Friday, April 22, 2016


I just got back from a walk. It was in the moonlight down a gravel road. I do the most romantic things by myself, but that's not the point. I was walking and it was great and peaceful and I loved it. I found myself, as I do a lot, with all the space and time and noise all to myself. I had one earbud in (playing mostly Dixie Chicks, it's been a theme lately). I was singing and kind of dancing along. Then I was doing the grape vine. On another note, if you want to be completely delighted and terrified, grape vine down a gravel road in only moonlight at full speed. It's wonderful. At some point I also started jumping shadows (the moon is really bright) and everything was really funny. Mid-laugh I full on snorted and that is was did me in. I haven't laughed that long and heartily in a long time. I'm still happy about it and wanted to share. Life is great.

In other news, you've missed a lot. I went bungy jumping and felt terrified in a way I have never before. I took a cruise in Doubtful Sound. I went kayaking in Milford Sound. I went to the southernmost point of this South Island. I've seen penguins and dolphins. I felt uncomfortable in still-very-earthquake-destroyed Christchurch. I've c!imbed a bunch more mountains. I've sarcastically told someone I hated a waterfalls and she thought I was serious. I've went on a hike that turned into a great game of hide and seek with some wallabies. I've seen so many waterfalls. I've had so many existential crisis. And a million other things I can't put to text right now. I also dropped my camera into a river and am too lazy/overwhelmed to go through what I had before that. So this it for now. Life is beatiful and hilarious and somehow unattainable. I'm back in Wisconsin in about a month. Watch out for that.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Road trip, Glace-sure I'll get in a helicopter!

I HAD THE BEST TIME! I found myself in glacier country and decided I needed to be a real tourist about it. The thing to do around here is take a helicopter ride over and onto the glaciers. Excellent. I went into the town and made myself go into the various tourist companies.

I was thinking of going the next morning because it was cloudy over the mountains (as always) and I thought maybe everything would be perfect the next day. But I talked to an agent to book it and she said they had room for the flight leaving in the next half hour and the weather was good enough now that I shouldn't gamble on tomorrow. Which sounds pushy, but is actually fair enough.

So I ended up in a helicopter with two older couples. It was kind of ridiculous. Then I got what I assume is the best seat, the front and side. It was amazing. I've never been in a helicopter before. I didn't find it at all scary. It made sense. There was no crazy need to gain speed to hopefully launch into the air. We just lifted up. It's perfection, why do we bother with cars?

After I got over how superb helicopters are, we were in sight of the Franz Josef Glacier. It was sooooooo beautiful and ridiculous. It was what I imagined when I learned about glaciers in elementary school. Which was something unreal that I would ever only see pictures of. Something wild and unattainable. Yet here I was, floating magically above one.

As mentioned before, although it looks perfect in these photos, it was cloudy. But that was actually kind of great. We flew just below the clouds but above the glacier. It even took a bit longer and a bit more magic helicopter maneuvering to get out of it and over to the Fox Glacier. I loved every second.

We landed on the Fox Glacier. Again, IT WAS AMAZING! The pilot took my picture.

I kind of freaked out and was incredibly happy. It felt like I was a little kid at the first snow of winter and it was perfect packing snow and a snow day.

I made a snow angel!
Then I just lost myself and started to throw snowballs as far as I could. And then I made a snowman. (I did notice a few of my fellow passengers taking photos of me playing in the snow. I'm sure thinking I was just being a kid. One of them complemented me on my snowman when we got back) And then I ran around and took pictures and kicked snow and couldn't contain myself (maybe I have missed winter a bit). Everything was perfect. We got back on the helicopter and had a gorgeous scenic ride back.

I'm glad I made myself interact with other humans. And be a tourist. And things.

Also, I think I've missed my calling. Helicopters. Nature. Freedom. Joy. I want it all.

