Life Beyond Walls Episode 2 from the Smith Optics ten day team trip through New Zealand’s South Island. Early mornings, alpine scree, golden singletrack, caving… nothing but good times!
Location: Craigieburn, New Zealand
Well needless to say my website has been neglected the past month. I’ve just been too damn busy to throw up a blog worth reading. In reality I could start posting the odd blurb with a photo or two, actually I probably should start doing that seeing as nobody actually reads anymore. Telling it through images might be the way forward. Wow, I like how I am just putting this together… what a brilliant idea… maybe I could make an App around this… oh wait. Regardless of this ramble I do have to catch you guys up, and I apologize because your worst fears are upon us… you may have to do some of this reading stuff. I would do it through images alone but the story of the SMITH OPTICS team tackling NZ goes a little deeper than stop motion.
To set the tone, let’s just say by the time the caravan arrived to pick me up in the Nelson airport they had a speeding ticket and a camper topped with diesel instead of the preferred petrol… Not to worry though, apparently engines can survive the odd rich blend. Just runn’er hot and it’ll sort itself out. Our Crack Team of top notch individuals consisted of Lars Sternberg, Krunk, Joey Schusler, Rosara Joseph, Carolynn Romaine, Photog Paris Gore, Cameraman Tommy Woodson, and team manager Mal Burda. Just a bunch of beauties. Our initiative: shoot video and marketing content for Smith, but above all, hit the road and have a killer time.
This South Island excursion kicked off in the North and promptly headed South. After failing to tap the potential of Nelson, we jumped in our rattle-cat stage coach and headed for the stations of the Craigieburn high country. Emerging from sheep sheerer’s quarters we combated the lethargic nature of our 3:30AM roll call with instant coffee and the notion of bagging summits before sunrise. Lead by headlamps we set off for the Cheeseman Ski Field. Naturally given that it was dark and our familiarity with the terrain was nil, we all took off in different directions. Like Everest in a storm we scattered like the best of them. Random lights scrambling across a face of rotten rock in the tender pre-dawn hours… what could go wrong.
Well surprisingly, we have no spectacular survivor stories to speak of (classic “Mike” story build up, to complete let down). But hey, I’m impressed. We managed to reach the summit of a random peak we knew nothing about, in the dark. I don’t care how you slice it, that’s a win. With pre-dawn high-fives in the bag, we went to work. Capturing one of the best sunrises in NZ, we rode crumbling ridges of cheese-grater rock under the vale of orange skies. Not everyday kicks off in the alpine and with scree slopes for breakfast. The next couple days looked pretty similar, morning/evening sessions, followed by a mid-day spelunk. Yeah that’s right, spelunking. Find a hole in the earth, go for a wander, and for once actually hope to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The hole we found actually had a name, and an exit, but it still felt like we were doing something badass. “Cave Stream” located between Craigieburn and Castle Hill is one of those places to release your inner Indiana Jones. Sporting headlamps we climbed through pitch-black caves of carved limestone, scrambled over waterfalls, and in the constant echo of moving water waited for our imminent demise via tidal wave… It was unbelievably awesome! In all honesty we felt like we had accomplished something really extraordinary until a 9 year old popped out of the cave behind us quickly stifling our celebrations, but hey thats a story for another time.
With the Jet-Boils firing in the front seat, Krunk and Lars perfecting the art of brewing coffee at highway pace we were Queenstown bound. I was excited to introduce these guys to my southern hemisphere stomping grounds. I mean Queenstown needs no introduction. It’s firmly solidified itself as the adrenaline capital of the South. You name it, it’s got it. But as in most shoot situations, there never seems to be enough time. We ticked a few of the typical “must hit” trail options and even managed to find a couple new perspectives, but as expected the majority of the QT iceberg remained hidden. But hey, we were there for a good time, not a long time, so we made sure we had a good time everyday. At this point in the trip our crew was a well oiled sarcastic machine of smiles producing entertainment for product. Every situation, every ride, every offering of candy, good times were had. It’s what road trips are made of. Unfortunately the looming departure dates brought closure to our bout to re-write the rules of the road, but in the end I got the chance to experience a hell of a good time with some truly amazing people. Stoked for Round 2!
Tips To Unpredictable Adventure 4: Co-Pilots
Different perspectives thicken experiences. Whether it’s downing shucked oysters, crawling through caves coated with Giant Weka’s (a crazy big spider looking insect who traded in two legs for a little extra bulk), or climbing coastal trees… A “Tip of the Sword” adventure partner is an essential part of the Roadtrip.
Co-Pilot: Traharn Chidley
Location: Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Follow the travels via Instagram at #TipForAdventure or my feed @MikeJHopkins
Below is a link to an article that was put together by two friends of mine, Tommy Wilkinsen and Callum Wood. This piece tells the story of the motivation behind two Canadians (World Cup Racer Casey Brown and myself) making their way to the Southern Hemisphere to pursue adventures in the mountains. As always, it was nothing but good times working with these fellas and their final product is nothing short of awesome. Hit the Link and give the article a read…