Exploring Australia: The Kiwi Experience

One of my favorite things about traveling is coming to a new place full of expectations based on what I’ve read, heard, or imagined, then experiencing the place and observing what happens to my expectations.New Zealand is a popular place to visit and I have been wanting to come here for years. Expectations, therefore, were rather high, and they were exceeded. New Zealand’s natural, seemingly untouched, beauty is visually intoxicating.After completing the bus tour I wonder if there is an ugly road in New Zealand because I didn’t see any. Maybe in Christchurch, but they had a devastating earthquake last year so they’re exempt.

An 8 Day Bus Tour

I completed my 8 day bus tour with a company called Kiwi Experience, and was gifted a nasty cold from some of my traveling partners (that I’ve been enduring in Bali since I got here on Wednesday). Although a cold is the most benign of the diseases probably going around on that bus of guys and gals in their early twenties.This so-called “Kiwi experience” allowed me to see a lot more of New Zealand than I could have on my own in the short time I had. Plus I met some cool people, but I had my frustrating moments on it as well.It was expensive, each day brought a bevy of new activities the tour guide would try to sell. And some of the stops were super touristy. Just swarms of people crowding around a scene that they only saw through their camera. There wasn’t a lot of time to take in the beauty I came so far to see.

From Green Fields to Glacial Lakes

New Zealand is unique is its low human population and close proximity of various climates. Within just an hour or two of driving you can see bright green fields dotted with grazing sheep, to subtropical rain-forests, to rainy glacial lakes and snow capped mountains, to arid, brown hills with cloudless skies. All while not seeing another soul on the road.In contrast to my rough emotional time in Australia, I found a deep comfort and solace in the dramatic landscapes I was looking at. I am sure anyone would.On my glacier hike I was discussing New Zealand’s natural wonder with the guide. He was a local Kiwi guy that lives “rough” (no running water, TV, Internet, you get the idea) in the New Zealand wilderness. He said wild New Zealand can make a person intensely spiritual or make a person lose his or her mind.Seems as though it could be a thin line between the two.Here are a few photos:20120324-010229.jpgSunrise20120324-011256.jpgSunset walk on a totally empty west coast beach.

I saw a lot in NZ and here are four of my favorite moments:

1. Riding the Tranz Alpine train from the east side of the south island to the west side. The train cut through river gorges, mountains, lakes, all the pretty things that kept my eyes glued to the window.2. Full day hike into the Franz Josef glacier. It was a big climb, we went way up to the second gray part in the middle.We weaved in and out of ice crevices that were so tight I barely fit, but it was amazing to be surrounded by smooth, ice blue, cold walls while hearing massive pieces of ice fall off other parts of the glacier as we climbed higher.The ice falls were thunderous and would shake the ice we stood on. We crawled into ice caves, while beautiful, it was not my favorite. Small cramped tunnels is something that I just don’t like to do.The picture above really doesn’t do justice to the size of the glacier. Below is a picture of the group before us starting their climb into the side of the glacier. It is a magnified view from the bottom left side in the first picture.Can you see the people - all tiny in there?20120326-190234.jpg3. Hanging in the lakeside towns of Wanaka and Queenstown and visiting Milford Sound. The lakes are huge and set against dramatic mountain ranges. I went on some beautiful solo hikes and saw pristine sunsets while eating picnic dinners by the lake. The Sound is deep, timeless, and mesmerizing.20120326-190416.jpg4. Riding the bus down New Zealand highways contemplating life.20120326-191816.jpgSad as I was to leave New Zealand, I was very excited about heading to Bali, Indonesia.Bali was another place that has been on my travel wish list for a long time.Indonesia is such an intriguing country to me. I believe it holds the world’s fourth largest population and most of it is Muslim, although most of the people in Bali are Hindu.The states are so different from one another it feels as though you are in a different country when going from one to another. That is probably why most people recognize the island of Bali first and the afterthought is that it is part of Indonesia.More on Bali quirks in my next post. Stay tuned lovely people!

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