The New Zealand Hello

At Colgate we have something called the Colgate Hello. It means that when you walk around campus everyone says hi to each other. This may not actually happen all the time at Colgate, but it definitely does happen on any outdoor trail in New Zealand.

Therefore I’m calling this the New Zealand Hello.

Every hiking trail we walked on, every single person you passed said hello. Sometimes they would ask how your day was going or make a comment on the weather. It was like everyone on the trail was instantly your friend because you both decided to walk outside.

At the end of the Abel Tasman track we had to walk back into town to get the car. We weren’t on the trail any longer but were walking on a path on the side of the road just past the park entrance. People still said hello as we passed. Frank turned to me and asked, “When do we stop saying hi?” “No idea.” It was a gray area: no longer hiking trail but not yet city street. Is this still NZ Hello territory?

The default answer is yes, because really everywhere in NZ is NZ Hello territory. Those friendly Kiwis.


New World

I have a crush on a supermarket. NZ was shockingly expensive when I arrived so a lot of the food I ate there came from supermarkets. There were a few to choose from but my favorite was New World.

New World gets the backpackers needs. Not only do they provide free wifi (I spent an hour in the entrance of the Kaikoura New World so I didn’t have to buy wifi) but they have the best prepared food section I’ve seen. The sandwiches became a staple of any long trip, whether a ferry or bus ride, the salads were good, and the pizza was cheap ($3, although disappointing, sorry NW you messed this one up a bit).

The best way to shop at New World as a solo backpacker was going straight to the prepared food section and finding the “Reduced to Sell” items. Usually some kind of salad – couscous, veggies and rice, garden salad – these items were made out of fresh produce so they had to sell quickly or they would go bad. Anything that didn’t sell fast enough was marked down, usually at least half price, so it would not go to waste. Since I was not stocking a kitchen but looking for an immediate meal these were perfect for me. I had a delicious couscous and broccoli with bacon lunch for just $2.50, a Thai curry soup dinner for $3, or a side salad for my pizza for just $1.

I wish New World existed everywhere. It was a real budget helper, and the food at least felt much healthier than most other budget food options.

Returning to Auckland

I ended my month in New Zealand back where it began – Auckland – but now that the culture shock was gone and I was lucky enough to have a local tour guide this revisit was nothing like my first time there.

Auckland has a lot more to offer than I realized, probably because most of what it has you need a car to get to. I couldn’t have had such a great second visit there if it wasn’t for Kevin, a friend from my NYC days who just happened to be back home in Auckland while I was in town. Fate!

Kevin showed me a great mixture of Auckland activities, from hiking days to indulgent desserts, so that the next time I hung out with a bunch of Kiwis from Auckland (which incidentally was my next few days in Sydney) they were surprised when I said I liked my time there.

In short, over the course of 5 days we: hiked up One Tree Hill to see the sprawl of the city from above; wandered the trails around Piha beach, from a jungle walk to a three-tiered waterfall to the vertical hike up Lion Rock, a huge rock in the center of the sparkling black sand beach; had huge green NZ mussels (forever ruining for me the normal tiny mussels in the US); climbed the volcano Rangitoto Island; finally had some great NZ fish and chips while checking out Mission Beach; went to probably the best dessert restaurant I’ve ever been to, Chocolate Boutique in Parnell; went wine tasting on Waiheke Island; checked out a fantastic light art show at the Auckland Art Gallery followed by more delicious desserts, this time Chocolate Lahroaig ice cream at Giapo; had a true NZ steak and cheese pie (#2 in the city) in Ponsonby; and saw one final volcanic crater with a view of Auckland from Mount Eden. Add in some great hot tub and sauna sessions at the apartment complex and the amazingness of staying in a home with Kevin and his dad, a room to myself, tea with avocado and honey on toast breakfasts, and some fantastic home cooked dinners, and it’s clear why this return to Auckland left a much better impression than my first round there about 4 weeks earlier.

My final days in Auckland were the perfect end to a month in NZ. Much like leaving South America by staying put in BA for an extended time, staying with a friend in his home was the perfect recharge before my next phase. I really can’t thank Kevin and his dad enough; I was so lucky to have experienced such amazing hospitality.

When I got to the airport (at way too early an hour, the gates weren’t even open yet) I felt ready to move on to Australia and happy with the time I had in the great country of New Zealand. I have come to accept that there will always be more to see in the countries I’m visiting on this trip, but I left NZ satisfied with my experience.

