Bali - Week 1

Have I mentioned that I love my job? Because I do. I really do.

I'm currently writing this from a poolside banana lounge, sipping from an oversized bottle of Bin Tang - and contemplating how much longer I can sit here roasting in the sun before jumping into the water (I give it 10 minutes).

Both Steve and I were flown out here earlier in the week to photograph & film the wedding of our now good friends, Sam + Thoren. We arrived Monday afternoon, and were watching them say their I-Do's by Wednesday.

With the wedding wrapped up, Steve flew back home on Thursday night - and I've stayed on for another week to recharge the batteries a bit.

"But Kyle" I hear you say. "Weren't you in New Zealand recharging your batteries only a few months ago?". Well, yes. It's a different kind of recharging though, I swear! In New Zealand I was constantly moving around, with very little downtime in between adventures. This holiday? Well, the majority of my adventures have revolved around deciding what to read by the pool for the day.

That's not to say I've stopped taking photos though. Yesterday I quickly popped down to Kuta beach to have a bit of a poke around.

A quick photography tidbit for those following along. For obvious reasons, I shot the wedding on Wednesday with my professional gear (two 5D's, and a bunch of Canon primes). For the remainder of the trip though, I'm switching exclusively to the XT1 to put it through it's paces. So far so good, just have a look at the tones it's picking up in the images above! There's something really silky about them, I love it.

Anyway, it's been 10 minutes - and I'm ready to jump into that pool. I'll be posting more later in the week, I'm planning to head up to Ubud at some point and visit the rice paddies again, so there should be some good photos from that!

New Zealand: A Retrospective

I’m currently writing this post from a modestly sized hotel room in the outermost suburbs of Christchurch. Outside my door I can hear a constant stream of traffic, and planes landing at the airport down the road like clockwork. Inside my well heated room is a fully equipped kitchen, a television, a shower and a toilet. The centre of the room is completely taken up by not one, but two large beds. I shouldn’t feel so far out of place here, but I do.

This is day thirty-one in New Zealand. My month of travelling has taken me 5,000km around the country, with another 265km of walking in between. I’ve lost enough weight now that my pants no longer fit, my mind feels sharper than it ever has - and for the first time in my life I have enough fuzz on my face that in the right lighting, could almost be mistaken for a beard.

This trip has changed me inside and out.

It can be said that at times I’m prone to hyperbole, and that a month away isn’t really all that long in the grand scheme of things. I beg to differ though. I would almost consider a month away the perfect amount of time for what I’m calling “a hard reset”. It provides an opportunity to look back at the life you’ve put on pause, and pick out points that you’re able to refine or completely change. I would also say that spending the majority of my time in New Zealand alone has allowed me to reflect without the influence of others. I often find that at times, my entire personality can change based on who I’m around, or where I am - so it’s been interesting to experience a completely unadulterated version of myself for the first time.

I would say this though - whilst there are absolutely benefits to travelling alone, every non reflective experience I had in New Zealand would have been far better spent in company. To be able to turn to someone and say “holy shit - look at that!” is completely different from counting likes on Instagram & Facebook. Friends would have noticed I was far more active online than I ever am back home. I would say that beyond being a show off (yes, I have an enormous ego that needs feeding), this was also my way of sharing these experiences with anyone that would join me - if only for a few seconds of their day.

So with the mushy, self indulgent nonsense now out of my system - I wanted to sign off on the New Zealand blog with a collection of some of my favourite moments/photos of the trip. I also wanted to thank every single one of you for keeping me company this whole time! I’ve loved the messages, the feedback, and just knowing that all across the world there’s people taking time out of their day to read about my silly little adventures. It really means a lot to me. So until the next trip (which of course I’m already starting to plan), thank you again for reading!

Day 29 - Kaikoura to Christchurch

It took a month, but I finally made it to Christchurch; the final stop on my road trip.

The drive to get here was probably the most nerve-wracking I've had so far. Not so much for the roads themselves, but for the damn wind! 60km gusts kept me on my toes the entire time, with random bursts threatening to send me either off the road, or into oncoming traffic. Eventually though, I did make it into town - where I've set up at the Christchurch Top 10 Holiday Park for my last night with Gerty.

Getting here just after midday meant that I had a few hours to go and check out the city. I've heard mixed things about Christchurch. My family were convinced that what they saw of it was beautiful. On the other hand though, every Kiwi I've spoken to has said it's not worth visiting.

I'll meet them in the middle. Some parts of Christchurch are lovely - but in general, it's kind of awful. I feel incredibly guilty writing that too, because I know it's not their fault the city's in the state it's in. I'd have thought that in the six years since the earthquake, there would be significant signs of a city on the mend - but everywhere you turn is another construction site. The main cathedral is still in tatters, and the whole place seems completely deserted. It's surreal to walk around the CBD and be one of only ten people on the block.

