Saying goodbye to the South Island

Finding time to reflect on our farewell tour


I’m writing from the Interislander ferry, which is taking us from the port city of Picton on the south island to Wellington, NZ’s capital city on the north island. Consider this a stream of consciousness post. I’m not sure where it will lead.

It was only eight months ago that Elysia and I were taking this same ferry to continue our road trip around the south island. Today, we’re leaving the south island permanently. It’s been a very emotional last few weeks, driving around the country we love so dearly. We’re now 14 daysremoved from our home in Nelson, and it truly already feels like a dream. I can’t believe how quickly that happened. Poof. We woke up. It’s all over. Did it even really happen? I have photos to prove it did, but I can feel the reality of it all fading so, so quickly.

This is a very emotional time. Before we left Nelson, I did a pretty good job of getting the first few weeks of travel booked, so we were able to move from place to place without much planning. But we eventually ran out of runway, so to speak, and so now we are forced to plan as we go. This part is fun (sort of), but it’s also a whole other layer of stress. Not only are we still figuring out how the next few weeks look here in NZ, but we also still need to firm up Bali, Thailand, San Francisco, and Colombia. It’s a lot, and we can’t really do any of it while we’re enduring 5- and 6-hour long driving days. Internet is also a problem (which, somehow, we forgot about), and we of course need to actually go and see the places we are currently visiting. So it’s a bit of vacation, a lot of planning, tons of driving, and the typical eating/sleeping. I’m exhausted, and this very moment on the ferry is well needed.

The road trip so far has been pretty good, though the definitive highlight was the Routeburn Track. Off the top of my head, the 3-day hike crossing Mt. Aspiring National Park and Fiordlands National Park pretty easily falls in my very fluid NZ Top 10 list. We also saw the world’s smallest penguins (little Blue Penguins) after sunset in Dunedin, and those were freaking adorable. Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki are always stunning, and the hike we did in Mt Cook National Park (I believe it was called the Hooker Valley Track), was really pretty also. Wanaka was Wanaka, Queenstown was Queenstown, and Dunedin, Akaroa, and the Catlins pleasantly surprised us. If it weren’t for the weather in Dunedin (it’s cold, even in the summer), it would be great place to live.

Now that I’ve said it, I’m curious, suddenly, about what a NZ Top 10 list would look like for me. You have Skydiving, Bungee, Dolphin Swim, the Glacier heli-hike, Routeburn Track, Abel Tasman Track, Doubtful Sound overnight, Milford Sound day cruise, and Mt Stoke in Marlborough Sounds as must-adds to that list. That’s nine experiences I listed without even really thinking. I would probably put Wharariki Beach at Farewell Spit, Ohau Waterfall in Kaikoura, Polynesian Spa in Rotorua, Mt Victoria in Wellington, the Jet Boat in Queenstown … (excuse me a moment, I need to look at our photos to job my memory) … the flight from Queenstown to Milford, The Golden Mile wine day in Renwick, playing hide and go seek at Castle Hill, Whispering Falls when it’s really wet, the top of Rainbow Ski Field, the Speedy Place, and Hokio Beach all belong somewhere on a “Most Memorable” list. I also expect Tongariro, Bay of Islands, Hot Water Beach and Waitomo to blow our minds, too (those are on the north island, and we’re on our way now to go and do those!)

So, that’s something like 25 unforgettable experiences — in NINE MONTHS!!! How freaking lucky are we?! It’s actually pretty funny: There was a Buzzfeed article recently titled something like “30 reasons you need to go to New Zealand right now,” and it listed all these amazing, quintessential kiwi experiences. Well, guess what? We had done all of them. Talk about leaving everything out there on the field. I mean, I can honestly name maybe 2 or 3 things that nearly qualify as regrets. We didn’t go to Stewart Island (big whoop), we didn’t do the TranzAlpine railway (too expensive) and we never saw the All Blacks play even though we probably could have. But we saw the Makos play in Nelson, three times actually, and that was really cool. Our Tasman Makos almost won the freaking ITM Cup!

Actually, there are a lot of really cool everyday type activities I’ll remember from Nelson that I can’t even include in a top 10 list. The sum of these memories add up to a perfect life in Nelson that I will cherish forever: Yoga with Marina every Tuesday (and sometimes Saturday), the Centre of New Zealand track (which we probably did… 15 times?), reading in Queens Gardens, Tahunanui Beach after work, Rabbit Island beach (especially the far east side of it!), Saturday farmers markets, mountain biking Jacks Track, the Grampians, the beer festival where Elysia made it into the Nelson Leader newspaper, going out with Christie and Steven and Tiaki, dinner parties with Kelsey, Heath, Sam and Angie, that perfect last weekend in Nelson where we had several friendly BBQs and amazing beach days, Friday night live music at Devilles (shoutout to Astrid, the snarky bartender who was either very flirty with me or very condescending and rude — I couldn’t ever figure that out), the time I played house husband all week for six months (I went to the grocery store several times a week!), the Nelson Elma Turner Library, that perfect sunset goodbye at the Boulder Banks teepee, visiting Elysia several times a week at the Bakers Coffee Shop with Greta, Zoli, Peter, Maddie and Marina… there are seriously just so many special times.

I’m going to stop there because I’m getting weepy (again?!) Anyone who started reading this probably stopped long ago anyhow. If you are somehow still reading this, I’m sorry so much of it doesn’t register. I know it’s all too personal, and none of it is that relatable. All I can say is the last nine months have been so freaking special, and I really, truly wish everyone in my life could come here and experience this for themselves.

^CJ

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