Driving on the Left Side of the Road: The Trip Comes to an End

Back at Christchurch the last night in New Zealand, a friend and I decided to go on a sunrise hot air balloon ride. I wrote in my journal, “The day was slightly overcast so the scenery wasn’t as breathtaking as I’m sure it could’ve been. However, it was still nice to see the Pacific on one side, the mountains on the other…and cow fields filled with poop below us.” I also wrote that I found the pilot extremely rude. I have no memory now of what that man did or said, but I do remember that I found Australians to be warmer than Kiwis.

Regardless, I ended the trip with a few hot air balloon photos and a Maori cultural performance that wasn’t as contrived as the one I had seen in Cairns.

No regrets, New Zealand. No regrets.


Driving (or Biking) on the Left Side of the Road: Blenheim, New Zealand and Kaikoura, New Zealand

Lifting the wine glass to my nose, I take a sniff. I swirl its contents around, watching as it slips back into the glass bottom, and, finally, take a sip. I must be missing something at this wine tasting because I can’t smell, let alone taste, anything.

“That’s water,” my friend says as I frown at my glass. “It’s to clear your palate before we continue tasting.”

With this realization, we both burst out laughing.

A vineyard. CIMG0831As our road trip around the South Island of New Zealand came to a close, the group decided to take a bike tour of the vineyards. A somewhat dangerous enterprise in theory to be biking on open road while sipping wines, it turned out to be a beautiful way to see the vineyards.

As someone who chose not to drink in college (binge drinking will never make sense to me), this was something new (and legal) while abroad. When the crew biked back to our original location, we stopped to take pictures in fields, laugh, and just enjoy the beauty that was being young, traveling, and in good company.

The next day we headed to Kaikoura. Now, I have no idea what heaven may look like, but I have a feeling it might look like Kaikoura. As my travel companion said, “There’s mountains in your backyard and the ocean in your front.” And. It’s. True.

As someone who lived in New York, I have a new found appreciation for horizons. When I can see a horizon that is not crowded with buildings or billboards my spirit literally feels like it’s opening.

If I ever see Kaikoura again I’m sure it would make me feel like my spirit had been flung to the East and the West.

Panoramic cameras were made for Kaikoura. If I could, I would stand at Kaikoura’s horizon all day every day because seeing that horizon with mountains encircling water quiets the mind. No other thought enters because you’re simply taking in the beauty that is.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to return. Until then, I hope this picture does it justice.


Driving on the Left Side of the Road: Reeftown, New Zealand and Nelson, New Zealand

There it was flapping in the breeze. I can spot that flag hundreds of feet away. When in New Orleans helping to clean up after Hurricane Katrina, I was the only one who noticed it being carted out of a destroyed house while others remained oblivious. The sight of it in an obliterated city stunned and hurt me.

The navy blue X against a bold, red background was unmistakable. It was The Confederate Flag. And it was flapping on the top of a building in Reeftown, New Zealand.

Whenever something regarding race shocks me I go silent. Just like in New Orleans, I was silent…and my peers didn’t notice the flag.

It goes without saying that the flag was out of context. People living in the South of New Zealand’s Southern Island, naturally, consider themselves Southerners. There was even a beer ad campaign extolling the virtues of this Southern Man. Clearly, that ideal, rugged man (personified in the American cowboy) is not just a product of the America myth-making machine.

I squinted up at the flag for I don’t know how long before quickening my pace to catch up with my friends. I honestly didn’t let the flag get under my skin. Seeing the flag in New Zealand is completely different from seeing it in the American South.

That being said, it goes to show there’s a danger in co-opting what you don’t fully understand.

Hours later, we were driving into Nelson. Originally, we were supposed to hike in Abel Tasman National Park, but that would’ve added hours to our trip. Instead, we opted for a boating trip that was nothing short of magical.

Now, before this trip I have absolutely no memory of being on a boat (even though my mom says I’ve been on ferries and things). Regardless of my sea history, I did not have sea legs (or even harbor legs) and found myself crawling around on all fours with no shame. Quite frankly, I didn’t even realize what I was doing until my friends noticed days later that a random leg or arm of mine always managed to show up in a picture’s background. It was hilarious, and just another reason why I can’t take myself too seriously.

The day ended with us watching the sunset over the harbor. There was hot tea, a hammock, and plenty of laughs. It was a peaceful ending to a day that began with a shock.

Driving on the Left Side of the Road: Road Tripping around the South Island of New Zealand

The air is clean, crisp, and cool. As it blows softly against skin my sensory memory kicks in and I am immediately transported to North Carolina.

I pause for a moment, close my eyes, and smile. I’m far from the rolling, wooded hills of North Carolina though. Instead, I am in New Zealand and about to experience the road trip of a lifetime. Well, really it’s the only road trip I have ever completed.

I ended up pouring out basically everything...We took a tour of the brewery.Three other American friends and I decided to head to the South Island of New Zealand during Spring Break. Beginning and ending in Christchurch, we drove to places such as Dunedin for a tour of Speight’s beer brewery and then on to Queenstown. With a downtown that seemed to be all of three blocks, Queenstown was a city that nature decorated with its beauty. Across the South Island it was as if people decided not to compete with nature architecturally. Instead, mountains, bodies of water and even the occasional glacier or two dominated the skyline.

The landscape was beautiful there.

And the landscape was deadly.

While trecking up the Franz Josef glacier our group had to come down early because of rain. What was a once placid, serene hike with a slight drizzle had turned into trek with stinging rain. Noticing my hesitation, the guide came and held my hand more than once to help me over blocks of ice (are we noticing a pattern here?).

It was on that glacier that nature humbled me.

Days later, the group—which one of the members nicknamed The Fabulous Foursome— took a short helicopter ride over Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. It was a moment of privilege and a moment of fear as we whirred above The Sleeping Beast (what I now refer to glaciers as). We landed for all of 10 minutes, and it’s 10 minutes I still can’t believe I experienced.

Seven hours later, I would be in a different locale sailing on the ocean.

That post will have to come at a later date. Keep traveling around New Zealand with me throughout the week!