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Faces in Places Traveling as the Uni of Life

Have fun, break a leg!

NEW ZEALAND | Friday, 4 April 2008 | Views [1395] | Comments [1]

Me on the St. Joseph

Me on the St. Joseph

Hiya! Wfej, time flies. I have been stationed in Christchurch, New Zealand for the last 3 weeks since Niek (my dad) broke his leg on the West Coast. Honestly, traveling around this country seems ages ago, but let me try to recapture it all and tell you all about how Niek rescued a kid from falling into a glacier, but broke his leg in the process.. (or maybe the real version of what happened :))

From Taupo on the Northern Island we moved to the East Coast town of Napier. This small town is somewhat of interest, because it is completely build in Art Deco style and nicely located at the ocean. Most of the New Zealand towns and cities we found pretty depressing so far, but Napier managed to entertain us for a couple of days. The weather was good and we basically spend our time just strolling down the boulevard and up into town. After those days we decided to drive down to Wellington to catch the ferry over to the Southern Island. In Wellington, which in my opinion is the nicest city of NZ, we were lucky to be in time for the International Arts Festival, which brought some more liveliness to the city and we visited several street performances. Next day we drove our van on the ferry and had an awesome journey across the ocean to the other island. The sky was perfectly clear and from a distance you could see the southern mountains arising from the horizon.

When we arrived on the Southern Island, we headed for Kaikoura on the East Coast. This place is known for its whale watching, since the coast inhabits several sperm whales all year round. The road up to this town was nicely along the shore and with the wind heavily blowing against our campervan it was an exciting ride. In Kaikoura we went the next day on a tour to spot whales. This tour turned out to be very well organized by some big company, which made it look like boarding a flight on an airport. The reason they could manage this was because of the frequency of the whales around, let alone the thousands of dolphins and rare birds in the area, making every trip worthwhile. So obviously we were able to spot a couple of sperm whales and later on a group of hundreds of dolphins, who swam along the boat. The sight was amazing and definitely worth the trip down there!

From here we wanted to go to the other coast and so we crossed the country within a days ride. During this trip along a well paved national road we decided to go to some random old gold mining village about 40k’s inland. After a couple of kilometers it became a really interesting gravel road, swirling up the steep mountain, which eventually brought us to the very, very quite and remote ruins of an old gold rush town. Really nice to walk around this place and to image how people had settled down and lived their lives here just a hundred years ago. On the way back downhill, I was pushing the limits of our top-heavy campervan a bit too much, which became a freaky near-death experience (sorry mom and dad). The van slighted into a ditch and made it slam into a dirt wall beside us. As a reaction I turned the wheel to get us out, but once we got out of the ditch we speeded towards the other side of the road, heading for a cliff drop down, that, being in a high vehicle without an engine in front of us, was looking us straight into the eyes. Luckily I could control the van in time to get it back on the road, but I had nightmares the days after from the horrible scream that my mom heartily put out. :)

Anyway, after mentally recovering from this side-trip we headed for Greymouth, which again was not a really interesting town. It was our base though to the Pancake Rocks up north and later that day down south to Hokitika, where we got our car fixed and made a long beach walk. Next day we headed for the glaciers in the Alps of New Zealand. These glaciers are pretty awesome, since the ice is coming down really low and they are surrounded by rain forest, which of course is a weird combo. We were blessed with beautiful weather, which gave us clear views upon the mountains from our campsite in St. Joseph. The following day was another beautiful one and we decided to do some hiking around St. Joseph glacier and later that day at Fox glacier. It was pretty cool because we could walk all the way up to the wall of ice, the end of the glacier. This wasn’t enough for us though and so we went on a heli-hike tour the next day. A helicopter flew us over the St. Joseph glacier and then landed on the ice about 3 kilometers up from were we stood the day before. Here we put on our crampons and walked for some hours along the magical blue glacier walls, where water disappeared in underground holes and cool shapes were created from the slowly moving ice (still about 3 to 5 meters a day!). 

This was not the moment that Niek broke his leg though, although it would have made more sense then what really happened the day after. From the town of Fox we drove down to Haast Beach, which is a town of nothing, but with really nice and quite beaches and I also needed to pick up a book that I had ordered online and that would be delivered to the local gas station, which was also the local supermarket, post office, car repair and pharmacy.. :) We found a quite campsite near the beach and after we parked the van, we got out to enjoy the beautiful day at the beach. A half hour walk through fields and dunes brought us to a lovely spot and just when I sat down to play the guitar, while Isolde was reading her book we heard Niek yelling for help. Somehow he fell down at the shore when a big wave came close to him, where he wanted to run away from. And somehow this fall had made his thighbone crack!

Immediately, I went out for help, while Isolde stayed with Niek. A big tattoo guy from the campsite reacted fast by contacting all the needed people by walky-talky (no mobile signal up there) and we drove down to the beach in his 4wd. After only 10 minutes a ambulance arrived and another 10 minutes later a doctor. We were really surprised by the expertise of the local people when it comes down to a situation like this.., well done! Two hours later a rescue helicopter landed at the courtyard of the primary school to bring Niek and Isolde to Greymouth hospital, which was the nearest hospital with x-ray equipment. I stayed behind with the campervan and all our stuff and drove until the evening fell, back to Fox. Next day Niek and Isolde had to fly to Christchurch hospital and so I followed them by car. A long but awesome ride though the Arthur’s Pass, another road that crosses the country from coast to coast, brought me to Christchurch were I settled down in a hostel with my mom, while Niek was waiting for an operation.. And waiting.., and waiting. After four (!) days of loads of arguing, there was finally a doctor available to help him..

Anyways, this thing obviously mixed up our plans to go further down south and it is now two weeks later then my mom and dad where originally planning to fly back home. We’re all still in Christchurch, but luckily Niek is recovering fast at the moment. He has to, because for a 24 hour flight back home he needs to be in an ‘alright’ condition. Besides visiting my dad I spend my days hanging in town or in one of many parks, writing songs, reading and playing frisbee. I met some nice local and international peeps to hang out with and it slightly does feel like living here. I also met up again with my friends from Holland, Bram and Gieselinde, who are now traveling up further north. I kind of have seen enough of New Zealand though. It surely is a beautiful country, but in our opinion the beauty is easily comparable with that of Europe, as is the diversity. Moreover we really missed the presence of an older culture.

However it was so cool to travel around with my folks and we had a great time. They heard today that they will be able to fly back home next Wednesday. Me on my turn am missing the sunshine, cheap food, non-western culture and fruit shakes; I’m flying to Samoa tomorrow! :)

Samoa I got recommended from some people I’ve met in the Philippines. It is a small tropical island north-west of Fiji (I think part of the Cook Islands). Basically it is in the middle of freaking nowhere and as far away from home as I could possibly get. Hell, I though, now I’m here, let’s take the opportunity to check this place out…

So, to be continued...

Love, Daan




Hi Daan,
A good read. I read your Koh Chang report. then looked at your NZ experience cos I live in Wellington.(you got similar impressions as when I went on a SI tour). Been here 14 years, emigrated from England.
I am off to Chiang Mai in 2 weeks to see if I like the idea of living there. I will re-open my blog for this trip. http://gedb66.blogspot.com
Keep well

  ged Brent Apr 11, 2009 6:03 AM



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