Other things to note:
  • I've been practicing juggling, I'm still terrible. (Although I do think people keep their tents further from mine if I'm practicing)
  • I woke up this morning. The sea was still there. And so was the sky. The sea, the sky, the sea, the sky, the sea, the sky, the sea, the sky, the sea, the sky, the sea, the sky
  • I've been trying to run sometimes and it's the best. There is always at least one beautiful or kind of ridiculous/unbelievable thing. Afterwards I feel like I could just go to bed and the day would be completely worth it. There are quiet moments waiting for me to see them as something special. And I try to.
  • The sea, the sky, the sea, the sky
  • I bought a mix CD some stranger made from an op shop. It's great. It's a lovely snapshot of a very specific time on somone else's life. It has 'Party in the USA' on it. This brings me happiness in so many ways.
  • Hair update: I think I've figured it out. I'm a Beatle.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Stoli and the Sad, Weird, No Good, Not Great Day and Night and Part of Another Day

Ok, I've hit another bout of travel sadness or depression or something. It's been kind of on and off for a week or two now. It's not the worst, but I have to try to convince myself to do things more than usual and I want to deal with other people even less. It's getting better. It may have to do partly with the weather; it's quite rainy here on the west coast. I don't need sympathy or worry or anything. I'm even still having fun and enjoying myself. I wouldn't change anything.

I have a lot of time to think (might be part of the problem). But I reflected back on a particular low spot and, in hindsight, I think it's pretty funny and would like to share. It may end up to be just a log of my day, but I don't care. You can stop reading if it's terrible. I just want to get it out, it's taking up valuable (probably not) brain space and I keep writing it in my head. So here you go:

Stoli and the Sad, Weird, No Good, Not Great Day and Night and Part of Another Day

I woke up and it was almost 10am. I really didn't want to get up. Not at all. Not even a little bit. I had been in my tent and mostly sleeping for almost 12 hours; that's not great. I wanted to just stay in my sleeping bag and tent for at least the rest of the day. I could tell it had rained a little, but had stopped for the moment. That wouldn't make packing up fun, but that wasn't the entire reason. I had just had a really good long happy streak and was hitting a valley I suppose. It was one of those stay in bed, call in sick, days; I've been there. But holing up in my tent isn't really a great option.

Eventually both parts of my brain lost and my bladder won. But once I was out of my tent I manged to convince myself to break camp. I had planned a long hike for the day and then camping at a small town a bit further south. I started walking, still heavily in a funk.

For the first hour it drizzled. Then it rained heavily for about 3 hours. Then it drizzled for my last hour. It was gross. It was what should be a great hike along the coast and partly in the edge of the forest. Every once in a while it jetted out to the coast and the wind was awful. At one of these clearings I saw a penguin on the beach. Just standing there looking like a sad penguin in the wind and rain. And I thought, 'I feel you penguin.' (This is strange. I feel like I saw a meme in the wild, some depressed penguin, and I totally related to it. Also, it's still ridiculous to me that this is possible, yet alone that it happened to me.)

I somehow ended the hike. All of me was soaked. Even my feet nestled in wool socks and hiking boots were just big puddles. Everything in my backpack was wet. I changed into dry clothes and drove to the campground.

It was a space in a small town, next to a rugby pitch. There was a very old building with a lounge area, kitchen, bathrooms, and bunk room. It was super windy and awful when I arrived. I talked to the caretaker, who was kind of bossy and I didn't even feel like dealing with nice people. He said it was supposed to storm. I decided to stay in the bunk room instead of putting up my tent in the awfulness.

The building was strange and little creepy. I went into the bunk room and picked a mattress out of a pile, plunked it on the ground, grabbed a pillow and blanket so I didn't have to deal with it later. There were two french guys that were also staying in the bunk room. They were in the lounge. We didn't really talk; it was kind of weird.

I ate dinner and had tea and read for awhile. But later that night I found myself sitting on a couch in the lounge area watching a home renovation competition show with four or five guys that were staying at the campground. None of us talked, we didn't even discuss if we should continue to watch that or find something better. It was good; I couldn't deal with real, talking, communicative, humans. Also, I could imagine if I were back in Wisconsin I could be at Lisa's watching Fixer Upper. It was soothing.

