The wet wild of Milford Sound.

  Let's just marvel at this sight for a moment!

Let's just marvel at this sight for a moment!

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On the Saturday of my road trip I am up before the sun. It is 6am when I get in the driver's seat and pitch black outside the car windows. This is not part of some new crazy early bird-travel regimen; it is simply time to drive the estimated two hours between Te Anau and Milford Sound. Because of the curved mountainous roads and, of course, the darkness I want plenty of time to reach my 8.45am ferry. Along the way more and more cars are conjoining; like a long glittering line of traffic lights.

As we drive through the infamous Homer Tunnel, the 1,2 kilometre stretch through solid rock that made driving out to Milford a possibility, and start rolling down the mountains I am already dreading how on earth I will make it back up in case there were to be a queue of cars.

  The windows right after cruising under a waterfall.

The windows right after cruising under a waterfall.

  The (scary) Homer Tunnel.

The (scary) Homer Tunnel.

The ferry ride is absolutely beautiful. I go with Mitre Peak Cruises,  a company that offer smaller boats than many of its competing triple-decker-boat-companies, so you can get up close and personal with the waterfalls. A single ticket for about 2 hours on the sounds is around $70. The highlights of the trip include:

a) crossing paths with a whole herd of dolphins on their way out to the Tasman Sea
b) driving the boat right up under the mighty Bowen Falls
c) this joke from the guide "and if we were to continue east from here, we'd encounter New Zealand's third, lesser known island... Australia."

Pulse raising, I make it back through the tunnel without any big dramas or engine failures (phew!), and make a few stops along the way that I previously only saw at dawn before retreating back to the campsite for the evening.

The tricks of introverted travels.

 Thr crystal clear water of  Te Waikoropupu Springs  is a suitable metaphor for my REFLECTIONS!

Thr crystal clear water of Te Waikoropupu Springs is a suitable metaphor for my REFLECTIONS!

I am travelling all wrong.

I get the realisation after a few hours in Rotorua.

It has been a few nights in a Wellington dorm followed by seven hours on a northbound bus. Now I feel tense, fatigue, and antisocial. It is as a walking raincloud that I check in to... yet another hostel dorm.

I have obviously been a bit careless lately. Rushing my way through this country due to its deerness, without taking my introvert traits into consideration. It has been impression overload without any time left for reflection. Come to think of it, it is perhaps no wonder the part I have most enjoyed on my road trip is the safe haven of the car, where I can be alone with my loud music, protected from the world. Now I notice symptoms like starting to leave my camera behind, the ignoring of my note book, and how nothing amazes. It is a bit like running on low battery mode for weeks, but you are on a tight schedule so you try to keep up.

Time for some R&R-time;

I decide to spend my time in Rotorua not seeing so much of Rotorua but with

- treating myself to the $30 Rotorua Hot Pools (dream! Life fact: water makes everything better)
- flipping through beautiful travel guides at the city library
- people watching whilst sipping on numerous soy mochas
- taking long long walks (and of course managing to get lost!)

Put simply, some little things I enjoy.  It works wonders. The raincloud slowly dissolves and suddenly the words seek their way back to me like little rays of sun. I even enjoy small talk with my fellow travel mates in a far more bubbly tone than upon arrival, and start jotting away in my journal again.

I make a promise to myself that I will tone it down a notch for my upcoming Taiwan-trip. Travel slowly, enjoy fully. Rumor has it a wee island with 23 million inhabitants could get a little overwhelming otherwise. 

Paradiso - art house cinema beyond the ordinary

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Lights, camera, relaxation...

Stretch your legs out in front of you on the sofa, balance a steaming cup of coffee on the armrest and watch an art-house roll unfold on the big screen ahead. It is not just because I have spent the past week in the backseat of a car that Paradiso is my most comfortable cinema experience ever.

I first heard about this wee gem through Maya's blog and quickly added it to my NZ bucket list. The Cinema Paradiso has been running in Wanaka over 20 years and is listed as somewhat of a national treasure. You see, rather than your average cinema seats - this theatre consists of a selection of comfy sofas to sink down in. Unless of course you would rather recline in a dentist's chair or the front seat's of an old Morris Minor.

  Photo courtesy of  LakeWanaka.co.nz

Photo courtesy of LakeWanaka.co.nz

What going to the movies should always be like

Midway through the film, there is a wee interlude. Perfect, as one does not have to worry about when is a good time to go for that needed toilet break without missing out on any of the plot action.

In time for the break there are also freshly baked cookies available for purchase in the lobby (no vegan ones unfortunately </3). Cinema heaven much??
 

Cinema Paradiso
Where |  72 Brownston Street, Wanaka
Website

The Lost Gypsy Gallery & trees growing sidesways.

