“Aren’t you hiding from reality?”, I have been asked repeatedly in the past concerning the sheer number of trips I take. Most of the time, this question has just annoyed me. Today however, dear readers, I would really rather hide from reality. Too much has happened in the past few days, the reality of a “journey” I had never wanted to undertake weighing me down. Well, this is exactly why I am now taking you on another trip, celebrating life and its wonderful diversity.
And which country is better suited to daydream away and “hide from reality”, than magic Aotearoa New Zealand?
You see. My collection of travel articles about the most beautiful side of down under has already served to inspire you a couple of times, from my initial work & travel experiences with the Kiwis to my very first creative travel opportunities. Today, I would like to tell you about swimming with dolphins in a place called Kaikoura, the beautiful city of Christchurch (ahead of its devastating earthquake) as well as a trip with my first hitchhikers (yes!). Let’s have a look here.
The Maori, too, know about the riches of this place. “Kai” means food and “koura” crayfish. Our travellers’ table is set: A unique feast of both nature and culture!
Arriving at the small town of Kaikoura for the very first time, I combine my visit to this coastal landscape with a “Maori Tour Kaikoura“, managed and led by charming Maurice and Heather Manawatu. For more than ten years, they have been offering real, authentic cultural experiences of the Ngai Tahu tribe on New Zealand’s South Island. We learn how to do a Hongi, taste medicinal tea plants in the native New Zealand forest, learn to appreciate holy trees, respect and appreciate the “mana” (status, worth) of each living being and are even invited to our hosts’ house after the three-hour tour. A very special and intimate cultural encounter it is: Thank you, dear Maurice dear Heather, for this memorable visit and introduction to Maori culture with you!
About two hours south of Kaikoura and after a rather magic road trip along the East Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, you will reach the famous city of Christchurch. Famous in many ways, Christchurch offers a unique art scene with many artists living here and some of them offering creative workshops and travel experiences for visitors such as silver jewellery, bone or jade carving. The city is home to many sailing experts and championships and also has a lot to offer culturally and historically (even if this means just over one hundred years old). “My” dear Kiwi family Simon, Alison, Katie & Max Rutherford live there! Unfortunately, Christchurch has also risen to fame “thanks” to its devastating earthquake of 2011. My pictures still show you images from the city before it all happened.
“Travelling from East to West: Want to join me and share the ride?” My first road trip including hitchhikers: Exciting!
“Isn’t it dangerous just to pick up anyone in your car?!” This, too, a question asked a thousand times, but let’s face it: I NEVER EVER had any troubles on my trips and was always well rewarded for meeting amazing people on the way. “They can steal your handbag and break into your car in Vienna”, is what I come to reply. And: I take care to have at least some basic exchange with the people I offer to host or take with me, just as I do with Couchsurfing. At the youth hostel in Christchurch, I post my travel plans to the local noticeboard adding time and date – still completely offline, and yes it (also) works! Maddie, my first hitchhiker is still connected to me on Facebook today. And Hélène from France? I last visited her at Paris’ International Creative Tourism Network conference well over a year ago.
To be honest: The trip from Christchurch via Arthur’s Pass to New Zealand’s West Coast is really absolutely and astoundingly beautiful. Much too beautiful to be taken on your own. Sometimes, you see, it is true what they say: Happiness is only truly lived when shared.