Adventure Tour (Birds Eye View of New Zealand - Part 2)
Five hundred kilometers later, we were at the airport dropping the rental car off and getting picked up by Kim, her next co-guide, a short while after that and we arrived at the staff flat where they all stayed in between trips.
I met the guide I'd be traveling with, a guy named Doug from Wellington. Several of us went into town for some dinner and then back to the flat to chow. I heard all about the two week adventure I'd be going on and a fair amount of the behind the scenes organizing and banter.
right guy picked me up hitchhiking.
We got up the next morning and I rode with Dave to the airport, we picked up the four clients, two couples from Ottawa, Canada in there 50's, 60's and 70's I'd guess. We played it that I was on vacation with them, but had been doing some work with the company, which was all true really and that was fine. It didn't take them long to see I was getting a sort of free ride and this was not my customary brand of travel, but it didn't matter a lick to them or anybody and we carried on.
We drove a long ways, putting road behind us, making quick stops for bathrooms, lunch and little tourist traps - a small chapel, a statue of a dog, a jelly shop - I was happy to see that the Canadians weren't turned on by this sort of thing either.
Before nightfall we made it to the sheep farm where we were staying, a structure normally used for the shearers when they'd come through to trim the sheep, but in the meantime it was a pretty nice place for people to stay.
The wind was thrashing down there, big waves were splashing against the bank and giving me a good spray here and there. I leaned into the wind to let it hoist me up, it reminded me of living in Florida during the hurricanes and jumping around in the thick of the highest winds in that with a beer screaming "bring it on!" and the like, of course this was nowhere near the strength of those winds, but reminded me all the same, fueling a smile with past and present.
Dave gave us the rundown of how the trip would go, throwing in bits about how the itinerary would change based on weather, how people were feeling and things he thought may be better and that sort of thing. We all thought that sounded just fine. It was easy going, a small group, as usually these trips can max out at 16 people and typically sit around 10 or so, and usually have a couple guides instead of just one, like Lisa and Kim's lot.
The others caught up with us and we ate our lunch, then headed down as it got a bit colder and windier there at the top.
It was an easy going night of wine and BBQ, I took a little walk under the stars blowing into my harmonica before going to sleep.
It was Saint Patricks day, outside people were barbecuing and getting ready fr a drunken race from some bridge back to the pub. I was inside, eating a big pizza meal and having a beer of my own with Dave and the Canadians, them laughing at the shenanigans outside, me wanting to join. The group of us had another beer in the pub afterwards, I stayed behind just a while longer once they left thinking the scene would explode with energy and I wanted a part of it. Instead things fizzled out, it seemed most people had dispersed to their own places or to bed in this isolated little part of the world.
I wandered down the dark road back to the hotel, there were heaps of glow worms lighting the last little part. I went to the lobby, swigging a shot from my flask, eager to see if there was any action there. Instead I sat reading a bit, overhearing two girls talk about the problem of one if their "non-intellectual" boyfriends.
We paddled all around, huge waterfalls pouring down the cliffs, a result of the heavy rain. Apparently these waterfalls were non-existent in dry conditions, and always changing. We paddled under some, looked at huge ones that never dried up and went all around the sound.
Back in Queenstown we dropped the Canadians off at some hotels, then headed to the staff flat where I was to stay as well. I stopped by the nearby offices to say hi to Adam and check in, then back to the flat where another guide was hanging out.
When Dave was done with some shopping and whatnot a group of us headed into town to the pub.
We bussed it towards Wanaka afterwards, cutting up switchbacks on the bus, over the hills and to Mount Iron for a short hike while Dave got the bikes ready. We then headed into town where we met up with another guide and her Irish friend. We headed out a ways and got the bikes good to go, pedaling down some trails along the water and for a good ways. It was loads of fun, cruising at good speeds on the bright day.
After some time on the bus we arrived in Makarora where stayed in these small tall house looking things called chalets. Dave cooked up a big stew dinner, afterwards we headed to the pub. This was the halfway point in the trip, so the other trip going in the opposite directions, Lisa and Kim's, were also there. They came and met us at the pub, we talked a while swapping stories and drinks.
hitchhiking down towards Queenstown before I'd fallen into this whole thing. Afterwards we went to Franz Josef Glacier which I'd also already been to. Instead of following along with the Canadians, I scurried down another trail to see where it would take me. It was a much longer trail, I was running at times, leaping from stump to stone and over little creeks to see how far I could get, finally turning around to make it back to the parking lot in time.
We bussed it forward, finally getting to the sleepy beach community of Okarito where there was a house with little suites, I had one to myself here. There we relaxed, I broke into a couple more stouts and took a walk down to the beach before another big stew dinner, watching the sun do tricks with light against Mount Cook in the distance.
That night I had the last of my stouts and Dave had a big lamb dinner ready for us, we gobbled that us with ease too.
The next day we were on the road again, continuing north up the west coast, briefly stopping in Hokitika, then just past Greymouth where Dave dropped us off to do a hike around the bluffs overlooking the ocean, picking us up at the end of it. From the we headed to the Pancake Rocks, I'd seen those weeks earlier with the Scottish woman who'd picked me up hitchhiking south.
We went back to town for fish n' chips, then got some ice cream and took another walk around the pancake rocks at sunset, it was good sunset too. Back at the motel I had a couple beers with Dave and relaxed a bit, bag packed for the bigger multiday hike coming up.
Dave cooked up a big curry meal, we feasted and played cards until sleep was the thing.
The next day we got some oatmeal and coffee in us, made up some sandwiches and were set to go. The canadians laughed at me and themselves, they were doing all sorts in preparation for the day of hiking ahead, I could only sit and wait, there didn't seem to be much preparation needed. "You're really gonna hike this in sandals?", they asked me, referring to my Keens. I'd walked the whole of America in these shoes and all numbers of terrain and the rest of New Zealand, I couldn't see any reason to own any other shoe.
I marched up through the cool forest, a nice hike for a couple hours gaining elevation. Once at the clearing I took a seat on some boulders and munched down one of my sandwiches, then the other. An hour later the rest caught up, we hiked another twenty minutes or so to get to the clearing Dave had been talking about and they stopped for lunch.
The next day was full of rain and wind. We hiked up on to the ridge at a snails pace, Dave wanted us to stay together given the weather. We moved along, hopping boulders and along the trail single file. Once we were at the last bit that went straight down I broke away and practically ran down most of it.
In Blenheim we went to Forrest Winery, I'd been there about a month earlier when I was walking and hitchhiking from one to the next. That particular one was where I met a Canadian girl who I ended up spending the night with at her motel room, a great night of wine, food and horse betting laughs. There was no Canadian girl and such kicks this time, but tastes of wine all the same.
In the morning they had a big breakfast for us as well. The plan for this last and final day was seal swimming, but a phone call came into Dave from the seal guy saying the water was too rough and murky. Dave later told me he knew the guy and that he was probably just too hungover to deal with tourists.
We hopped back on the bus, bound for Christchurch. We made another stop for one last hike, then went to the beach for sandwiches, and soon we were at the airport dropping off the Canadians. Dave and I headed back to the ranch just north of the city, we saw Lisa and Kim on the way and then again back the ranch, they all got to cleaning their buses. That night I hung out with them and some other guides, all getting off and getting ready for there next big trip. It had been a pretty fun couple weeks for me, eating good and hiking heaps. The next day I'd be heading back to Queenstown to wrap things up and see what my next adventure would be.