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The hours after my visit to Nugget Point, I have two lucky encounters. The first is when the hostel I have set eyes on from the campsite map turns out to be closed, and instead I end up at a lovely hospital-turned-hostel in Owaka. With hovering rain clouds and an lurking cold approaching, I felt it was a good time to splurge on a night's accommodation other than the backseat of my car. A pretty suitable place to find, eh?

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The next morning I have plans to visit the Cathedral Caves, but said rain clouds are now pouring down and the comfort of an actual bed is just a bit too cosy for me to get out for the early morning low tide (which is the only time one can visit the infamous Catlins landmark!), so I decide on a lazy one.

Once in the car, the morning takes an unexpectedly brilliant turn as I stop by the Lost Gypsy Gallery.

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This place is a whimsical wonderland. A giant gypsy caravan painted in a vibrant hue of green sits on side of the road. I stop for coffee and a wee browse but end up staying the best part of an hour. Why? There is just so much to look at!

The owner has spent five years to compose the place, full of wonderful "organic mechanics" and plenty of tempting buttons! Visiting the caravan itself is free of charge and gives you a taste of what resides in the actual gallery just behind in the garden. I decide to pay the $5 entry fee and head down the rabbit hole... It is worth every penny! Not only to feel like a five year old with stars in their eyes.

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Next I go to Slope Point, excluding Stewart Island it is the southernmost point of New Zealand. It is windy enough for the trees to grow sideways.

After continous hours of driving, through Invercargill up to Te Anau, I meet up with the Pancake Rocks-crew at the Possum Lodge. We have dinner at the beach. Ending the Friday with cold winds, warm feels.

Rolling down to Dunedin and exploring Nugget Point.

I guess it comes as a surprise to none that I manage to get lost driving into Dunedin.  A city of about 120k. Trying to maneuvre the wee nissan sunny up and down the undulating hills between Moeraki and 'New Zealand's Edinburgh' gets the best out of me, so by the time I finally make it to town I keep reading the map upside down. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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This, naturally, brings me away from the city centre rather than towards it, so I find myself driving past the tourist buses at the end of Baldwin Street. "Baldwin Street?" you are thinking.
I would too, had I not read of its existence in my LP copy just the night before. Baldwin Street just so happens to be The World's Steepest Residental Street (Capitalised For Dramatic Effect!). Now I have no selfie from the top as proof that I did wander up that hill, you will just have to take my word for it.

I imagine the good things about living on the world's steepest street must be
a) nice view
and perhaps
b) no need to get a gym card as your calves will be burning either way,
but then I can't help but to wonder who would want to have all them tourists lurking around outside the gardens? Not I!

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Dunedin has got me puzzled. It could be such a cozy town with its splendour of quirky second hand shops and  caffeine infused ones (check out Morning Magpie just above!), yet the amounts of traffic passing right through the city centre's Octagon does not leave a very pleasant (or safe!) feeling. Could it at least be one way-traffic passing through?!

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Two lucky finds for Dunedin vegans is Let Them Eat Vegan, hidden on Albion Lane, that make vegan cheese and mock meats. Located in the Wall Street Mall you also find Watson's Eatery. This place manages to give me a bit of an identity crisis with its many sweet options. Thoughts like "that would be too sweet", or "that is too much for one" pop through my mind. When I finally order it is a savoury option of artichoke pizza, I think to myself "who ARE you!?".

Does this mean I am officially an old lady?

 

Before setting off towards The Catlins, I stop by the Salt Water Pool in suburb St Clair. Right next to the beach is this tempered (well around 28c so don't get too excited!) outdoor pool. Entry to the pool is $6.50 and brilliant break from driving.

Feeling super kiwiesque when leaving; with salt water dripping from my hair that is covered in a crochet beanie, car windows rolled down, stereo blasting out the tunes of Newtown Rocksteady.

Only thing missing would be the surf board, eh?

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As the final tourist attraction of the day, I drive out to the Nugget Point Lighthouse. The atlantic ocean is almost ridiculously calm and reveals all sorts of blue shades. Stunning!

Vibrant blues of Tekapo and the Moeraki Boulders.

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It is with a great relief I roll out of Christchurch city. I doubt I will ever be a confident city driver, but combine that with the first time driving in six months, doing so in left (if it is not right, it is wrong eh!!) side traffic and in an unfamiliar car; that just brings you to a whole new level of stressfulness.

I make it to a wee campsite in Winchester before dusk. The grand premier of the tent I have purchased that same afternoon only lasts for about two hours before I remember just how much I love camping. Fall asleep frozen to the bone, wake up boiling. I seek refuge in the backseat of the car and am yet, on day 8 of driving, to return back to the tent.

