Last night Steve and I landed back in Melbourne after 11 days in Japan for sightseeing around the Rugby World Cup (COYBIG!) and while I have a lot to say about that (I promise, everyone who has asked for recommendations, I have heaps to provide!) I also haven’t even written about our last trip yet. And, well, it was kind of a big deal, so I don’t want to just let it pass by.
So here’s the story about my trip to Queensland with my now-fiancé:
What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done? Did you move to a new country? Go on a blind date? Quit your job? Jump out of a plane? As of last month, I can say I’ve done all of the above, thanks to my experience skydiving over the Remarkables mountain range in Queenstown.
I’ve always considered myself a relatively adventurous person. My living-in-four-countries-in-four-years (soon to be five-in-five) lifestyle bears that out, and I’ve never hesitated to try new things. Skydiving is something I’ve always wanted to try, and after hearing from so many people that Queenstown jumps have some of the best views in the world, it was firmly in my mind that when I went to Queenstown, I would skydive.
What I didn’t expect was that I wouldn’t be skydiving alone. I’m not referring to the tandem master, the skydiving pro who actually does most of the work—obviously I wouldn’t be jumping by myself—and I was pretty sure that I could convince Steve to give it a go. No, I was surprised that skydiving in Queenstown became a family event.
Remember how in the Oregon Trail computer game when you reached a river you were always given a choice to ford it or not, and you always chose to ford it thinking “Yeah, it’ll probably be okay, and it’s so much faster,” and then you and/or your oxen always drowned? That choose-your-own-fate decision screen was at the forefront on my mind on the first night of last week’s tramp in Abel Tasman National Park. I’ll write about my whole four-day hiking adventure later this week, because it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had here in New Zealand, but there was one moment on the trip that is worthy of its own post as the most terrifying experience I’ve had while travelling to date.
For the most part, the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, is a fairly relaxed hike, with well-defined paths and only a few hundred metres of elevation climb over it’s ~60km (we did about 50km due to our schedule and a slip that made the trail north of Anapai Bay inaccessible). However, there is one section that is far more than a leisurely walk in the park: the Awaroa inlet crossing.
Immediately to the north of Awaroa hut is a river mouth that can only be crossed two hours either side of low tide… unless you want to swim. I checked the tide tables for the day we were beginning our hike from Totaranui campsite, about 7km north of Awaroa, and believed that low tide was around 5pm, meaning we could cross sometime after 3pm. Unfortunately, I was informed by the water taxi operator who was transporting us from Marahau to the start of our tramp that I had actually misread the table; the low tide that day wasn’t until 9pm. No worries, we thought, we’d do a couple of side trails and when we reached the start of the crossing we could easily chill out for a few hours on the beach until it was time to cross.
At first, things went according to plan. We arrived in Totaranui and hiked north to Anapai beach. After returning to Totaranui and stopping for lunch, we continued on for two hours or so until we reached the Awaroa inlet shoreline around 4:30pm. When we arrived, we thoroughly understood why crossing before the allotted timeframe was not going to happen:
One year ago today, Steve and I left our apartment in Vancouver, moved into a 2003 Ford Windstar, and began the most amazing experience of my life so far. After we convinced the US border officer that yes, even though Steve was arriving with no job, no visa, no ties to his home country, all his belongings, and his American girlfriend, he really *would* be leaving on the flight to Ireland he had booked for 88 days in the future (a few days short of the 90-day maximum to account for any potential flight delays), we began our three-month road trip around the United States.
Now, I’ve talked plenty about this trip, here and to pretty much anyone who will listen, and I’ll probably continue to do so for the rest of my life. Mostly I’ll be sharing the highlights–the amazing moment when we saw the Grand Canyon for the first time, the beautiful sunset we watched from a BLM campsite on a hill in northern California, how surprisingly nice and clean truck stops actually are–with a few of the lows (how inevitable it is that you’ll fight on the road, for one). Today, with the benefit of a year’s hindsight, I’ve been thinking about a few things that I’d do differently if I ever had the chance to embark on such an amazing journey again (and since we’re planning to go on the road in New Zealand at some point, I’m hoping to get to use these tips in the future).
Picking the ideal copilots for an extended road trip is important. Whether it’s your partner or your BFFs, you want people with whom you can spend hours in a car without wanting to kill them. Choose the perfect travel companions and your trip will be an incredible bonding experience, full of amazing adventures and special time spent together. Well, 95% of the time it will be. The other 5% of the time you’ll be tired and hangry and whoever’s driving will have just made the fourth wrong turn of the day and you’ll be all-out shouting at each other over the hellfire-and-brimstone religious radio station you’re being forced to listen to because someone forgot to charge the phone with the music. That’s just how it is. But there are some important steps you can take to ensure that percentage stays at 5% and that you still all love each other when you reach your destination.
Get out of the car
On our road trip, we tried to limit our driving time each day to five or six hours, but some days we had to spend nine or more hours in the car and on those days we definitely got more antsy and more argumentative. Obviously the conditions of your road trip may dictate how long you have to drive each day—if you’re trying to make it across the country in a week as opposed to our 2+ months you’re going to be forced to have much longer days on the road—but even if you know you’re going to be driving 12 hours don’t be tempted to try to push through without pitstops. Even 15 minutes’ break outside the car to stretch and get some fresh air and explore a town or a nature area makes such a difference in everyone’s temperaments.
You may have noticed that my last post was the day after Election Day. Sometimes when we need our creativity the most is when it’s the hardest to find. Hoping to write more this summer.
Since the majority of my blog’s readers are either my friends or my mother’s coworkers, most of you probably already know that Steve and I spent March to June traveling across the United States from Vancouver to Philadelphia. Our zigzag route took us about nine thousand miles in a beat up ’03 Ford Windstar (RIP) and to amazing destinations both natural and metropolitan. We went hiking in the Grand Canyon, boozing on Bourbon Street, ate pretty much everything we could possibly eat (plus a lot of soup cooked on our camp stove), and more.
All along our trip, so many people told us that it was the trip of a lifetime (definitely) and that they would love to do something similar, so I decided to put together my top tips for a cross-country road trip.
Build a sleeping platform
Honestly, sleeping in a van isn’t as rough as it sounds. Sometimes the lack of ventilation makes the night overly hot and humid, but for the most part we were pretty comfortable. However, if you’re traveling for more than a few days and don’t want to spend all your money on motel rooms, a sleeping platform is a must. We took out the back two rows of seats and Steve built ours in an afternoon with a piece of plywood and a bunch of 2x2s. We were able to put almost all of our belongings underneath the platform and a super-cozy piece of foam with bedding on top. At least one road-tripping couple we encountered were sleeping on their seats and so every night they had to shuffle all their luggage around to make room—the last thing you want to do when you’ve been driving for nine hours and you’re completely exhausted.