If you had ONE trip you could take before you die… where would it be?
From time to time, I suffer from what I have self-proclaimed as MURI Syndrome – Mindless Useless Random Information Syndrome. Don’t bother looking it up on Wikipedia, because it’s not there. At least I don’t think it is. Nevertheless, the MURI took over this morning at my kitchen table in Austin, Texas while I was enjoying a delightful cup of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee. Rain, peanut M&M’s, a chihuahua dressed like Santa Claus, beer, 4.375% interest, Aaron Rodgers, lemons, the Victoria’s Secret Supermodels (yes… all of them!), four-wheelin’, Kelly Clarkson, blueberry muffins… And then I became deeply concerned, “Did I remember to turn off the Christmas lights before I went to bed last night?”. That’s how MURI Syndrome works! My mind is a hopeless wasteland my friends; but sometimes, the MURI strings portions of historical relevance together to provide a blog worthy story.
Getting back on track… If you had ONE trip you could take before you die… where would it be?
For me, it was New Zealand. Perhaps it was because I’ve always been a HUGE fan of the New Zealand All Blacks. Maybe it’s because back in 2001, I talked to a beautiful woman in London with a cool accent who just happened to be from Sydney. Wait… that’s Australia. Nix that one! For all I know, my fascination could have just been all those hobbits, wizards, elves and talking trees in Lord of the Rings.
Overall, I honestly believe it was the fact New Zealand has ALWAYS been praised as one of the most beautiful and fascinating places on earth. That alone should be a good enough reason to visit New Zealand!
Praise be to God, 3 weeks of vacation built up, a good year in sales at work, and a badass girlfriend (now my wife) who is as passionate about travel as I am, and voila! New Zealand 2005! I was like any other person who plans out their dream vacation of a lifetime. I did all the research of exactly when and where to go, how to get there, and why and how we should do X,Y and Z to attain the “perfect” trip. Be careful with that word “perfect”, because there’s no such thing. But sometimes… just sometimes… you can stumble, fall, and get pretty darn close… by accident!
It was Day 8 or 9? I can’t remember, and the worst thing that can happen to you on a vacation happened. That’s right! My girlfriend dumped me and ran off with a Swiss ski instructor named Klaus and I was arrested for drug trafficking and thrown into a Mexican prison! How did you know? OK, that didn’t happen; but, would have made for a MUCH better story (and book writing deal). Sorry. As the 7 of you who read this blog know… I tend to exaggerate from time to time. Basically, I got sick. That simple. Bronchitis. Cold. Transpacific hangover (as I liked to call it). Not sure what it was; but, it got me. I’m sure being half-way across the world traveling on planes, trains, buses and boats had nothing to do with it. Nah!
We were in Christchurch, New Zealand on the South Island. I’ll save stories about that GREAT places for another time. Our skillfully orchestrated schedule had us heading West via the TranzAlpine scenic train to Greymouth. From there, we would travel by coach bus to Franz Josef. It’s a shame we don’t have more trains in Texas, because it is by far one of my favorite modes of transportation in the world. Especially Europe; however, this particular TranzAlpine train on the South Island of New Zealand was something special.
As noted on the KiwiRail Scenic Journeys web site… “From Christchurch, cross the patchwork farmland of the Canterbury plains, follow the Waimakariri river, climbing into alpine scenery on a series of spectacular viaducts. Then, after stopping at Arthur’s Pass, emerge from the long Otira Tunnel and descend through sub tropical rain forest past beautiful Lake Brunner and on to Greymouth”. I couldn’t have said it any better myself. I think one of the most miraculous things about the train ride was the dramatic contrast of scenery. That is the single most fascinating discovery I enjoyed the most about New Zealand. Beauty and awe in sheer abundance.
So there I am, sick as a dog arriving in Franz Josef, and the fog and rain is soooooo bad that even the British would have been miserable. Franz Josef was a quaint and cool little village – what we could see of it; however, the rain and the fog made visibility minimal. All I could think about was throwing on my Oakley sunglasses and climbing up the treacherous ice walls of Franz Josef Glacier and marking my claim with the Texas flag staked in the frozen ice at the top. Like I said… I have a tendency to exaggerate. I’m no Sir Edmund Hillary; but seriously, I was REALLY looking forward to engaging in the New Zealand West Coast Glacier Experience. Our only hope was that the fog and rain would seize by the time we set off on our glacial expedition the next morning and this cold/transpacific hangover I was suffering from would dissipate. It didn’t. Oh well… the show must go on! No time to be sick bro! You’re in New Zealand! Kia Ora mate!
So… what now? Feeling slightly robbed, a nice lady at our breakfast location told us, “No worries ’bout the glacier! Why don’t you go four-wheeling in the rainforest?”. We were intrigued! What was that? FOUR-WHEELING? In the RAINFOREST? Obviously, my research skills weren’t as great as I thought they were. When life gives you lemons… Go four-wheelin’! (INSERT HERE) Across Country Quad Bikes Franz Josef New Zealand – Guided Scenic Adventures. The whole reason I’m writing this blog is to point out that you can’t always plan a great time. Sometimes… it just happens. BUT, if you happen to go to the West Coast of the South Island in New Zealand… put this on your itinerary for sure! It truly was a remarkable and unique adventure.
We layered up (3 layers or so); but, in reality, they provided everything we needed for a successful and FUN expedition. All the wet gear – jackets, pants, socks, boots, gloves, and helmets. We were prepared for anything; however, nothing could prepare us for carving our way into dense rainforest, across glacial river beds, through marshy grasslands, and over mud filled trails on our rugged ATV quad bikes. All the while, knowing that despite the rain and fog that had settled in, we were still amongst the majestic snow capped Southern Alps and the Franz Josef Glacier as our background. Most important, it was educational, as we learned about the rainforest and what New Zealand is doing to maintain this eco-system.
Half-way through the 2-hour tour, after racing through some mud trails and glacial river beds, we stopped at a small wooden shelter for hot chocolate and tea while learning the Maori legend of the glacier and the surrounding area. What an adventure!
Already feeling rejuvenated from my transpacific hangover, this was the happiest day of our trip (so far). So, once again… if you find yourself on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand in the small village of Franz Josef… make sure you plan an expedition with Across Country Quad Bikes. You won’t regret it! And if you’re wondering how the trip could get any better… whitewater rafting and riding the Shotover Jet “The World’s Most Exciting Jet Boat Ride” in Queenstown, NZ were fantastic adventures – almost comparable to the quad bikes in Franz Josef; but, seeing Mt. Aoraki (Mt Cook) AND proposing at Lake Tekapo, NZ in the same day – November 9th, 2005 – definitely contribute to some of the happiest days of my life.
Until we blog again…
TRAVEL | EXPLORE | DREAM | DISCOVER