Making memories, one wrong turn at a time
By Tyler Fox
Traveling sucks. For one thing, it’s never as smooth as you think it’s going to be. Before you even step foot in the airport, you’ll huff and puff to try and squeeze every first-world luxury you can into your Samsonite square. The last 10 inches are a real bitch, but somehow you get the zippers to meet—only to realize your other running shoe is still on the floor behind you.
You’ll miss flights and get reemed with overweight charges and extra bag fees. You’ll get stuck in the middle seat on your 13-hour direct flight and be forced to succumb to flatulent neighbors hogging both armrests. Your rental car is a real piece of shit and breaks down on your way to the hotel, which tells you they’ve overbooked and that you’ll now be put up in the Moonshine Motel down the street. Ah yes, traveling can be a real joy.
I’ve had to endure these scenarios on multiple occasions, and it was no different during a recent trip to New Zealand. My girlfriend, Paige, and I had to pay an extra bag fee and we also missed a flight due to a delay. Thank god I had a window seat on the long flight across the pond, but, sure enough, our rental car was a true turd.
For some reason, however, this trip wound up seeming seamless and smooth. Maybe I’m getting wiser in my old age and learning to give fewer fucks about things that are out of my control. Maybe my girlfriend is just plain awesome and keeps me calm, like she did when TSA pulled me to the side for a little rub down.
One of my biggest takeaways from the trip is that by having an attitude of gratitude, these annoying little hiccups can equate to some hilarious and memorable moments. Just looking at our little silver rental car we named “Tilda,” with her missing hubcap and terrible tint job, brought us laughs every time. Every wrong turn and potentially negative situation led us to something new and exciting that we wouldn’t have experienced if we’d stayed on course. Yes, just like life itself, traveling can really suck—but if we go through these journeys with an open mind and an open heart, the possibilities for pure magic are endless.
Long Point Session
This was one evening that caught us by total surprise. Paige and I had just finished setting up camp at Purakaunui Bay and were settling in with a cold beverage, waiting for my cousin-in-law Josh to arrive.
The wind was onshore and funky, so I had written off the idea of getting in the water for a surf. Josh soon arrived and was met with a long-overdue bear hug. I offered him a beer but he politely declined, saying that these winds might be offshore over the hill. He suggested we go give it a gander. “Why not? Let’s do it,” I replied.
The three of us piled into his pick-up for a short-and-bumpy ride to a spot called Longpoint. As we came up over the hill to our destination, the ocean was putting on a totally different display. Groomed lines stacked to the horizon were marching toward the coast and detonating with some serious southern ocean power. “We might be a hair under-gunned,” Josh joked.
With nobody around and nothing else to do, we decided to go for it. My excitement heated up toward a boil with each fresh step through the tall grass. “What!?” I blurted out as another empty 8-foot wall reeled across the reef. After a slightly nerve-racking paddle out over a mine field of boulders we made our way into the line up and proceeded to paddle up to the point toward the take-off spot.
About five minutes into the paddle, Josh yelled over to me, “Hey, so, what blood type are you?” A little confused, I replied, “Not sure, why do you ask?”
“Oh, no worries, I’ve just heard this spot is pretty ‘fishy,’” he shouted. The JAWS theme song started playing in my head. I did my best to shove that thought to back of my mind, and we proceeded to score empty waves for the next hour and a half.
I was the first back to shore, where I greeted my little photographer bundled on the cliffside. I quickly stripped out of my wetsuit and into warm clothes to enjoy the sun now starting to melt over the rolling hills in the distance. The contrast between an emerald sea and mandarin sky was breathtaking. Paige and I hooted as Josh snagged one last ride and made his way up to our platform on the hill.
As he changed out of his wetsuit we all chuckled about his blood-type comment and reminisced over some of our excellent rides. With shoelaces now tied and backpacks on, we paused in silence to absorb every last ounce of color before our departure. “If sheep could talk,” Josh murmured as we turned to make our way back up the trail to the truck. “If sheep could talk ….”
Milford Sound Mission
Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s most popular destinations, with more than 600,000 visitors a year attracted to the remote area on the southern island. Paige and I did not hear of Milford Sound in the initial planning stages of our trip, but as fate would have it we pinned that exact location on Google Earth as an awesome place for a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) excursion.
Upon further research and seeing some images of the area, we were sold. Now came the fun part: How do we experience one of the most beautiful destinations in New Zealand without having to do the whole touristy cruise-ship deal? Getting shuttled around like livestock while dealing with diesel fumes and ear-piercing announcements just wasn’t the vibe we were looking for. So we got creative. We borrowed an inflatable 14-foot SUP from my buddy Brent Allen and my cousin Suzie generously offered up the essential camping gear needed for our overnight outing. We mapped it, planned it and packed it.
As the hordes slowly moved toward the big ships at the docks, we quietly slipped into the water like Navy Seals on a secret mission. We didn’t know if we were allowed to do this, or if anyone had ever done something like this before, which made the whole experience that much more exciting. My ocean knowledge soon became handy: about two hours into our journey we ran into a serious head wind and chop that felt like we were in the middle of the Monterey Bay. After a quick break along the rugged shoreline we continued our mission, finally ending up on a small rocky shore with thousand-foot lush green walls extending into the heavens. It’s times like these when nature makes you feel really small.
Still in our wetsuits we hastily set up camp as the small biting flies began their assault. Once situated we hid inside our shelter with nothing but The Kyle Thiermann Show podcast, tequila and PB and Js. That evening we cooked condensed soup by the fire and watched as the sun set between the shoulders of giants. I’ll never forget those visuals. I could write a book about the experience, but my editor is already going to kill me for my verbosity, so I’ll try to wrap it up.
The next morning was dead calm and the water was like liquid glass. We made our way past massive waterfalls and a few colorful kayak tours, which gave us some seriously odd looks. “Where are you guys coming from?” one of the kayak guides shouted over. “Oh, just up the way,” we yelled back with mischievous grins. After a four-mile return paddle, we were hungry, tired and ready to get out of our wetsuits. Coming around the last bend, the sight of our little silver rental car never looked so good. We pulled our craft up onto the cobblestone cove by the parking lot. We had done it! The hordes of frantic tourists hardly fazed us now, and after a high five and a hug, we crossed the street to the cafe for a much-deserved celebratory meal of pizza and beer.
Jet boating, bungee jumping, mountain biking, paragliding, river surfing, skydiving … The list of adrenaline-filled activities in Queenstown is endless, which meant that there was no way we were skipping this lakeside attraction. Our Airbnb peered out over the sapphire water with the jagged peaks of “The Remarkables” mountain range in the distance. We only had a day here so we decided to kick start the heart with a morning bungee jump. I went first with a little backflip off the bungee platform. Paige chose to do the Cutaway Swing and I’m pretty sure she woke some sleeping animals across the lake with her screams. If there was any lingering morning grogginess, it was gone now. We continued our day by exploring the city and spending a good chunk of time trying to find parking in the popular little town. With the day coming to a close we felt we needed to flee to somewhere with fewer humans. We hopped on the lakeside road looking for a spot to take our inflatable SUP for a test run. Soon enough we found a secluded beach and quickly started to pump up our vessel. Within minutes we were on the water with not a soul in sight. We paddled 100 yards out to get a more panoramic view. The dropping sun illuminated the hills and shadows danced with light as we sipped wine and soaked up the solitude. It was the recipe for a most excellent outing in the adventure capital of the world.