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South Island Insights

By: Camey VanSant

By Charlie J

Over the course of a month I traveled through New Zealand’s South Island exploring everything from coasts to glaciers.  The geographical diversity of the South Island is both remarkable and frustrating. With a plethora of golden beaches and snow-covered mountains, there will never be enough time to see it all. 

For the first week of my trip I traveled down the east side of the island, going between the largest cities and visiting the incredible rocky coastline that stretches from the top to the bottom of the island. While there, I saw many dolphins frolic, an octopus dance, seals attack tourists and penguins be penguins. I spent many hours hiking between herds of sheep, traversing over green rolling hills to massive white limestone cliffs with spectacular rock formations. The sound of waves bombarding the cliffs with foam shooting dozens of feet into the air is a memory I’ll have forever. 

I left the bluffs and went inland, where I quickly remembered the love I have for the mountains. I spent two days hiking the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks,” and one of the most consistently beautiful hikes I’ve done (if only photos could do it justice). Those two days walking long hours through dramatic landscapes reminded me of the things I care about, and gave me time to think about how I could keep my priorities straight. 

After the Routeburn I continued on to Milford Sound, where both the beauty and the tour buses were overwhelming. 

The combined effect of Milford’s crowds and the Routeburn’s serenity compelled me to scrap my plans for the rest of my South Island trip and rethink my choices. I realized that no matter how much time and care you put into making a plan, sometimes they need to change, and oftentimes it’s for the better. The few days that followed were full of stress and cups of coffee as I attempted to re-plan the following weeks.

I ran away to the mountains. Leaving cities behind I spent the next two weeks trekking countless miles looking for wildness. 

A number of times my plans changed, summit attempts were failed, my car rebelled, and I never truly found the wilderness. I did find some absolutely amazing places, empty trails, beautiful cirques, enchanted forests, and glacial valleys. I’m so glad that I changed my plans when I did. As I move on to Japan I will try my best to balance my time between the crowds and nature. 

Exploring new places and cultures can be overwhelming, especially when everything is up to you. Making plans, meeting new people, lacking a routine, are all challenges that you face everyday. Even tasks as simple as finding out what food to eat and where to sleep can be difficult on a tight budget. With so much going on it is easy to lose sight of your goals and forget your priorities. 

As I grow older and the chaos of the world becomes ever more evident, it is vital to remain focused on what’s important. I hope to bring that mindset with me as I go on to college and beyond. 

On to what’s important, the photos:

Dusk, Pinnacles hut
Volcanoes, Tongariro Crossing
Conical Hill, Routeburn
Sefton Bivvy, Mount Cook
Fresh snow, Mount Aspiring
Cold Water, Catlins
Categories: Charlie J