The expected thunderstorm kicked in. Then the power went out, of course.  It was after 10:00, so I took it as an excuse to go to bed (or foam mattress). I laid there in the dark. I took this creepy picture.

I did fall asleep, but didn't sleep well. Maybe I'm too used to camping. I need to be swaddled in my sleeping bag. At some point the frenchmen came in and went to sleep as well.

Early in the morning I woke up from a strange dream. I was camping with my parents, my sister and her family, and my brother and his girlfriend. We were sitting inside but I was looking across the table and out the window. I saw an extremely unrealistic earthquake coming towards us, I saw the ground rolling. I said 'earthquake' right before it hit us. Right afterwards my uncle Marty complimented me on seeing it before it happened, so I guess he was there too. I was proud.
Then I looked out the window again just in time to see a volcano erupt. It was dramatic. We had to evacuate. Then we came right back for our belongings. Then the volcano erupted again and we were told we had to stay put. My nieces were freaking out. I woke up. Natural Disasters, nice dream subjects.

I eventually gave up on sleep and went for a run. I ran through a deserted, calm, foggy, small town. I did not see a moving vehicle the entire time. It felt like maybe there was a natural disaster and I was forgotten. I ran to an estuary. I ran to a beach. I noticed a bicycle with a towel on it on the path. I walked over the dune. As soon as I got sight of the ocean I also found the owner of the bicycle, a naked man, coming out of the water. Luckily he wasn't looking in my direction and I was able to walk in to the other side and turn my back so we didn't have to make awkward eye contact. He was gone before I walked back.

Back at the campground I showered and then had breakfast in kitchen. That was actually kind of nice. There were people coming in and out and cooking and eating. It was kind of like being in a big family, busy and comforting. And everyone was friendly and kind, but also didn't really talk much. My kind of people.

That night it was kind of rainy again, but not stormy. I really didn't feel like putting up my tent, so I tried sleeping in my car. The back seats fold down and I was able to fully stretch out and it was actually fairly comfortable. I've done it a few times now. I have actually slept in my car down by the river. Living my dreams.

So that's all. A string of kind of mundane events, but interesting in my state of mind.

Other things to note:

  • I keep climbing mountains. It's wonderful.
  • The rain from this morning has ended. That's good.
  • My stand-in for cuddling up inside and watching Netflix is cuddling up in the back of my car and reading Harry Potter. It works pretty well.
  • I still love it here. I have less than three months left, yikes!
  • I overheard two Canadians talking about checked out. 
  • I wanted to end on a happy note, and this is hilarious to me and making me happy

Road trip, who even knows anymore

I've done a million things and haven't kept up. I've not been wwoofing at all, just hiking and tramping and camping and having mental breakdowns and existential crises and hiding out. Also, I'm not going back to figure it all out and come up with witty things to say. So here are some kind of random pictures. Also the ones missing from my previous post. Cheers,

Pretty lake I camped near in Lake Nelson National Park
What happens when the eels make the signs
A tree giraffe or antelope or something
The same lake from a mountaintop
Whiskey falls...I was disappointed.
I nearly entered a dumbed-down version of Lost
I can't recall, but it's great.
Clearly a moss seal...he was a fun guy.
Creepy cemetery in the woods from an old gold-mining settlement 
"Thy will be done"
This boot rocks!
Creepy, deserted old mine
Pancake Rocks!
More waterfalls
There's a bird in there. I like it.
My new home.

Here are the pictures from my climb of Mt Haast:

Mt Haast from the ground.
Cloudy view from the top.
Gary was there too.
I was tired and gross, a common theme. There were a lot of rocks.
An easy piece of the path down the mountain.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


I climbed a mountain yesterday, Mt. Haast, and now I feel alive! It's not my first mountain or anything; it was just special. Round trip it was only 5k, but was estimated to take 6 hours (it took about 4.5). The trail was just straight up; there weren't even very many cutbacks.

