“The way in which a place can be a custodian of your history”

The way I feel about New Zealand, Queenstown in particular, is no secret. My soul is happy here. This is my 6th time here in 3 years and 5th time to Queenstown. With each stay, I leave a part of my heart here and I wonder when the day will come, when I’ve finally given everything, and it becomes unbearable to ever leave again. This kind of love is a deep, beautiful ache and for someone who chases passion and intensity like me, there is nothing quite like it.

For awhile, I have felt lacklustre, despite having such a wonderful life that I am sincerely, infinitely grateful for. I think I’ve been going at 200 miles an hour for two years and the wheels were just about to come off. So I have taken myself, my camera and my notebook to the land of the long white cloud for 4 weeks of exploring and creating but also pausing and just being.

Here’s a photo a day for my first week (14-20 October 2018) and some musings:

SUNDAY

“To a certain extent, all mountains look the same except that here, there was nothing to remind me of myself or of someone I once loved, and that made all the difference. The way in which a plane can be a custodian of your history. How you could read it there every time you went back. There could only be one mountain of this kind in anyone’s lifetime and in comparison with that one, all the others are merely minor peaks” The Eight Mountains, Paolo Cognetti

I read this book during my two solo days at Moke Lake and to be honest, I knew from the blurb that it would be an all-time favourite. This is a poignant love story between man and mountains, capturing so beautifully that inexplicable, soul-shaking connection.

It’s also such an intimate story of soulmates; of the unspoken understanding that links two Italian childhood friends over three decades so strongly that even though life ebbs and flows between them, that bond is ultimately never severed.

So two veins running through this novel that are akin to two thoughts that have dominated my mind for some time now.

But before I go off on yet another tangent, the Remarkables. Each of the five times that I have been to Queenstown marks a significant point in my life since leaving Macquarie Bank (one day I’ll divulge). This place has become a touchstone for me and in the ridge lines of the Remarkables, I see my timeline, with each little peak marking a stay marking a significant point in my personal + professional life. And that is why this beautiful mountain range is the custodian of my history.
(In fact, I’ve thought about getting a line tracing its ridges as a tattoo)

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MONDAY + TUESDAY

Two slow town days. Actually, they were work days.

I started both off at one of my favourite cafés, Joe’s Garage, where the duty manager, Nat, quickly learnt my order (long black, have here) and I punctuated the work days with strolls out to the lake. I also did very regular things such as grocery shopping and sussing out what to do with my luggage when I go off on multi-day hikes and the setup with laundry.

The fact that I could do such ordinary tasks in my favourite place on Earth fills me with such joy and accomplishment. I have plugged away for the last couple years, striving to be able to do this; to step away from Sydney and not have everything fall apart, work and finances-wise. I still have a way to go - whilst I am away, I’m making no progress on savings…but I’m also not going backwards.

The time here in Queenstown, in addition to helping me recharge, is also valuable in building my networks and presence in New Zealand. One of my dreams is to be able to come here regularly, in a similar capacity to right now, and one of the ways to facilitate this is to be able to earn money here. Knowing the right people and having an audience are both crucial factors.

So two slow town and work days. To anyone else, they would be no way to spend a ‘holiday’ and yet to me, they were perfect.

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WEDNESDAY

My fourth day. As I begun to feel more settled, the high of being back in this place I love so much started to be in conflict with the gritty, heavy sediment of all that led me here, that was now slowly sinking to the bottom, weighing down my heart.

It was a rough day but just as I hungrily ride the highs, I also have to humbly ride the lows. As much as solitude can be invigorating and clarifying, it can also abruptly plunge you into loneliness.

My relationships back home are so important to me. Though history has shown me that the ones I infinitely love and who also love me will stick around through thick + thin, I can still spiral downwards into a black hole of doubt and insecurity.

I felt very heartbroken.

I went out for a 2-hour walk that took me home to myself.

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THURSDAY

And so it begins.

After a wholesome breakfast buffet at the Sherwood with my friend Lina and her friend Oliver (both happened to be here shooting a wedding), Lina dropped me off at Moke Lake for two days of solo hiking + camping.

It was a really weird feeling, watching her drive away, with only my backpack and no way of getting back to Queenstown yet.

After I set up my little Macpac home aka tent (my only real task for the day) I felt…a blissful nothing. I am typically brimming with emotions and it was strange and amazing to simply exist. Initially, I had been worried about how to fill in the time but the hours melted away, quicker and easier than expected as I flitted between reading, writing, journalling, daydreaming, walking, snacking and completely zoning out as I gazed around this beautiful nook in New Zealand.

Of course, that feeling of heartbreak followed me and coupled with reading such a nostalgic and emotive novel, I intermittently became quite sad.

That night, I found it hard to tear myself away from the starry night sky; something that always has me in awe and restores my treasured state of gratitude and wonder.

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FRIDAY

I wake up, pull back my tent door and Moke Lake is so serene and calm and the sky is so blue and clear and I feel incredibly lucky to be there.

With the Kepler Track ahead of me, I planned on taking it easy as I’m still nursing a sore right calf from falling off the bouldering wall in September (SEPTEMBER!!) and the big toe on my left foot has been playing up for absolutely no reason at all.

But what the heck, it ain't every day that I find myself in these surroundings with unrestricted time.

I plodded along the Moke Lake Loop before crossing through farmland on the Lake Dispute track, spotting new spring lambs. I eventually leave farmland behind as hillsides close in around me. And then this view quite literally stops me in my tracks…

I came back to a very quiet campsite and I realised that I had spoken once all day, and I have barely smiled nor laughed - all very rare occurrences for me! And though there had been a few tears for various reasons, I felt so content.

SATURDAY

After one of the best sleeps I have had in months, I wake up just in time for sunrise. It wasn’t a spectacular show of colour but as I looked around, I realised how dear this place had become to me over the last 48 hours. It had been a rollercoaster ride but Moke Lake felt like a sanctuary to me.

The time had come to look for a ride back to town. I asked two groups but they were both settled in for the weekend. A photographer strolled past me and bid me a quick but friendly ‘good morning’. I immediately latched on, and asked him if he was driving back to Queenstown. He told me that he was but not for another 1-2 hours and if I was happy to wait, he’d take me. HURRAH.

So a passionate hobbyist photographer named Kristian from Berlin, who is in New Zealand for 4 weeks; just him, his camera and a campervan, take me back to my hostel and I check back in, feeling everything (as usual); like I’ve come back home, faith in humanity’s kindness, still that pesky ache, so confident and alive in my own skin, excitement for the next week in the land of the long white cloud xxx

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