Hitching the West Coast of the South Island

I got a good breakfast and shower in before Ned gave me a ride down the drive, over the bridge and to the road again. We picked some fruit at his neighbors before parting ways, then I waived him a goodbye as I started on foot down the road, Greymouth my destination. I munched on a juicy plum as I walked, thinking about the people of light, love and the other surreal things I'd been reading and hearing about at their place the past day or so; but also I was good on moving towards the west coast where I figured there was much to see and a place to stay in Greymouth, a couchsurfers.

I got a ride from the first passing car, an older couple hauling their trailer back home from some camping on the east coast, we swapped stories of last nights full moon and they bragged on the countryside in all directions a bit.

My next ride from a dull guy heading to a wedding in Hamner Springs; this place being my original thought of a destination, but no longer after hearing the place's "springs" were more or less man made hot tub tourist traps holding hundreds of people. Not the remote network of semi-hidden natural springs 10km off the road one would have to hike to to find no one, but maybe a couple traveling girls bathing out; nope, not that, not what I'd envisioned, so I was passing by it.

A woman scooped me up along the road, coming back from Dunedin where she'd dropped a son off at university. Next was a ride from a couple who said they'd been ten years traveling, they got me to the junction where they split for Westport.

A guy picked me up next who made a chunk of cash here and there by collecting a certain type of moss and selling it, same as his dad did and taught him. He got me to a small town called Charleston, there I got picked up by a Scottish woman who lived close to Greymouth.

She was just as friendly as anyone was, bragging on the country same as most too. I told her I'd heard of these pancake rocks I was planning to take a look at and continue on to Greymouth after, she said she knew just what and where I was talking about and when we got there she got us both coffees and took the walk along with me. The rocks matched the name, looking like stacked pancakes, but we'd gotten in at low tide, as opposed to high where the water rushes up and supposedly puts on a blowhole style show.

It was good by me all the same, we drove down along the coast some more and soon down the dirt drive to her house where I could use the phone and call the couchsurfing host in Greymouth. He answered and said there was another traveler coming as well, but I was good to come on over, as long as I didn't mind sleeping on the couch instead of a bed, all good by me.

The Scottish woman drove me the extra piece of road into town, dropping me by the McDonalds which was apparently just a block from the guy's house. I figured I'd get a hit of internet right quick before heading over. I saw another backpacker asking someone for directions and just figured it to be the other couchsurfer on a guess, but I passed by and checked some email quick, then headed to the house from there.

Sure enough, the other backpacker was the other couchsurfer, a traveler from Barcelona sitting talking to Steve, the guy who lived there hosting us both. The three of us talked a while, then I ran out and grabbed some cheesecake and wine to go with the wine we already had, which was to go with the slew of mussels Steve had found the other day with yet another couchsurfer. He was a chef and proved that by frying up the mussels along with some bread and the like, it was a good feast all and all.

He showed us some pictures of jade carvings he'd done and showed us a couple rocks as is that he had, but soon he was off to bed. I stayed up a while longer trading US stories for Spain ones, finishing off the wine and settling the night.

In the morning both me and the Barcelona traveler were up and out before Steve woke up, he'd told us he was one for sleeping in. Barcelona went northbound and me south.

I walked past a miserable looking woman and a guy playing harmonica half way in the street, their bags on the sidewalk and clearly hitchhiking. I asked where they were going, the glaciers, same as me. I gave them a smile and a 'good luck' and walked on past. I knew they weren't in such a great spot, the wrong end of town and before all the hotels and hostels at that, likely 19 out of 20 cars that was to pass them wouldn't be going but a mile or two. I would of said something, but the woman was clearly not up for walking and their gear looked pretty bulky for a carry.

I passed another hitchhiker when I was almost out of town, he was posted up around a corner thumbing cars. He kept his eyes mostly to the road rather than me when I said a hello at him, so I passed on by. Another kilometer or so and I was at the edge of town I figured, so I began throwing my thumb out as I walked on, the second car or so came and scooped me.

