Spring Break, otherwise known as Fall break for us here in New Zealand was just two weeks ago, and I’m finally catching up.
Ruthie, a fellow friend here, made it her goal to teach everyone at CCSP New Zealand to do a handstand by the time flying out of this country comes around. Luckily, being a long-ago cheerleader, I get along with handstands just fine. However, the other two traveling with us on Spring Break were successfully taught by the one and only Ruthie Sutherland. Naturally, there is a clear exhilaration associated with the feeling of standing on your hands. And conclusively, our trip was made up of handstands anywhere and everywhere. We tasted God in the act of performing them in the center of the mountains.
Handstands at: Tekapo Lake, on the Routeburn Track, in Milford Sound, Dunedin, Wellington, and obviously at almost every roadside stop. This is where we traveled: the southern portion of the South Island.
At Tekapo we climbed around a ridge to see the sun shine through the corner of the mountains. As we returned, we engaged in a sort of horse manure fight, leading to rivalry, laughter, and residue. Much to our surprise, we arrived back at our tents to discover that another group from the Convent had set up camp right next to us. We grabbed our leftovers for dinner and ran to the top of the hill to eat with them. We explored, did some tim-tam slams in handstands, and flew a kite on the beach that night. The next morning, we said goodbye to the other five, not fully knowing how many times we had yet to see them on the road.
In Wellington, we ate at the ever-famous Fergburger, the biggest burger I’ve eaten in my lifetime. We continued our travels to Kinlock lodge, in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Rain slapped on our windshield as we deliberated whether or not we were heading in the right direction. We arrived at the lodge, set on the front of the circle lake encircled by mountains (which seems to be a theme of New Zealand). We checked in, hopped in the wooden crate hot tub, picked from the blackberry bushes aside us, and then ran down to the lake to skip rocks atop of it. Once we were drenched in water of all sorts, we gathered our towels, wool socks, and fleeces to huddle in the kitchen with our lemon lime bitters and dinner.
The next morning, we were off to start the Routeburn.
Since the Routeburn would of taken us several days and loads of money to get all the way through and turn around again we organized a scheme with the other group of 5, planning on doing the same track. We each started on one end of the track On our second night of backpacking we met at a hut for the night, to eat dinner together, bang each others knees with tin pots, sit on the tall rocks by the river, and finally, swap rental car keys. We then went on our way to the opposite car park that we started in and finished at our new car for the rest of the trip, Rosie.
The Routeburn was astounding. Colin gawked over every miniscule piece of creation as we giggled behind him. But I had eventually come to the recognition that God had touched each and every stone that we set our feet on. He set his hand directly on the weather, which worked in our favor. The rain stopped fifteen minutes into our 5 hour hike on day one. And because of the rain, we had the pleasure of gazing at rich, green forest and bush flowing over with waterfall. Our Father had his hand on our drained legs and weary backs. He blessed us with the ability to have everything we needed to survive strapped onto our vertebrae for a few days. It gave us a wonderful sense of life.
We had the pleasure of sitting less than two feet away from a beautiful kea bird on the peak of a small, off-the-trail mountain, where we ate lunch. Ruthie and I sneaked a few extra pears during Key Summit and goggled at a dear little girl on a day hike with her mother and father, looking back at us, her eyes overshadowed by round blue glasses. We crossed paths with two friends that had visited the Convent earlier in the semester: a wonderful, familiar surprise. We relished in barley soup, community huts overflowing with people from all over the world, sunrises, and towers made of cards.
We came back to civilization after a few days away from it to find smelly, wet clothes in the trunk of the car, pay 38 dollars for dinner at the only restaurant in town, see glowworms fill the forest of the hostel we stayed for the night, get a wee bit of internet, and take a boat out onto Milford Sound, getting soaked by a waterfall above us. We woke up the next morning feeling as if we had been hit by a bus. That day, we drove to Dunedin, absolutely adoring life. We were back to a crammed car spotting countless mini coopers and antiques, drying clothes out the windows, and observing how the sheep outnumber us 4-1 here in New Zealand.
We made a few roadside stops: Mirror Lake, a beautiful field made for handstands, Gore, and the Chasm. We arrived to Dunedin around 7 and aimlessly drove around the town as the sun was setting, blinding us from seeing anything in our path. We arrived at our reserved room in the hostel “Hogwartz”. I was a bit skeptical, not fully acknowledging Harry Potter’s film, but it ruled. We sat in a loft strung with lights and furnished with suede chairs to eat supper. Our room had a plant growing in its sink, a beautiful view of Dunedin through large glass windows, and plenty of space. In Dunedin, seals sun bathed directly on the beach.
Tunnel Beach, in Dunedin, was debatably my favorite part of the trip. The tide came in through a tunnel naturally carved in the faded white rock that extended onto the water almost like a cliff we could stand atop. We climbed through a small tunnel to do more handstands and watched some Kiwis let off a paper lantern above the cliff.
That night, we sat in a penguin hide on a beach bringing me back to my Michigan home: sand dunes and high grass galore. We heated up soup on our portable stove and watched yellow-eyed penguins, skip, jump, and hop up the hill after feeding in the ocean all day long.
I could write paragraphs more on my break but to share all that is to bore everyone except we who experienced it. We returned home to the Convent to swap stories during our Live Word Community night and to begin two weeks of the course God & Nature with Cory Beals. Now, four weeks left here with CCSP and we’re all anxious to discover what’s next.