As the skies turn pink with the arrival of the sun, I set out towards Lake Tekapo. It is a beautiful drive and once I arrive my jaw actually drops in awe over the vibrant colour of the water. However is a bit too cold, windy and touristic for any activities other than coffee.

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That afternoon's coffee break is held in Oamaru. I had no clue of this towns existence before I found it on my road atlas but I did quite enjoy its quirky Victorian Precinct; full of local crafts and brews in a restored traditional setting.

Speaking of road atlases, driving away from Oamaru I manage to loose myself but finally find myself on the scenic coastal route. The best place one can get lost on, in my humble opinion!

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The next morning I only have a 10-or-so minute drive to enjoy the sight of the Moeraki Boulders at low tide. Such a peculiar sight with these spherical rocks scattered across the beach. Some have split in the middle (making them look like the perfect baked potato) revealing their hollow interior and others have completely collapsed. Also, am I the only one getting Death Star connotations on that last one?

Scenes from the TranzAlpine Railway & a brief Christchurch encounter.

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So my short but intense road trip around the southern kiwi island has begun. It started off on the rails though... In order to get from the West Coast to Christchurch to pick up my wee rental car, I needed to make my way across the isle. On of the options for doing so is by the TranzAlpine Railway. It is by no means the most inexpensive way to cross the country but it was a beautiful journey on a beautiful train carriage.

I arrived in Christchurch in time for a rose gold sunset and I thought it was just the kind of city I needed to see after breaking up with the bush. There is just so much to see; I had over an hours margin from leaving my hostel to make the 20 minute walk to the car dealer, yet I struggled to make it on time as I had to stop around just about every corner to have a peak. Very excited to be exploring more of Christchurch as I return for the weekend.

Punakaiki Life.

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Writing this, I have left Punakaiki and the wild west coast in the rear view mirror. "A couple of weeks" quickly escalated into months of four, but time sand flies when you are having fun right.  I still remember walking under the grand lime stone seperating the bush from the sea, tropical November sweat seeking its way down my back; my very first day in paradise, already then having a particular feeling about the place.

Still I thought a place so small would bore me, but --

What a joy it has been, living right next to the everchanging Tasman Sea. Not to mention the sunsets that all superlatives fail to describe; the ones that have kept me rushing home from work to catch a glimpse of. Punakaiki has just made me... peaceful. (Coming back into 'civilization', I can't help but to think of this Moomin strip.) I arrived with a broken heart and a restless soul; I am leaving pumped on inspiration yet full of serenity.

I hope I will be able to can this feeling. Preserve it in sugar suryp for rougher times.

Until then, I have bus loads of photos to show you from my road trippins around the South Island. Spamming instagram-stories in the meanwhile though!

A little detour to Franz Josef.

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A couple of weeks back, my fellow swedish co-worker and I got on the bus en route to Franz Josef; the bigger of the settlements that make out Glacier Country here on the south island for a few days change of scenery. Now, I do not tend to get car sick (but apparently bus sick is a completely different disease!), yet the threeish hours spent on the bus from Punakaiki was quite challenging sitting at the very end of the bus on these winding roads - so I was very happy to get off and inhale some of that fresh alpine air. (And not to mention those alpine views!)

We had not really planned what to do in Franz Josef; other than meeting up with one of Johan's old acquaintances at the Wednesday night jam session at the Snake Bite Brewery. The rain was pissing down, keeping us 'hostage' at the venue until way past midnight - but with my first draft pint (the Tasman Reserve Lager from Sprig & Fern - do try!) in months and live music, I had no complaints!

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The following morning we headed off to explore the townships main attraction, aka the glacier, which is about a 5k walk from the village. With rain still steadily drizzling down from the skies and an eeiry mist covering the Waiho river, it sure would have been nice to stay dry and toasty inside of a car...

But alas, as the Swedish saying goes, "there is no such thing as bad weather; only poor choice of clothing". (We made a whole thing out of translating these proverbs throughout the trip... there are a bunch of odd ones! #slidinginonashrimpsandwich)

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At least the heavy downpours made for some epic waterfall gazing #humanforscale

By the time we got closer of the actual blue ice formation, the strong winds turned the rain into painful ice drops making it very unpleasant to try and catch much of a glimpse of it upclose. I basically flipped my camera in direction of the glacier hoping for the best before deciding it was time to retreat moments later.

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The local legend is what has given the glacier its name; Kā Roimata o Hinehukatere; which is Maori for The Frozen Tears of Hine Hukatere. It is about a fearless lady who lived and loved climbing the Westland mountains, but fell madly in love with a man from a beach tribe, Wave. This had her torn between the shore and the hill tops; always gazing at one love from the other.