It was a girl of twenty and her two kids, although I would have guessed her to be older than that if she hadn't said anything about it. She drove me down the road to Hokitika, the next little town. I walked across that and up to a long bridge where I dropped my bag and posted up a while, eventually getting picked up by a couple Aussie guys.

They were on vacation looking for fishing spots, just having a good time really. They got me as far as Franz Joeseph township where they were gonna ask around about places to fish out some salmon. I got myself someone to point me to a path to the glacier and took to that, some five kilometers or so later I was in the carpark entrance to the glacier walk.

I walked down the trail and had myself a look at the massive ice block. The trail let out into a big valley where I could see it, then I walked across right up to it. A big river burst through the bottom of it, pretty cool looking I thought.

I hiked on back out and thumbed a ride from the second car to pass me, a young irish girl and her boyfriend who took me as far as the main road. There I got picked up by an Austrian couple that got me to the Fox Glacier township, the guy had been all over the planet several times over.

In town I got pointed towards their glacier and got to walking again, the rain had been off and on all day. It was on when I'd gotten picked up last, and it was just barely on now.

Once I got to the road that turned to the glacier I was eyeing spots in the woods thinking I may be looking for a place to camp the night nearby. There were plenty of spots to tuck away. A french couple going to see the glacier gave me a lift up to the carpark, then I hiked into the glacier face. Another good looking one and not nearly as many people as there were at the last one, probably being that the weather was wet and it was later in the day. Good by me, I had a private session with the ice block, me sitting on a rock and us staring back at one and other.

I caught a lift from a van full of a family down the drive to the main road. They were headed back to town, me south still. I walked over the long one way bridge eyeing the river banks, camping spots on my mind again. I figured I'd walk just a little ways and if no ride came, set up camp before the down pour again.

There wasn't much wait or debate, a van rolled over the bridge and pulled over before I even got fully turned around or thought to stick out a thumb. Driving was a guy about my age from Michigan and his girlfriend in the back. They were doing a mighty loop down the west coast and eventually all the way to Christchurch where the girl was catching a flight to Dubai. Nate, the driver, said he wouldn't be too far behind her, just had to sell the van and square some things away before joining her.

It was a great ride, cruising along there, we went into the dark and kept at it, talking beer back in the states, food in Southeast Asia and general good times sorts of things.

At last we were on the lookout for a spot to call it a night, we found a suitable pullout overlooking the ocean, although we couldn't see much with the dark and the clouds. The rain was coming down pretty steady, I set up my bivy and slipped in with my sleeping bag on a grassy spot and passed out.

It was an off and on sleep, water had somehow gotten in the bivy and I was getting soaked through a bit. In the morning I was up and out of the bag as soon as I heard movement in the van. I never figured out how water had gotten in, never happened before, either a tear somewhere or it skirted down the top opening one way or another.

Cathy fixed up some hot tea and some breakfast we enjoyed there, swatting away sand flies and carrying on a little while, then we were on the road again. We stopped in the town of Wanaka, a cool little place down the coast and inland a bit. I got online to check about a couchsurfer I'd sent a message to, no message back. Nate and Cathy were going to check out a brewery just outside of town on route to Queenstown, naturally I joined them.

It was a small brewery, we all got the sampler and took a look in the back at his brewing rig. He was an interesting guy, the brewer, content with what he had going and hoping not to expand anymore. We quickly poked around next door at an old toy museum sort of place, then I decided I'd just continue on with them to Queenstown. It was only an hour or two away, so I figured I could always head back to Wanaka if I got word from the couchsurfer, plus I'd sent messages to some people in Queenstown as well, so that might work out.

We cruised away, stopping at a fruit place where they loaded up and I munched on some peaches and whatnot. Then on to Queenstown. I wouldn't hear back from any of the couchsurfers, but as it would turn out, this would result in one hell of a twist in my goings on and fling me into an unexpected adventure.