With my sister in from Canada and a month of adventures ahead of us, Luke, Jenn and I loaded up our little Camry and headed out to explore the South Island. We began with a very rough idea of where we were headed, a tent, sleeping bags and Jenn's massive suitcase in the trunk, grabbed a few maps and set out exploring. 

Photo Diary & Highlights Thus Far...

North Island to South Island Ferry from Wellington to Picton
Taking in the beautiful South Island scenery from the 3.5 hour ferry journey
Throughout Jenn's journey, she has come across many interesting ways that her life has been/could be threatened in New Zealand. She has begun to compile a list, cleverly named: "Ways to die in New Zealand". Among the first few are: 
being attacked and run over by a baby bull
3rd degree sunburns from the hole in the ozone layer
falling off a cliff while trying to walk uphill like a sheep
Camping in Nelson
There was a beautiful creek beside our campsite and we spent an entire day basking in sun with our feet in the water!
Jenn has learned that her idea of camping and our idea of camping are just a wee bit different... her main issue, not having protection from the bugs that attack her every night. Her current bug bite count is far too high to share. Way #4 to die in New Zealand: 
excessive bug bites, perhaps contaminating her with Malaria
Caving in Takaka
We make caving helmets look good... right?
Jenn learning about marble stone and sink holes
It was here that Jenn learned that there are Moa (extinct NZ bird) bones found deep beneath the ground floor in dark caves. These Moa's were believed to fall into large holes in the ground, tumbling to their death in the deep, dark caves. Once out of the cave, the many "sink holes" were pointed out to us across the land, each one with the threat of death by falling into it and disappearing forever. Way #5 to die in New Zealand:
Death by falling into a sink hole
Beaching in Kaiteriteri
Having a little jumping photo fun to showcase the beautiful golden sand beaches of Kaiteriteri. This beach was literally across the street from our cabin.
Way #6 to die in New Zealand:
deciding to be brave and do a bungy jump, only to have the rope break and end up in a pit of crocodiles. 
Tramping in Abel Tasman National Park
The tramping in Abel Tasman was just beautiful! A well-groomed trail that can take up to 3-5 days to complete, or a few hours to walk out and walk back. There were hills and valleys and beautiful views of bays like this one.
Jenn showcasing the 3hour50minute walk we had ahead of us... she was in flipflops and Luke was barefoot... needless to say, we did not make it to Anchorage!!
Way #7 to die in New Zealand:
Attempting to do a 3hour50minute hike along the Abel Tasman National Park with no food, no water, sunset fast approaching and wearing only flipflops
Swing Bridging in Buller Gorge
Walking across the massive swing bridge in Buller Gorge - Jenn was surprisingly terrified...Luke and I had fun with that one.
Jenn showcasing the intense chill in the air as we walked through the faultline rupture from an earthquake in 1929. The earth was thrust 4.5 metres into the air along the faultline.
Way #8 & #9 to die in New Zealand:
falling into the river when the swing bridge collapses
getting stuck in the ruptured fault line
... to be continued
I have been living in the mount for over four months now, and since the very beginning I have been saying, constantly, that I want to hike up the mountain to see the sunrise. I asked friends to join me... but that involves coordinating schedules and everyone waking up to their alarms... so that one never prevailed. I asked Luke if he would go with me, and being the loving and supportive man that he is, of course he said, "mayyyyyybe", but it would be up to me to push us to actually do it, and somehow, that task seemed too challenging. I considered just going on my own, but... that takes a bit of self-motivation, discipline, and well... sounded a little lonely. And thus, over four months passed with no early morning sunrise hikes to speak of. 

Finally I decided that enough was enough. Everyone knows how annoying it is to hear someone talk about something over and over and oooover again, without actually taking any action. I realized that I was doing this, and I was beginning to annoy myself. So... I did it! Alone! Go me!

Last night I did as I always do when preparing for an early morning, I set out my "morning hike" clothes in a little accessible pile, I put my necessary items in a pack - cellphone, camera, keys, flashlight, tiny piece of candy :o) - and I set my alarm for a bright and early morning. Well, I guess dark and early for me! 