Alice in Rotorua

Leaving the South Island I was facing a two day journey to get back up to Auckland. Since I had the hop on hop off bus pass I decided to break up the trip a little with a day in Rotorua.

I left Kaikoura in the morning and made it to the Interislander ferry by 1:00 pm. It was nice to do the Cook Strait crossing in the daylight this time; the trip out of Picton is a lovely ride through green hills on either side of the channel. I arrived in Wellington shortly before 5 but didn’t venture back out into the city. I just took it easy at the hostel since I had to get on a bus again before 8:00 am the next morning. It was already afternoon by the time I got to Rotorua, so my exploring would mostly have to wait for the next day.

Rotorua is known for its hot springs and its stench. This town stinks. Literally. It’s because it’s a geothermally active area so the odor of sulfur is a constant presence. Having experienced this immediately, I wanted to experience its other prominent feature, so I looked into what my options were for the day.

NZ$69 to do a day trip to the best place to see the unique colors, geological formations, and geysers. Hot springs were all spas, not exactly an affordable option or even what I was imagining. I decided neither of these things was worth the budget expense; I was spoiled in the Salt Flats with our geysers and hot springs at dawn experience.

So what could I do in Rotorua on a budget? Have a pretty good day actually.

I spent the majority of the day walking around Rotorua and still was able to see the insanity of its natural make-up. I started with the path around the lake, which traversed land that appeared dead but actually had small geysers, bubbling holes, coffee-colored pools, and tons of birds. And of course the awful smell. I’m lucky my face went back to normal after an hour of walking around with my nose scrunched up.

I continued the walk south to the Redwood Forest. Try getting two more opposite landscapes within the same walk. Now I was surrounded by a lush forest with soaring Redwood trees and green fern trees. The oddity of Rotorua was not to be forgotten though as I traversed a bright blue river in the middle of the forest. Have I used Alice in Wonderland yet? Because if the Amazon was Dr. Suess and the Salt Flats were Salvador Dali then Rotorua is Alice in Wonderland.

It was a solid day of walking, with lots of time to think, listen to music, and to reflect on my month in New Zealand. That night I got on a bus to Auckland, my final stop before the next country. Rotorua was a fitting stop on my way out to see more quirky nature – I started in the North Island with glowworm caves and ended with geothermal wonderland. NZ really does have some of the craziest nature within such a small country.

A Sunrise Farewell to the South Island

My last morning on the South Island I woke up for sunrise. Kaikoura is on the east coast of NZ, and was supposed to have one of the best sunrises on the island. I figured it had been a while since I saw a sunrise and it fit in with the calm vibe I already had going in Kaikoura, so I set an alarm for 5:45 and went to sleep to the sound of the rain, hoping it would clear up by morning.

When I woke up I peeked out of the window and saw clouds but with a patch of sky. That was enough for me. I layered up, made some tea, and went out the back gate to the beach.

Dawn is so peaceful. It was just me and the seagulls waiting for the sun. I sat on the black rocky beach and listened to the waves crash in front of me. It was still cloudy, but light enough clouds that I could see the light changing. I got outside early enough to glimpse the thin white sliver of the moon before it disappeared for the day.

Then everything was lit up pink. Patches of clouds were highlighted with a pink glow that reflected in the ocean, and for a perfect brief moment a pink light illuminated the snowcovered mountain tops. I alternated between staring and snapping tons of pictures. As I was taking a video of the waves and the changing light, the sun broke the horizon.

There was just a little opening in the clouds at the horizon line, and it was right where the sun came up. Most sunrises are beautiful but they’re all along the same lines: the sky gets lighter, the sun peaks up over the horizon, and in a matter of minutes it’s up in a clear blue sky. This one was different because of the clouds. The sun had a small window to appear, just enough to see it rise and immediately hide again behind cloud cover. It’s hard to describe but this somehow made it even more special. The rays of light coming from behind the clouds could only be described as heavenly.

Before I left the beach I said goodbye to the South Island. I had an amazing couple of weeks there and can only hope that one day I’ll make it back across the world to this incredible place. I couldn’t imagine any better way to leave though than watching the sun rise over the ocean with rocky mountains to my left and grassy ones to my right; the ever-present contrast of NZ landscapes.

Making Friends with Dolphins in Kaikoura

I arrived at Kaikoura early on a Sunday morning after quite the Saturday night out in Chch. I was tired, hungover, and really craving some brunch. So when the dreary weather matched my mood I was happy for a reason to stay indoors.