The hike started out steep and muddy and impossibly.  After about an hour and a half, I came out of the brush-line exhausted and saw the crazy bit still ahead of me. It was all rocks and tough grass. The trail mostly didn't exist. There were some pole markers occasionally, but after awhile those desisted as well. There were a few cairns after that marking where others had found success.

I had acquired hiking poles awhile ago, but hadn't used them yet. For some reason I decided this would be hike to test them with, and I don't think I could have done it without them. It was ridiculous.

The top was beautiful and great and amazing and worth it. But I was actually afraid of the hike back down. I accepted that I would sprain an ankle, or break a leg, or break an arm. I was dreading having to drag myself the rest of the way down the mountain after hurting myself. I don't know; I remember contemplating what level of injury would cause me to end my trip early and what I would be able to cope with.

Miraculously I made it down without any serious injuries, just a few cuts and bruises. Again, thanks to those hiking poles.

The whole thing really felt like how I would imagine climbing a mountain would be. Not much of a trail, a huge challenge, and beautiful. I couldn't believe it was happening. Where am I? Who am I? How did I get here? What is life? I just needed to mark this great feeling. I have more stories and pictures and things to share from the past few weeks, just not the patience for it now...soon.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Road trip, south island. It's ferry nice here.

I took a ferry to the south island. My first car ferry! That was OK. It was more entertaining than fun...I'm still not a huge fan of boats. I just haven't really been on that many. There was actually a tiny theatre on board and I thought I might watch the movie they showed. But it turned out to be some boat caught in a storm movie. No thanks.

A van of birdwatchers waiting to board the ferry.

I arrived in the late afternoon and drove an hour or so to a nice, quiet, simple campground.

There are great trees on the south island too!

My second full day, I had booked to go sky diving. Again, I didn't really think about it. It was just something I had meant to do there. It was, of course, amazing. But also strange. I had been skydiving before, back in Wisconsin. I'm glad about that, it had been a much more personable, exciting, and somehow calming, experience.

Here it was a money making machine. I did not meet the person I was going to be strapped to, the person about to be in control of my life, until I was already suited up and waiting to get on a plane, about two minutes before we boarded. He got on the ground, unstrapped one human, went inside to exchange an open parachute for a packed one, came back out, introduced himself, gave me a couple sentences of instruction, then we got on a plane. A little plane packed full of as many people as possible. It was interesting. We talked on the plane: some instruction, some scenery explanation, some small chat. But it was pointless. I was already snuggled up and strapped in between his legs, don't bother.

I enjoyed the flight; it was beautiful. I didn't really register what was happening until they opened the door. Then I started to freak out a bit. We were the last ones out of the  plane, so I was able to panic for a minute or two. Then we jumped.

I did the highest jump they have, 16500 feet. It's something like 75 seconds of freefall. It was unbelievable and amazing and incredible and beautiful and terrifying. I loved every second. And the peaceful float down the remaining way. I wanted it to last forever.

It's then strange to just go about the rest of the day. All of this took place before 11am. How is everything still functioning normally? It's like I didn't just plummet towards the earth. No one even noticed. There isn't even a real difference in me. If that doesn't change things, what does?

The lovely 'you chose to jump out of a plane, clearly nothing is our fault' paperwork.

I gathered myself and bagged up all those errant emotions, feelings, and existential crises, and drove to the northern part of the island. I spent a couple nights camping on the east coast. In Abel Tasman National Park. It was beautiful. I went for a long beach and forest hike. While I was resting in the sand, I saw a penguin. I got up in the middle of the night to pee and saw a shooting star. Things are strange here.

Lost: Alison's kiwi ranger badge
Life's a beach.
Terrible picture of a penguin that I think looks like a dragon.
Always another waterfall.
Then I spent a night on a northern beach (Wharanaki beach). It was super beautiful. And there were seal cubs hanging out there. What!? Nothing is real anymore. In the morning a peacock walked by me while I was drinking my coffee. I may have died jumping out of that plane. Only time will tell...or will it?