It's a shame, because under the surface you can see what Christchurch used to be, and what it one day will be again. For now though, it's a complete mess.

I look forward to coming back to Christchurch in the future, and exploring the city properly once it's rebuilt. For now though, my last few days here will be spent wrapping up the trip and preparing to head home. Most of tomorrow will be spent cleaning out Gerty before returning her. From there, it's off to a hotel near the airport where I'll spend the next couple of nights resting myself up before my flight on Saturday morning. This isn't the end of the blog though, there's still a few more posts to wrap everything up, so be sure to check back!

Day 28 - Kaikoura

Today was a day of lasts. It's never easy wrapping up a trip, especially one quite like this - but I wanted to do it right. So today I wandered down the main street, enjoyed a proper breakfast and went out to hike my last mountain.

I didn't have one in mind - just drive in the direction of the Kaikoura Range and see where I wound up. As it turns out, I ended up at Mount Fyffe - a 1.6km tall mountain that would give me excellent views of the surrounding range. Unfortunately my ankle has been a bit rough the last few days, so I knew I wasn't going to be able to make the entire climb (and if I did - I'd be in a bad way by the end of it!). To avoid hurting the ankle any further, I set myself the limit of climbing "until my first water bottle is empty".

I ended up running short at about the 90 minute mark - which put me at this lookout point.

This was probably as good as I was going to get for the day, so I sat down, put away the cameras and finished off my bottle. Not a bad way to spend a morning!

Next up was my other last for the day - bush bashing with Gerty! We've done a few off road rampages in our month together (some, we maybe shouldn't have), so it seemed right to wrap up our adventures here in Kaikoura. Why here? Because it's an earthquake zone, and I want to see the north! The main road might be closed, but the oft avoided dirt road that runs parallel with it sure as shit isn't!

Eventually though, Gerty took me as far up the road as she could. We came to a river that was going to be too tricky to cross. The bridge would only hold 1,500kg (Gerty is just shy of 2,000kg), and the ford was too deep to cross.

So with our final point reached, I pulled off to the side of the road - got some pictures and enjoyed one more lunch in the middle of nowhere.

Tomorrow, it's back down south in the direction of Christchurch. I'm not sure yet if I'll be staying in the city, or somewhere along the way - we'll just have to see what happens!

Day 27 - Reefton to Kaikoura

With yesterday evenings cash scare, I was pretty keen to put as much distance between Reefton and myself as possible. With a coffee & croissant under my belt, by 9am I was ready to roll.

Today I would be travelling to Kaikoura by way of the Lewis Pass. In my gut I was regretting not taking Arthurs Pass, as I wanted to see snowy mountains one more time before leaving New Zealand. Ultimately it was the weathers decision though, and with Arthurs Pass expected to be slammed with heavy rain, winds and snow - it looked like the decision was made for me. That's not to say I wasn't looking forward to the Lewis Pass, but by all accounts it was definitely the lesser regarded of the two.

The first hour of the drive, while quite nice - all looked a lot like this.

Then quite suddenly, the forest disappeared and I knew that I'd made the right decision to drive the Lewis Pass today.

The rest of the drive was equally as magnificent. I'd still rate Arthurs Pass better as far as views are concerned - but this one definitely isn't far behind it!

I'd have loved to have taken photos of the drive into Kaikoura, but unfortunately after an earthquake earlier in the year - there's quite literally no where to pull over. I've never seen earthquake damage before, and seeing this definitely puts into perspective just how powerful they can be. Some sections of the road still have large seams running through them. Others are completely split in half, with one side raised several meters above the other. I've never seen anything like it. If you look out into the bay, you can even see a large field of rocks that weren't there several months ago. The earthquake literally raised them out of the sea.

I'd originally planned to visit Kaikoura on my first day in the South Island. However, the road leading into town from the north is still completely ruined, meaning the only way in is the one I took today. It's crazy to think that just one road completely changed how I toured the South Island. I'm glad I came back, but from what I've heard today - not too many people do (the road supposedly isn't expected to be fixed until December, too!).

On a more positive note though, once I'd booked my accommodation for the next couple of nights; it was time to go and hang out with some of the locals.

As soon as I can figure out how to hide one of these guys in a boogie board bag, I'm bringing it home! Although one of them did bark at me, causing me to fall ankle deep into what I can only guess was their toilet (boots are currently airing out on the roof - I was nearly gagging with them in the van!). Maybe I won't bring that bastard back.

The rest of the evening was spent enjoying the sunset, and indulging in some incredibly fresh fish & chips.