Last weekend’s Tramping Club hike took us to Port Robinson, about an hour north of Christchurch along the coast. The walk was relatively easy, even if it was a bit slow going. The beginning of the walk was along the shore, which found us picking our way over a bolder filled beach – a perfect environment to seriously roll an ankle or two. So we took it slow, checking out tide pools and picking up seashells along the way.
We worked kind of late today, even by our standards. Walt came over to my desk around 7:30 to check in; we each had a bit more work to do, but were getting kind of hungry.
“How about I order some Indian takeaway and we pick it up on our way home?” I suggested. He agreed, so I placed the order. Twenty minutes later we packed up our stuff and left our co-working space.
The sun was sinking lower in the sky, throwing long shadows at us we chatted, idly peddling our way toward the Indian restaurant a few blocks away. Stopping at red light, we were catching up on our respective days at work when a cop car pulled up sharply and rolled down his window.
With plans for this trip slowly solidifying Christmas of 2015, my family rallied together to give me a gift that has become one of the best things I brought on this journey: my camera. Knowing full well how much I’d love to document this journey with tool well fit for the job, Walt asked me to put together a list of what exactly I wanted in a camera so he, my mom, sister and grandparents could pool together to help me make the leap into digital photography. I am so grateful for this gift they gave me and I really don’t think I would have approached documenting this journey in the same way without it.
But this fantastic little Lumix is just a tool, not a magic wand. And any photogs in the world will tell you, fancy cameras don’t take beautiful pictures on their own. Aspiring photographers have to learn the hardware, composition and editing techniques; it takes practice and it takes time.
I’ve always really admired bike commuters but I’ve never seriously considered becoming one myself. Growing up in Boise, Idaho the vast distance between places prompted me to grow up with the notion that driving is a necessity. Moving to more urban dense areas like Portland and Seattle made biking feel like a more viable transportation option, but I always came up with excuses to avoid it: “I have too much stuff to carry on a bike”… “My commute is long already, I don’t want to add time”… “Oh would you look at that, its drizzling outside, can’t ride my bike in this!”
I always felt that biking was challenging, driving is easy. And yes, I know how that sounds. Which is exactly why I was in equal parts looking forward to and quietly dreading this year without my beloved Subi, Ruby. So far on our trip I’m doing well with my driving abstinence: this is the longest time I have gone without driving a car since I got my license at 16.
Upon moving to Christchurch, the blissfully level city with blocks that, on foot at least, seem to stretch for miles, Walt and I acquired a pair of bicycles. And without fully realizing what I was doing, I have become true-blue bike commuters.
My undergraduate college prides itself in it’s study abroad programs. Each trip is completely unique and crafted toward the goals of it’s respective program. What set our New Zealand study abroad apart from the others was the amount of time we spent in the field surrounded by our lesson. We studied things like bio-geography and instead of sitting in a classroom in Wellington, we hopped on a boat and trucked over to volcanic islands to discuss tectonic movements and marine geothermal activity. We climbed into invasive pine forests and talked about the resulting strain on the indigenous ecosystems with workers from the Department of Conservation. And we sailed to the Sub-Antarctic Islands with a research vessel filled with botanists to learn about how the flora of New Zealand has evolved to adapt to the extreme living conditions of the Southern Ocean.
That semester was a riot. And being back here, I find that I’ve retained a surprisingly resounding portion of our lessons here – far more than I recall from my studies in classrooms back in Portland (that’s what you get when you don’t use your science degree on a day to day basis, right? Sheesh).
And because I had regaled such adventurous stories of the New Zealand wilds to Walt, the Eagle Scout from Montana put it on the top of our list of places to see on our trip. He wanted to see the Southern Alps, swim in braided rivers and sea kayak in turquoise waters too!
Ok, so remember how not four days ago I talked about how I was so glad we chose Christchurch for our home base in New Zealand? I think I may have jumped the gun.
Before arriving in Christchurch, I knew things were going to be very different from when I visited last with my family in 2009. My memories of that visit were of picturesque Victorian gardens, eating in the courtyard of English style pubs and walking down the Avon River. Yeah, I think the only way a city could be more British is if that little creek you call the ‘Avon River’ was a current of Earl Grey instead of water. The city was prim and proper, and was set far apart from the culture of the rest of the country because of it. I figured when the Kiwis we’ve met questioned why we stationed our visit to New Zealand here it was because of this quality: why choose a city that’s more conservative, more stuffy and very English feeling when you could stay in a place that better reflected New Zealand?
After being here for the past few days, though I think I misunderstood why they questioned our decision.