New Zealand: Living Slowly

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May 2016

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I wake up from the rippling of the lake and open my eyes. Daylight shines in my tent and through the semi-open entrance I can see the turquoise blue water of Lake Pukaki. Mount Aoraki, the highest Mountain in New Zealand, is hidden behind thick clouds, the clear starry sky of last night faded.

I crawl out of my sleeping bag into warm clothes and then out of the tent. Putting on coffee is the first thing I do and then I just sit on a rock and look. At the lake, the sky, around me and into myself. It’s so peaceful here and I like to start the day slowly. The coffee seetes strong and steaming in the Espressomaker I got from friends in Australia. I almost left it behind while trying to reduce my luggage for the flight, but that would have been a stupid idea. The coffee warms me and makes me finally wake up. A new day has begun.

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Today I will start the Alps2Ocean cycle path. About 300km it leads from the snow-capped peaks of the southern alps down to the sea, mostly offroad and often through nature. To get to the official starting point a helicopter flight over the Tasman river is necessary, but this is only for people with too much money. I am content to start off 20 km south and had a wonderful arrival by bike from the nearby Tekapo lake.

 

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The bike path is well marked and easy to dride. At this time of the year there are hardly any other cyclists, only the occasional mountain biker on his lap.I take my time, take a lot of breaks in the most beautiful places and always look for a campsite as long as it is still daytime.

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It is late autumn, the cold of the approaching winter is particularly noticeable at night, but the days are sunny and warm.

Without a fixed goal and a time frame, I let myself drift, ride as far as I like and set my camp wherever it is convenient for me. I´m a nomad and transport all my belongings with me. I live according to the rhythm of nature and move on old paths away from streets and settlements. It is a simple life and simple things make me happy. The coffee in the morning, collected and roasted chestnuts, homemade applesauce, a warm and dry place to sleep, a hot shower, the rainbow that always shines somewhere, the starry sky, the nature, the silence.

 

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Time is not so important, I don´t need to hurry. Nobody waits for me, I don´t have to get anywhere, nothing to do. I am free.

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In my life in Germany it was different. Like most people, I had a lot of commitments, work, a structured daily routine, and like most people I never took the time just to be quiet. Just to sit down and to do nothing. To take time to look around, to perceive the environment, to smell, to hear, to feel. Or even close your eyes and let the mind run free, feel your breath, meditate. Be there just five minutes of silent sitting every day, already this short period of rest can bring a lot of change in your life. More serenity, more peace, less stress. Take the time to live slowly and in the present.

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 I feel at ease alone in nature and understand more and more what I heard from an Aborigine in Australia: “The land does not belong to man, we humans belong to the land”. We are part of nature and not a separate object, we are connected and only a small part of the mysterious and beautiful phenomenon of life.

One night I get to know the power of the wind. I pitched my tent on a stony beach, under trees which shape I had noticed but I had not thought of anything. I cook my dinner and when it starts to dawn I light a fire. With the coming darkness comes a wind, which becomes stronger steadily. The flames eat through the dry branches, soon glowing pieces of ember fly through the air and I have to tie my tent, since I can´t use the pegs between the stones. The wind blows down from the mountains across the lake and brings neither clouds nor rain, but only warm air.

ls_small26 ls_small25 My tent and I are wind proved but this night is extreme. Since the pegs don´t hold, I use my panniers and big stones to tie down the tent. Nevertheless, it flutters all night and I have serious worries that the fabric is not going to survive this storm. 

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The inner walls are dented and there is not much space in the tent, the howling and flapping don´t let me sleep well. Next morning the spook is over, with the sun arriving the wind is gone, but my tent poles are bent by the constant pressure. I think that was my windiest night on this trip.

After a few days I leave the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail to take a dirt track over a pass to get to the next cycle track, the Otago Central Rail Trail. It follows an old railway line through the heartland of Otago.

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