When my alarm went off this morning, I was awake and ready for my solo adventure. Bring on the brilliant photos and self-reflecting moments! I got dressed, grabbed my pack, made a thermos of green tea and honey and was on my way. It is Spring time here, not yet summer, so when I felt a few rain drops lightly dropping down on me as I began to ascend, I wasn't too bothered. Especially when I looked up and genuinely could not see any clouds that the drops were coming from. Hmm...
The dark morning sky as I began my hike up the mount
I began my hike up, feeling the burn in my thighs and feeling proud of myself for getting up early, being active, and doing it all with my own solo motivation! As I wandered my way up, slowly taking off layer after layer, letting my thoughts float around wherever they wanted to go, I considered the thought that the rain drops seemed to be getting just the tiniest bit heavier... but I pushed the thought of my mind. 
part way up the mount - the sky is getting lighter
As I huffed and puffed and pushed myself further and further up the climb, rounding the corner closest to the top, feeling very triumphant as I was al...most...there... 
Thunder. Lightening. Downpour of rain. Oh...My...God...
The thunder really shocked me to my core, as I was really not expecting it at all. And the lightening - terrified me! Being up on a mountain, it just seemed so much closer. I genuinely squealed, jumped, turned around and just RAN! 
As I was running, a little common sense popped into my head and reasoned that maybe running down a slippery, wet mountain side was not the best use of my time, and I slowed down to a quick walk. I passed a few people heading up as I was heading down and noticed that they were all clearly prepared for this storm. They were wearing hats and rain jackets and all looked quite happy and content as they huffed and puffed. Me, I was wearing a fleecy sweater, not so water-proof vest and a headband. Woohoo not being prepared! As I continued with my quick-paced descent, leaving the slightly protected and covered tree area of the trail and entering the clearing part, the skies simply emptied. It felt as though a massive bucket of water was being dropped directly onto my head. There was so much rain that I could barely see as it was flooding my eyelashes and dripping down my entire face. 

With many of the steps on the trail, they are gravel as well as a bit of wood. Well... wood sure gets slippery when its wet. Just as I was going down a particularly long and steep set of steps, I glanced up to see a couple of hikers coming my way. Just as I glanced up, I slipped on the wet wood and BAM - CRASH down I go. Onto my butt. On the wet steps. In front of lovely strangers. *sigh* I was convinced they knew how scared I was and how I desperately wanted to be running down, but clearly I do not possess the graceful footing required for that sort of feat. 
resembling a drowned rat while I looked down on the storm-filled beach
Then, as luck would have it, just as I got down to the very lowest part of the mountain, into a big open clearing, the rain began to dissipate. Optimistically, I glanced back up the mountain and for a split second thought "should I..." then quickly brought my awareness back to the slish-slosh of my wet socks in shoes and how my headband was pasted to my head, turned around and carried on down.  My home is only a few minutes walk from the base of mount, but of course, as soon as I stepped off the hill and onto pavement, the skies unleashed their worst yet! Again I couldn't see as the rain was so heavy and dripping into my eyes. When I glanced down I could see the rain bouncing off the pavement, jumping back up to the sky. If I attempted a look ahead, I could see the wind sweeping the rain all the way down the road before it even hit the ground, somewhat resembling ghosts flying through the semi-dark streets. The wind was whipping my stringy, wet pony tail into my face, a very unpleasant feeling.  And all I could hear apart from the hiss of the wind was the slish-slosh-slish-slosh of my soaking wet feet, reminding me of many rainy soccer practices I had as a kid.
All in all, after I arrived home, warmed up in the shower and had a nice think about the situation I was just in, I had a wonderful morning. Perhaps it was not the morning I had planned for myself, but it made me laugh and feel good just the same! And now I am enjoying my thermos of tea and honey while cozy on the couch, looking out my window and noticing that the sun has finally made its way out. 

Sweet Dea