Racing along the deserted esplanade on bikes, we pedaled furiously against time and the bitter cold to catch the sunrise over the Kaikoura Pennisula, located on the East Coast of the South Island in New Zealand.
Illuminating our path, the street lights glittered as they stood amongst the Norfolk pine trees; a crescent moon lingering above, surrounded by stars against an indigo sky.
Though eyes tired and bleary from watching Netflix overnight due to a bout of insomnia caused by excitement, I still felt exhilarated. I was not going to miss this moment, not on my last day in Kaikoura; a place that open me up to so many new experiences and above all, a new mentality. Using my near frozen hands, I gripped the handle bars tighter as I sped up.
We approached the Kaikoura Marine Aquarium and my friend Chloe, whom I met at our work exchange, pointed out a lone seal by the pier. With its back arched and head pointed towards the sky, the seal lingered in the moment, as if it had all the time in the world. A wave of contentment washed over me.
Like my parent’s perplexity over my decision to go on a working holiday in New Zealand – resigning from a stable job and comfortable routine – my friends in Blenheim were confused about my desire to accept a work exchange in Kaikoura instead of settling for a job mussel grading. They had warned me that this town was “boring”, “touristy”, and a waste of time. I went against the tide and was rewarded.
“Jaime! The sun is coming up!” Chloe urged.
We charged onwards until we reached the Point Kean carpark and entrance of the track. Leaving our unlocked bikes (yes, NZ is quite safe) behind the restroom, we ran up to the Point Kean viewpoint, which offered us an aerial view of the tidal platforms below. While these views were not new to us, it was still as fascinating as ever, with the features of the peninsula aglow with morning sunlight. We settled on a flat area of the cliff, laid down and watch the sun rise beyond the horizon and the seals play below. We had made it. At that moment, it felt like my greatest accomplishment. Perhaps because I was completely present in my surroundings.