Arriving in the South Island of New Zealand
I said my goodbyes to Ben and Mandy and hiked an hour along the coast to the ferry that was heading for the south island. There was some waiting at the terminal, then we boarded and I did a quick lap before settling at a table by the window near the cafe.
This room was quickly filled with people and all types of food being munched on. The smells were starving me, these hot meals were throughout the day routine for most, but a tempting luxury for me.
I stared out the window at the changing coast and waves to take my mind off my stomach. A trio of people sat down at the table with me bringing trays of food, I couldn't help but listen to the french words slipping past the food in their mouths as they conversed amongst themselves. "wha-ee wha-ee".
They left after their feed and I drifted into a series of short naps, in between trading flirting glances with a girl nearby sitting with her gray haired father.
An older couple sat next to me, they were from the north island, they told me about all the places on the south island though, pointing to things on the map and all.
As we came close to Picton I headed to the front of the ship to have a look, then we were soon pulled in and filing out. I got my bag off the line and headed into town, ready to hitch a ride somewhere.
I put myself on the scenic route and got a ride from a couple with their kid from UK in an RV. They took me up in the winding hills a ways as far as a small town where they were camping for the night.
From there a van pulled over for me, two german guys and a berlin girl between them, another van pulled beside them, two swiss girls. Both vans were pretty packed, my bag went in the swiss van, I went in the back with the germans and we were off.
They'd been traveling a while in New Zealand, soon going to the north island to look for work. They were into things like kite boarding and surfing, their gear was piled in the back with me as we chugged along.
We came up on a pullout where the two swiss girls were lounging outside their van in fold out chairs. The guy driving aimed right for them and only swerved at the very last possible fraction of a second, I was certain we were going to hit them, and I'm sure we must have at least nicked them. It was all laughs anyways, the girls were mocking us for having the slower van.
We continued on, pulling over at the site of an apple tree. They said they'd been picking fruit alongside the road the whole trip. We all picked a few apples, a woman came out of the bushes below where she was walking her dog, "taste good?", she said at us, mostly the one guy currently munching, "it's ok", he replied not giving her much thought. "Cost you next time", she scowled, defeated. We piled back in the vans and kept moving. The apples were actually pretty bland and terrible, too early, too late, I didn't know.
We rolled into Nelson just before nightfall, they knew of a camping spot they said. It was just a place for camper vans and cars I soon found out, but I wandered off and was able to find a patch of trees to camp amongst for the night.
In the morning I headed into town, looking at the the information center to find out where all the wineries were. I'd heard this part of the country was known for good white wines and that most places had free tastings. I began walking out of town to try and hitch a ride to the first closest one. An older guy picked me up, "I know what it's like to walk through town trying to hitchhike, the ground is hard on your feet, it's hot". He gave me a lift to the next town and just past it it to the first winery and dropped me off. I went inside to find that the tasting was actually a bit expensive, as opposed to free, so I turned around and headed back for town.
I went to the information center their, the older woman seemed to think they were all free too, so she called the next one I'd planned on going too. They told her they charged too and that all of them did. That idea went out the window, so I decided I'd stock up on food and make my way to the Heaphy track, an apparently well known hike about 80 kilometers long just north west of where I stood at the moment, so that would be my next mission.