I got off the bus and saw that Kaikoura was a tiny oceanside town with one main street lined with cafes and shops. It looked quiet, relaxed, like a perfect place to take it easy for a few days. I was happy.

That first day I did just that: relax. I treated myself to some bacon and eggs and spent the rest of the day hibernating in my low-key could-be-your-living-room hostel Sunrise Lodge, sipping on tea and planning my next moves.

Like most of NZ, Kaikoura is known for its outdoor activities, mainly seal and whale watching. So I took a chance on the weather, hoping it would clear up by the next day, and booked the morning half day tour with Kaikoura Kayaks through (a great website for discounted activities in NZ). It was a good gamble; the next day was perfect, with clear blue skies, warm sun, and barely any wind. Even our guide said we were lucky (something we would hear from him more than once). There were three of us on the tour plus our guide, so we were took out two 2-person kayaks. It was nice to have such a small group; it felt less like a tour and more like a day out with some new buddies. We took to the water and Martin and I worked together like we’d been kayak partners our whole lives. We really should enter a kayaking competition; our turns were flawless and our speed unbeatable (at least compared to the other kayak). It helped that the water was so calm that it was more like a lake than an ocean.

On our way out we encountered a pod of playful dolphins. As we approached they didn’t shy away, quite the opposite. They swam around and under our kayaks, jumping up next to us as if to lead us along, even giving our kayak a little love tap with a tail as if to say “hurry up!” We paddled around with them for a while, huge smiles on our faces, enjoying the company of our new friends. Our guide told us we were lucky (again), most tours don’t get to see many dolphins like we did. It was pretty incredible.

As we said goodbye to flipper and crew we heard a jolt of excitement from our guide’s radio: there was a whale nearby! We paddled quickly out in the direction of the whale watching boats hoping to catch a glimpse of it. That would truly be lucky, it’s pretty rare to see a whale on the kayaking tour. Unfortunately we weren’t that lucky. No whale for us. So it was off to the seals, the reason for the kayaking to begin with.

The seals weren’t quite as playful as the dolphins, keeping their distance from us, but we did get to see six of them active around us in the water (the third “you’re lucky” moment from our guide). I took my GoPro off my head – the sexy look I’d been sporting all morning – and put it in the water to get some video of them swimming around. I was fairly successful considering I couldn’t see what I was shooting.

We kayaked back to shore on the lookout for the whale, hoping to get the trifecta of sealife, but had to be satisfied with just the two. Which of course we were. It was an awesome morning.

I kept the active day going in the afternoon, taking advantage of the still gorgeous weather to bike ride out to the seal colony, stopping along the way at a long-standing seafood BBQ joint for some Paua (abalone). I hiked up to a coastal lookout and could see the mountains, the ocean, seals sprawled out below me, with cows on green pastures behind me. I laid in the grass for a while taking it all in. It was beautiful weather with beautiful views and I had nothing to do but enjoy it.

My two days in Kaikoura were perfect unwinding days before I started the two day journey back up to Rotorua in the North Island.

Christchurch, A City Rebuilding

It is impossible to go to Christchurch and not be struck by the destruction that is all around. The earthquake happened over 3 years ago, February 2011, but the aftermath is still present throughout the city.

The City Center is a mixture of empty plots, collapsed buildings, construction sites, and, what seems like the smallest percentage, functioning buildings. The Cathedral remains half in ruins, a prominent reminder of what happened and how long the process can be to fix it; some people want it rebuilt like it was, others want it torn down and replaced, so it stands in limbo, surrounded by a decorated chain-link fence, awaiting its verdict. Part of the city has been zoned as condemned; it will be turned into green space because it is permanently unstable for buildings. After talking with Alana and Sarah about the process of trying to buy a house – if the house can be bought it often needs the foundation and cracked walls to be fixed before it can attain the proper insurance, a costly process – I realized just how widespread the damage goes, affecting what used to be normal decisions, and why so many people left Chch after it happened. It is easy to see why people who visit Chch leave with an impression of sadness.

The city is injured.

But the city is recovering.

I left Chch optimistic. The city has devised a plan to rebuild Chch. They have already successfully used alternative materials to make new structures: in the Re:Start Mall shipping containers house shops, cafes, and bathrooms; and Shigeru Ban created a temporary Cathedral out of cardboard tubes, timber, steel, polycarbon, and shipping containers. Interesting disaster relief architecture has sprung up in Chch. Public art is everywhere – murals on the sides of dilapidated buildings, sculptures commemorating the quake, artistic seating covered in grass and flowers, and the aforementioned decorated chain-link fences – turning destruction into beauty.

