground and to spot yellow eyed penguins. Next morning I experience my personal highlight since weeks: Porpoise Bay is home to the Hector dolphins, the smallest sort of it’s kind – up to 1,50 meters long and only living in New Zealand. They don’t migrate, live in the bay and come towards the shore often, while they spectacularly surf in the waves. I jump into the icecold water (no water inbetween Antarctica and myself) and swim with the dolphins in the wild. Just beside me one pops up out of the dark water, another jumps out of the water in front of my face and dives underneath me. A unique heart-throb.
A lot more nature experiences wait around every corner in this country. We follow a small river in a cave, work our way through the partly hip deep water into the earth. We stand on a couple of summits, surrounded by Keas, the green mountain parrots. We admire glaciers, huge valleys, fjords and untouched nature. Multiday hikes, including adventurous river crossings, bring us to far away waterfalls and mountain lakes topped with ice floes. This country is an adventure playground for adults.
Our friends from Germany left and we want to savour the summer and hitchhike zigzagging the South Island to reach different trail heads.
One evening we set camp in a riverbed, because it was the only spot, where nobody would see us. When we come back from a day trip full of rain I walk faster thinking that our tent could be drowned or swept away. But in spite of all the rain there is no sign that the dry riverbed could fill up with water. In the mountains nature is constantly changing. Possibly the water just flows somewhere else now. The rest of the day we stay in the tent, it is raining all the time. When the sun sets, we are ready to sleep, but suddenly hear a gurgling sound in front of the tent. A look outside reveals clear, cold water running half a meter away from our tent – the tupper ware, we put out to collect rainwater, have been swept away already. OK, no panic!? In minutes we pack our gear, faster than ever before. The water rises extremely fast and touches the tent already the moment we bring our equipment to a higher point on the shore. It is dark and still raining. Then we rescue the tent and set up the outer tent on a save spot. Sitting inside I laugh out loud about so much foolishness and so much luck. We should have known better and learned a lesson for life.
In the meantime we arrived in sunny Nelson, in the North of the South Island. We take a couple of month time out to digest our journey and make plans for the future. After 22 countries and 30 months on the road we declare the end of our trip (for now).
Stories which didn’t make it into the blog:
How Jana could not sleep after our early morning arrival at Christchurch airport, because security wouldn’t let her lay on the floor.
The story of the Maoris and the “discovery” of New Zealand by the Europeans, which had similar but less severe consequences than in Australia. The situation is far from perfect, but the Maoris had a better standing back then and nowadays than the Aborigines in Australia.
The never ending fences, which make it difficult for touring cyclists to find camping spots.
The atmosphere between cyclists. A lot of them are just travelling for a short time and seem to be less interested in exchange.
New Zealand is Mecca for German high-school graduates. A trend we didn’t know so far.
New Zealand is Mecca for hitchhiking. A trend we like very much.