Christmas Vacation Plans

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So the semester is officially finished here down under, the summer is about to begin (although with the weather this week I can’t imagine how it’ll get hotter…) and I’m getting ready to start my three and a half month holiday – here are the deets…

 

It’s a long time three and a half months, the reason for such a long vacation is that it is the end of the academic year here in Australia so it is their main, summer break. That means a lot of time for traveling. Some of my friends are venturing out to Asia, but most are doing a trip around the well known east coast, exploring places like the Whitsundays, Great Barrier Reef, Fraser Island as well as cities such as Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. There are a lot of choices, but I’ve decided to spend just over 2 months in New Zealand by myself. I’m coming back to Perth just in time to see James Bay in concert, and then the next day my mum and sister (shout out to you two legends) are coming to visit, which I am super excited for, and I have two weeks to show them the best that Perth and Western Australia has to offer. I’m spending a couple nights in both Melbourne and Sydney on my way to and from New Zealand, so I have a bit of a chance to see these cities. I then have two weeks to spare before semester restarts, when I might go on a spontaneous trip.

New Zealand has always been a country I’ve been eager to visit. The allure of visiting the furthest country from the UK is appealing, and the thousands of magical pictures from the land of the Kiwis that have graced my computer screen have only helped. So for the 2 and a bit months in New Zealand, here is the plan: I have none. Well, sort of. I know that I am going to be flying into Christchurch in a couple of days, and I’ll be flying back to Perth (from some airport in New Zealand) at the end of January. That’s about it.

 

How am I getting around? I’m going to be hitchhiking around the south island, and depending how much I like the south I’ll either stay there longer or hitchhike to the north island. Why on earth am I hitchhiking, you may ask? A few reasons: a) It’s pretty crazy b) why not, and c) because you’re allowed.

Ok, some more tangible reasons:

1) It gives me an opportunity to discover places that are ‘off the beaten track’.

I’ve had a look at other ways of exploring the country, and most people decide on taking one of the tours that stop off at predetermined destinations. I have a lot more time in this country than the time the tour will take, and I don’t like being moved along on a tourist conveyer belt, seeing places that everyone else sees and experiencing things they just put on for tourists. I want to try and experience the country, rather than just seeing it, as this is something I’ve learned from living in Perth. You could also take the coach that goes around the country, and I’ll use this as a back-up emergency if hitchhiking proves to be a terrible idea. I also won’t have signal/internet to book these buses, but more on that later. Hitchhiking will allow me to go outside of these bus routes.

2) It’ll be a fricking cool experience (hopefully)

Rather than just speaking to tourists and tour guides, I could have some great conversations with locals, who might show and tell me about cool places to go that not many people see. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I will have some stories to tell from people who picked me up (and it’ll be interesting to hear why they did), and getting to know about their life in New Zealand a little. I met this awesome dude at Wedge Island (read my Top 5 beaches blog) who ended up telling me his life story, which was actually pretty interesting (in short – born in New Zealand, lived in a campervan in Europe for 10 years, worked on the oil rigs in the North Sea, became an alcoholic, got divorced, retreated to live in the shacks at Wedge Island isolating himself from the outside world). Apparently he’s now my friend – I have permission to stay in his spare shack on Wedge Island whenever I want, which is pretty handy. What I learned from this was to get to know people, everyone has a cool story (just look at Humans of New York), and human beings are actually nice people. So yeah, that’s that. It’ll also be full of ups and downs, waiting for hitchhikes and then getting one, so that’ll be a fun rollercoaster and build my character (how gap-yah does that sound). I did Jailbreak during my first year, where you have to hitchhike as far as possible from Durham in 36 hours, so I have a little hitchhiking experience, and I remember how much fun it was.

3) It’s freeeeeee

Obviously, I won’t be paying for transport, so that’s always a plus. I’ll use the money I save for future travels. Also, I have so much time in New Zealand, that taking an hour or so waiting for a ride won’t be that much of an issue. It’s also a safe country to do it in, and apparently New Zealand is one of the best places to hitchhike, people are so friendly yippeeeeee.

 

Where am I going to stay?

No idea. Well, then again, I sort of do. I’m going to bring my tent and sleeping bag, so this is where I’ll be sleeping nearly all of the time. I’ll camp wherever I can find, be it next to the side of a lake, on top of a mountain, or on the beach. Aside from being free (or a few dollars at campsites), this allows me to wake up in time for the sunrise, and be in a good location to take some photos. It’ll also allow me to do some more star photography. I have no idea where I’m going to be for Christmas Day, or New Years Eve – I could be anywhere from sleeping at Mount Cook, to kayaking in the fjords.

 

What’s in the bag?

So here is what I am living with for over two months, in my 65 litre backpack.

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1) A tent – because I need shelter

2) My awesome sleeping bag and sleeping mat – because it gets cold at night

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3) Headtorch – because I need to see at night

4) One fleece, three polyester t-shirts, two woolen socks, two sports socks, four underwear, one tracksuit, one swimsuit, one hat, trainers, flip flops, one coat, one microfiber travel towel – because I need clothes

5) Sunscreen & Insect Repellent – because I need to armour myself from nature

6) Two big balls

7) Water Bottles – because you can’t survive without water

8) Chargers and phone – To charge my camera equipment, shaver, phone for emergencies

9) Shaver – because I think I’m more likely to get picked up without a massive beard that makes me look homeless

10) Book and Notepad – because it’s my favourite book of all time and I can read it whenever, and my notepad which I can write some thoughts and my blogs to type up later. I also might start writing a book that I have had plans for. There’s also other nerdy stuff for photography like times of sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset, moon phases, shutter speed conversion charts, a sketch of New Zealand and places I need to go.

11) A map of New Zealand – because I need to get around

12) First aid kit, survival kit – because I might get hurt

13) Neccessities (toothbrush, toothpaste, contact lenses, glasses, deodorant, soap) – to keep a bit of dignity

14) Stove, spork, bowl and food – because I need to eat

15) Passport, wallet, debit card, New Zealand money, driving license, student card,

15) Camera Equipment – Nikon D750, Nikon 24-120 f4 lens, Tokina 16-28 f2.8 lens, Manfrotto befree travel tripod, four batteries, 8 memory cards, and filters, for you photo geeks out there. Hopefully I won’t need to charge the batteries too often as I have enough, and I can’t transfer photos so I am carrying a few memory cards. The first lens is my multi-purpose lens, and the latter I’ll be using for more vast landscapes and star photography. The tripod is sturdy, lightweight, but most importantly compact.

 

I’ve decided on going to New Zealand as, after the events of this semester, it will give me a chance to spend some good time by myself, and where better than in the most beautiful country on earth. It’ll also give me an incredible opportunity to take some good photos, something I really enjoy. I’ll also save a lot of money doing this trip ‘rough’ – after next semester I have quite an adventurous holiday planned if things work out. And it will allow me to just get back to basics – living in a tent I won’t be able to charge my phone, go on social media (advanced apologies for not writing in this blog for a bit!), or be distracted by other stuff. How zen. But hopefully I can find a shower somewhere, otherwise I’m not sure whether I’ll manage to get a hitchhike.

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