I spent half an hour in the Rebuild Christchurch office talking about the master plan for the city. (Probably an unprecedented amount of time. When I walked in one of the guys halfheartedly showed me a video, but once we got talking and they found out what I used to do they showed me the marketing materials and planning documents and we played with their high-powered Google Earth for a while. Interesting people.) They are turning an unfortunate incident into an opportunity to change Chch for the better. They’re implementing new zoning, new transportation and pedestrian plans, and adding more public amenities. It will still be a few years before it’s realized but it has begun. Aside from all of this rebuilding there is a reason Chch is called the Garden City: it still has great parks all around. I could have spent a day just wandering around the wonderful Botanical Gardens.

So yes, Christchurch is still hurting from the earthquake, but I chose to look beyond that destruction and see the vibrant city that is trying to come out of it. It’s still early but it’s happening. If you don’t like construction, don’t go there just yet, but I for one am very curious to see what it will be like in a few years. Christchurch, I’ve got my eye on you.

Couchsurfing Success in Christchurch

It was already evening on Wednesday when I stepped off the NakedBus in Christchurch (my new mode of transportation now that Fez had been returned, courtesy of the generosity of Josi and the remaining trips on her passport, another traveler-helping-traveler moment that saved me both logistically and budgetarily). I had no idea where I was going to sleep that night.

After experiencing some sticker shock at the cost of hostels in Christchurch (Chch), I thought I would try my luck at couchsurfing. On the website there is an option to put out a public message to couchsurfers in a location that you are on your way and need a place to stay – something along the lines of “First time in Christchurch, hoping to see what the city has to offer and share a beer with some new friends” – and hosts can contact you. I had been in contact with a couple people but nothing was resolved yet by the time I got on the bus. I had a back-up plan of the YMCA for NZ$30 for a dorm bed. The cheapest option in town.

Luckily I had a map of Chch that showed the locations of free wifi in town. I logged on and had a message: “When do you arrive? I can pick you up.” Max was my age, a couchsurfer and host with nothing but positive reviews. He was an avid traveler who enjoyed hosting other travelers, as long as he wasn’t at a festival. Sounded like someone I would get along with. I responded that I had arrived and was just mooching off the free wifi, unsure he would get my message. Within minutes he responded asking where I was and saying he would pick me up in an hour. It was 7:30 pm.

I waited, with all my belongings on my back in a public plaza in a city I didn’t know until 8:30. This was one of those travel moments where you just have to have faith; I could be stranded if he doesn’t show up, I could be murdered either way, or I could have a fantastic story.

8:30 came and so did Max’s car, complete with Max and two more friends. They enthusiastically pulled up, pointing in my direction with smiles and “hey’s!” all around. Max jumped out and introduced himself, threw my stuff in the trunk, and I got in the car with these friendly strangers. Quick introductions all around and off we went to Max’s place.

I had the fantastic story.

This experience was a complete 180 from my initial foray into couchsurfing back in Salvador. Max and all his friends were gracious hosts. For the next three days they welcomed me into their lives and showed me part of Chch that you don’t get to see from a hostel or guidebook.

That first night Max and co. (his car companions Louie and Tim and his brother Jake) and I hung out playing Cards Against Humanity – apparently this is a brand new game in NZ, which was surprising coming from the States where it has been a favorite for a couple of years now, which may have given me a bit of an unfair advantage leading to a crushing victory – and generally got to know each other. A large part of this required translation from Kiwi into regular English. This is when I learned the meaning of Sweet As, Hard Out, ae, and fush and chups. The next day Max and I strolled along beach-side in the suburb of Sumner where he grew up, swapping travel stories, before he, Louie and I had some tasting beers at a local brewery and drove up to a lookout where you could see all of Chch and neighboring Lyttelton below. Max dropped me off to explore the city center that afternoon, telling me some places worth checking out while went off to work. That night he brought me to his brothers’ house for some garage beer pong before we all went out in town.

