SI9 Welcome to Stewart IslandOur time over this recent Christmas season had our noses pointing south to visit Stewart Island and The Catlins at the bottom of New Zealand, to have some time off the grid.

Having conversations with people the old fashioned way was enlightening.

We met two Americans individually who have both separately trekked the Appalachian Trail in the US.  Our plans for 2016 were to head there and step it out ourselves.  One American had just finished the Te Araroa Trail – a walking trail the length of New Zealand; the other was half way up the South Island doing it in reverse and taking some time out to show a fellow US mate Stewart Island.

Both fellas were walking ‘Lonely Planets’ on both the US and NZ trails; the conversations were motivating and exciting, it’s the raw emotional aspect that you don’t get from anything digital.   How to store food so you don’t get eaten by Bears, what to do during wild lightening storms so you don’t get a bolt up your arse, that Rattle Snakes are more scared of you than you should be of them if you don’t hear the rattle, and that getting medical attention for Tick bites so as not to contract Lymes Disease certainly had emotional grimaces we remember!

SI13Some of our best conversations have been when we have travelled and meeting like minded people in the flesh; this was just one of a number of them.

However, when they both asked, “Why aren’t you walking your own back yard first?”, we were speechless.  They had applied our very own reverse psychology questioning technique on us that we use on keeping others accountable for their own goals!  And they were right, why weren’t we?

We also met some trampers from Wellington at the first hut on the Rakiura Track.  With the weather tropical rain, we wanted to upgrade from the tent and thought we had secured a bed in the bunk room because of trekker no shows.  At 9.30pm after closing our eyes to dream, the renters of the spaces turned up and we had to relocate to sleeping on benches in the actual hut!  All was pleasant under the influence of head torches and warmth of the coal range fire flame.

It was over the boiling of the morning billy that we learnt that the late arrivals had three of them complete the Camino de Santiago walk in Spain during the year (we completed it in 2011).  The stained glass in the Cathedral in Leōn, the hundreds of flying swallows in Burgos, the river reflection in Molinaseca and the prairie of the Misetta made the mouth water for wanting to get back on it.  The fourth person of their party had trekked the Inca trail, another experience on our life list.

But the trekker among them whom through the kindness of his heart, donated one of his kidney’s to a total stranger on a hospital waiting list within the last couple of years, that was significantly sincere beyond anyone we have ever met before.  Such an ‘act of kindness’ for a fellow human to do boiled up an ‘eeeek’ grimace in-between looks of disbelief when we were trying to steal his bunk bed the evening before.

SI89Arriving back into Oban township and re-connecting again with our new found friends in the flesh, we celebrated the changing of the year watching the sparks from a beach bon fire drift up into the night sky.  We were grateful that we believed that we were at the right place at the right time.

Departing the island by air had us feeling energized.

Stewart Island was as much about seeing giant century old Rimu trees, rusting logging machine relics at rest amongst the regenerated fauna, whistling Tui’s and eating fresh blue cod fish n chips as it was as much about meeting new people.  The two Dept of Conservation volunteers in their 60’s from Dunedin at Port William Hut were as equally delightful to laugh with as they shared camp fire stories about the comings and goings of fellow trampers.  We could picture ourselves doing the same type of volunteer thing as our bodies become more weary!

SI21 Bridge crossingSI30SI52SI58SI60 The LoraxSI61 Everyone getting along

Buy the ticket – take the trip.

In the back of our minds still rang the question, “Why aren’t we walking our own back yard first?”

C14We toyed with this during our tiki tour of The Catlins where whispering beaches allowed us to swim with Hector Dolphins in the surf; or sit and observe Yellow Eyed Penguins prune and preen feathers on a petrified forest coast; or wander more native forest to waterfall spray, or hear seals bellow out squeals of chatter from a light house cliff top.  More campsite interactions with other people were had with those who also escaped the rat race to get on the conveyor belt and experience god’s own.  It cemented a change in our direction for 2016.

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Taking time off the grid to associate with life’s mentor’s who are out there doing it like we enjoy, was priceless.  From time to time, we too need these folk to keep us accountable to be doing what matters most.  And although we are talking about a big goal for us, for you it can be as big or small as you want it to be.   In upcoming blogs, we will give some tips on de-cluttering small talk so as to become a better conversationalist.

You don’t have to travel far for that.

Or perhaps come and join us later in 2016 as we step out the 3000 odd kms of our own country – the Te Araroa Trail, to experience it first-hand.

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