As she finally managed to convince the much less experienced Wave to come with her up the mountains, they encountered an avalanche that took Wave with it. In despair, Hine climbed further up the mountains before she sat down to weep for her loved one, for years on end. The Maori gods looking down saw Hines pain and begain to freeze her tears, that eventually formed into crystal blue ice lake which we see today.

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On the way back we took a different route, passing by a wee place called Peter's Pool. Had it not been for a group stopping just in front of us to take pictures, it would have been so close that we would have missed it. But what a sight! A mirrored reflection of the mountains in that clear lake water. Unfortunately with my limited camera lens it was a bit of a struggle to try and capture, but you can imagine.

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On the Friday, while waiting for our ride back to Punakaiki to finish work, we randomly set off to explore the Tatare Tunnels. A lucky chance! The Tatare tunnels were used to transport wooden logs back in the day, but now makes out a hike just above Franz Josef.

What started off as a hesitant walk between the rocks, careful not to touch the water (my boots are in fact not so very water resistant I found out!) soon escalated into splashing the cold tunnel water as we walked on. Just above our heads were tiny glow worms; ones we could see so closely that I even noticed the fine web that they surround themselves with.

Unfortunately the second tunnel was closed off from the public at the moment of our visit; but it was definitely a worthy walk if one has some extra time to spend whilst in Franz Josef.


All in all, Franz Josef was a delightful little place for a trip. The place is tiny and despite being built on tourism, has a very cosy feel where once is spoilt for choice when it comes to hikes. I was overwhelmed by the many vegan options available too!

Franz Josef Highlights

SKIP

  • ... the coffee from Full of Beans Cafe, as it is way overpriced for the burnt excuse of espresso that comes out.

DO

  • The vegan courgette and chickpea burger at Snake Bite Brewery; the mint & coriander cucumber salsa it is served with will make your taste buds burst of joy!
  • Peter's Pool - a mere fifteen minute walk from the main glacier car park is this wee lake that reflects the mountains perfectly on a still day.

Wellington Wanders and Vegan Eateries.

Fresh off the night bus, I arrived to Wellington one early November morning. Despite the very few hours of sleep crossing the north isle from one side to the other, I was pretty keen to get out exploring this wee capital that I had heard so much about.

(Be advised, an alternative title of this post could be "Me eating my way through Wellington".)

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Located just on the edge of the north island, Wellington is making the most of its pretty lively waterfront. With restaurants, live music,  museums and even the occasional rowing team gliding past there is plenty to rest your eyes upon.

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You can't visit Wellington without climbing one of its many hills. I wandered up Mount Victoria one morning and it rewarded me with some epic panoramic views from the top.

Back down through Victorian builds...

The fika session of the day was to be held at Sweet Release. How glad was I to come across this place; found just around the corner from my hostel on the caffeine hunt my first day in Wellington. I entered after seeing a sign saying something like "vegan food served here"; I asked what the vegan options were only to be told EVERYTHING!

Quickly decided to return after seeing a girl order a take away mocha topped with toasted marshmallow fluff (pinch me for I must be dreaming?!) and also tried the chickpea t*na sandwhich for lunch. Yum!

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By recommendation of my dearest Elme, I went to look for Laundry on Cuba Street. Considering our mutual Bristol love story I was pretty positive it was going to be great; and the recommendation did not fail to impress me. With its quirky interiors; disco balls, the kind of menus that you want to become an illustrator for and whimsical chalkboards.

Not to mention the gorgeous meal I had. On instagram I wrote "At first glance it might just look like a regular burger. But this was like the least burgery burger I’ve ever had, or more likely the most innovative?"; it had baba ganoush, pickled beetroot and some added crunchy sweetness from cashew brittle.

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My last day in down I hiked up the (very steep, mind you!) hill behind my hostel on O'Reily Avenue to reach the university area. Check this purdy building out ↑

Past the uni, I continued to the botanical gardens - that I was not actually too impressed with; but I did get to snap a few shots of the infamous Wellington cable car.

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In the eveningl I set off towards the Wellington Night Market, which takes place each Friday and Saturday (with one evening being fully vegan at the beginning of each new month apparently!).

I got side tracked on the way there and stood to watch a group of capoeira performers in the middle of the street. I stood eyeing them for a good 40 miutes before realising the November evening was indeed a little too cold to stand still.

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Another night, another burger. There were plenty of vegan options amongst the market stalls, but I decided to try the chickpea burger from In Bloom after reading only good things about it on HappyCow. Very filling comfort food without feeling too greasy!

I finished with vegan churros for dessert; which led to a pretty sweet food coma to fall asleep on. The next morning I got on the ferry to cross Cook Strait and thus enter the south island.