Saturday was slow to start due to the activities of the night before and the bad weather, so when Max proposed a day of chilling in various locations before another night out it sounded great. We kept Braden company while he worked on building an impressive sound system and stopped by his brothers’ house for a quick FIFA session before the night, when we started at Braden’s house for pre-club drinks. I got to know Sarah and Alana over daiquiris while the guys played more beer pong and then we all jumped in a van taxi and went to a club for a typical Chch drum and bass show. I definitely experience some fun Chch nightlife while I was in town. Needless to say my 7:00 am bus to Kaikoura the next morning was a rough one.

What I’m hoping to describe with a summary of those few days is how, when you have a great couchsurfing host like Max, you get to see the real life of a place. I have impressions of the city of Christchurch, which will get a post too, but I wanted to first say how fantastic it was to spend a few days with some great people in this new place. In the chance that any of them read this, thank you all. You completely changed my couchsurfing experience to an incredibly positive one and I hope to be a part of this community for a while, eventually hosting people in SF whenever I get back. Which includes all of you – any time you want, come stay with me so I can return the favor. My experience in Chch would not have been the same without taking the chance to try couchsurfing again and I’m so happy I went for it. I can now recommend trying this accommodation option when you’re in the right place for it. Of course NZ is a great place for it, so I had a great weekend.

Or as the Kiwis would say – it was heaps as sick though cuz, flat out chur.

Cheers Max and Louie!

Cheers Max and Louie!

Road Trip South Island: Queenstown, Take 2

Now this was the end of the road. Frank and Josi had flights out on Thursday, not just out of Queenstown but out of New Zealand – Frank moving on to Chile and Josi going home to Australia – so after returning from Milford Sound, the place that felt so much like a final adventure together, we decided to just hang out and chat over a chill beer at 1876.

This was our kind of place. Nice outdoor tables and good cheap beers, it was a great atmosphere to enjoy each other’s company on a pseudo-warm evening. One beer turned into two turned into going to the liquor store for more on our way back to the hostel. And while we were debating how many we should get who walks into the beer aisle but Karim from Wanaka! Frank and I were overjoyed to have our two travel buddies together, so obviously we went with a 15-pack of Speights and all hung out in our room for a few hours. I knew I didn’t have to say bye to Karim when I left Wanaka.

I had planned to leave Queenstown on Wednesday but that night Josi convinced me to stay one more day. She and Frank were leaving Thursday, so I should wait till then too. This was definitely the right decision; I had two more days in Queenstown to just hang out with the people who had become more to me than just travel buddies, they were my close friends.

The next morning we returned Fez. It was a sad moment for all. Then Frank and I had to hitchhike back into Queenstown from the airport. My first real hitchhiking experience! It made sense to try this in New Zealand, land of nice helpful people, and with a 6’3″ British guy to scare away the crazies. We were picked up by a very nice Irishman in less than 5 minutes who dropped us off right at our hostel door. My first hitchhiking was a success.

Due to bad weather, we lost all motivation to be active this day so instead we watched movies inside, eating the hostel’s free popcorn and soup (Southern Laughter, it’s related to the one in Franz Josef). Sometimes you have to love those lazy hostel days. Plus Josi had never seen Love Actually before. How was that possible?! Obviously we had to right this wrong immediately.

Our last day together was pretty much a summary of our trip: hiking and hanging out. First we went on a hike up Queenstown Hill. It was a perfect choice for the day, uphill enough to feel like we expended energy but, at an hour and a half return, short enough that it wasn’t a huge undertaking. The view at the top was fantastic. We could see from Queenstown to Frankton, looking out over the lake and with the background of The Remarkables mountain range. We took our time on the way down, pausing to take pictures and have some interesting discussions on a bench. Traveling for so long and having such fleeting interactions with people I sometimes missed the deeper conversations I can have with people from home. Frank, Josi and I were at the point of deep conversation, had been for a bit now, and that was very much present in our walk.

That night we took it easy; out for dinner and hanging out at the hostel with some wine. We tried to say our goodbyes at night since Josi and I had to leave early the next morning but none of us were ready. We all woke up early, in time to see a beautiful pink sunrise sky over the mountains, and first said bye to Josi. At least for now. We agreed that it wasn’t goodbye, it was see you soon. We made a plan to reunite in Berlin over the summer, and more short-term I will see Josi in Melbourne in a month.