Baby seal!!
Gary is loving it.
Who photographs the photographers?

Can someone write this song?

Other things of note:
  • Ducks. Not only can they fly, but their body is a boat. You want a piece of my bagel? Get real.
  • White people with dreadlocks everywhere. Everywhere.
  • All the bug bites. All. The. Bug. Bites. Add the smell of repellent to the grime of sunblock. 
  • If a person grows out all their hair at the same length (for example, shaves their head) and does not cut it, does it naturally grow to be a mullet? (I'm asking for a friend)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Road trip, it's going pretty Wellington

Alright, update from the past, coming at you. After I left the farm of childhoods past, I was kind of just treading water until Wellington Sevens. I had about a week. Also in this time, I was going to meet up with a friend of a friend (a rugby friend of lily's, who was really a super person) to get a care package containing Steve. Unfortunately, I gave Lily the actual last possible date that I would be there instead of a fake buffer date. And also unfortunately, she trusted the USPS. So, despite best efforts, Steve leisurely travelled through Japan and Australia and arrived five days after I left the area. He lives there for now.
I also did some relaxing and camping and hiking and reading. It was nice. Here are a few highlights.
Manawatu Gorge
I camped right next to a cemetery, but didn't take pictures.

Windmill farm near my graveside campsite.
I went to the rugby museum in Palmerston North. It was great. People care about rugby here. I'm still surprised.

The guy in the center back looks way too cool.

Sports Digest...Go local sports team!
There's a picture that goes here, but I think my dad may be reading this.
I camped right next to a river and set up my hammock, again no pictures.

After I met my new friend, but was stood up by Steve, I made my way to Wellington.
Wellington itself was really great and beautiful. I enjoyed the parks and art and the wharf and farmer's markets and food carts. It was lovely.

I went to Wellington Sevens, which turned out to be great but a little strange. It's one of those events where they must have had drinking problems in the past so they overanalyze and overregulate and kind of kill it. Everyone dressed up and it was really fun, but you could tell it wasn't really living up to its potential. I didn't latch on to a group in particular, but floated around. I cheered with some kids. I made bad jokes with drunk old men. I tried to explain rugby to a group of women who had no idea. I moved away from a group of Fiji fans during the Fiji v USA game because I wanted to cheer loudly and not defend myself. And I just enjoyed myself a lot.

The championship game was NZ v South Africa and it was incredible. NZ was behind, if I'm remembering correctly, the entire game. It was never by a ton, but enough to not feel great. Then at the end they were nearly out of time and needed to score twice to win. They scored once and it became one of those games where they played at least another minute after time had run out. And you know that if they lost possession it was over. But they held on and won the game. Amazing. It felt great to be there. This is my country now.

Weird, empty stadium.

Pointless little truck that delivered the ball.
Sad bride when NZ was losing.

AUS and USA have the same letters. It felt important.
Then I went camping for two more nights before I headed to the south island. I went to a nice campground by another river. It was quiet and pretty and nice. That is all, but also plenty.

How I imagine myself.
I need to cross that bridge you silly boy.
My new friend
This is a lord of the rings thing.
It was not exciting.
Other things of note:
  • It was kind of hard to leave the north island... I'll be back.
  • I forgot a great story from the farm. He was telling me about great names of dogs they'd had before, because one of their current dogs was Sauvi, short for Sauvignon. I can't remember them all, but one was stoli and one was spliff. So...yea. Stoli. His name is my name too.
  • Part of my car is stealing and hopefully making a robot out of my possessions. So far it has, at least, my camera cord, headphones, and head lamp.
  • I love the library and my kindle. There are so many books they just let me read through Amazon. I've taken a GOT break and am rereading Eragon. That's what walking through the forest makes me want. Dragons and elves and dwarves and magic.