An hour or so later, Frank walked me to the bus station. We had known each other for 19 days, but it felt like years. It was a big risk to decide to travel together after more or less 15 minutes of conversation and we would have been lucky to even just get along, but who could have predicted that we would become so close over that short time. I guess that’s what happens when you do a road trip in a foreign place together, when you experience intense new things like skydiving together, or share a new favorite place in the world like Wanaka. Although we are going different directions from here – Frank to South America and me to Asia – I know we will see each other again. It just wouldn’t be right if we didn’t, the universe isn’t that mean, and we won’t let it happen. Frank – you know I miss you, because we still talk all the time, and don’t you ever lose touch.

Road Trip South Island: Milford Sound

Milford Sound is majestic. It is breathtaking, jaw-dropping, peaceful, beautiful.

It is the end of the world.

I had hoped I would make it to Milford Sound somehow, so when Josi said she was thinking about renting a car to go from Queenstown around the time that our car had to be dropped off in Queenstown it was just too perfect. Milford Sound would be the final excursion in our road trip adventure. So we drove 4 hours on Sunday to stay the night in Milford Sound Lodge before we boarded the earliest (and cheapest) boat ride on Monday morning at 9:15 am.

The drive there was already epic. The road wound first through forest and then through marshes with cloud cover all around; we weren’t able to see most of the mountains that were surrounding us but the “Warning: Avalanche Zone” signs told us they were there. At one point we had to wait for a light to tell us it was our turn to enter a tunnel cut into a mountain. This tunnel was dimly lit by a single row of lights on the ceiling and had no end in sight; we just knew we were going down. Thank you to the tape gods for choosing to play Bruce’s “I’m Going Down” during this part of the drive. “I’m going down, down, down, down, down.” So appropriate.

We arrived at Milford Sound Lodge and I immediately loved the serenity. Located in a valley between soaring mountains, it was an escape from the rest of the world. The evening was all about relaxing; we hung out in our coziest clothes, reading, writing blog posts, and sharing stories. We cooked a fantastic veggie curry with rice and played cards until bedtime. No internet, nowhere to go, and nothing to do but chill. It was great.

The next morning it was time to see the main attraction. We made it safely out of the parking lot, avoiding the pesky kea and sand flies that surrounded the cars, and arrived at the harbor in shockingly perfect weather. Milford is one of the wettest regions in the world and somehow we had blue skies. People say that it’s better in rain, but after seeing it in sun I think they just say this because most people don’t get to see it in nice weather.

The early boat was definitely the way to go (and I would recommend the one we chose, Jucy). These boats could easily fit a couple hundred people, but we had about 20. It was almost a private tour. It had free tea and coffee the entire time to warm you up, and the captain periodically told us facts and stories over the loudspeaker. It was an enjoyable, well done tour.

Then there was the scenery. There’s no way to do it justice. We were in awe the entire time. Mountains covered in green trees rose up out of the dark water. Waterfalls were everywhere; they seemed moderate in comparison to the mountains but were actually the height of skyscrapers. Sun rays flooded over the mountain peaks and created rainbows in the waterfalls. The entire scene was magical.

The water was fairly calm so the boat took us all the way out into the Tasman Sea and then back through the fjord, with two quick detours: one to see a building where they study the fjord with a snow-covered mountain background, and one to take a quick dip in one of the largest waterfalls in the fjord. We had plenty of warning and most people went inside to dry safety, but I braved the cold downpour to get it all on GoPro video. I think it was worth it.

We were sad when the cruise ended but you would never know it by the huge smiles on all of our faces. There’s a reason Milford Sound is talked about as being one of the best experiences in New Zealand: because it is. Any positive thing you’ve ever heard about Milford is right. It is an amazing landscape, nature that renders you speechless. All I wanted to do was stare, contemplate, and smile. Absolutely incredible.

The drive back out of Milford was just as epic as the drive in. With blue skies we were able to see the mountains and waterfalls that we had missed on our way in. I’m so happy we saw it both ways: mysterious in cloud cover, impressive in clear weather. And again the tape gods gave us something to laugh about: on our way back up through the mountain tunnel we were treated with M People’s “Moving On Up.” “I’m moving on up. You’re moving on out. Movin’ on up. Nothing can stop me.”

A few hours later we were back in Queenstown. Something about this trip to Milford Sound felt very final. After a fantastic road trip, Frank, Josi and I had gone to the end of the world and back together. We had come from the sandy beaches of Abel Tasman through the dreary downpour of Hokitika and the skydive-induced excitement of the glaciers to the peaceful fiord of Milford. This was the best part of my time in New Zealand and I couldn’t have imagined better travel companions to experience it with and a better way to end it than the magnificent Milford Sound.