Thursday, 3 December 2009

At dave's house, trying to catch up!

So….not too sure where I left off. I think….I was heading to Picton? That sounds about right. So from Christchurch it was a 5 hour bus journey, heading north along the coast. We stopped in Kaikoura for a break, then headed on up. I had called the day before to reserve a dorm bed and a pick up from the bus station. So we got in at 9ish, it was a bit drizzly and dark, and the pick up wasn’t there yet. I met this welsh guy called George who was staying in the same place and waiting for the pick up too. The place we were staying at was called Tombstone backpackers, now things were a bit different to Asia in terms of choosing places to stay. Pretty much all the hostels are part of BBH, which is like YHA, and they produce these big leaflet books with every hostel in, along with a % of how good it is, as voted by BBH members, along with a paragraph of text about each place written by the people that own it. So I chose the tombstone place because it had 92%, and I wanted to know why it was called tombstone backpackers!

Well, it turned out it was next door to the graveyard. But it was a theme they ran with, the front door was in the shape of a coffin door, which I thought was pretty cool. There were other little bits and pieces too. Anyways, when we got picked up, the woman told us that the dorm rooms were full, so they had upgraded us. George ended up in a share room, and she showed me to my room, which I had for one night only, but at a dorm room price. I had a double bed, with en-suite, and a balcony overlooking Picton and the harbour. AWESOME. Oh I was a happy bunny! I was planning on milling about a bit in the common areas but I was sleepy, I had my own shower, a double bed, so I had a shower, got into bed and read for a bit, and then went to sleep! I had to be out by 10am the next morning so I shifted my stuff into my dorm room, but still rather happy after an awesome night sleep!

The morning was still drizzly, so I asked what was good to do on a rainy day. She was trying to push me towards doing a wine tour, but I wasn’t looking to spend a whole lot of money over these 2 weeks or so. Free stuff is good stuff. But somehow I ended up at an aquarium, which wasn’t all that good, although it did have seahorses, and baby seahorses, which was cool. I then wandered around the harbour; Picton is where the ferries from Wellington come in. There were a couple of walks marked on the map, so I wandered over and did them, the weather got better, and the walks gave awesome views over the harbour and the surrounding coastline. I bumped into George on the way up the walk, the only person I saw in when heading in that direction, but on the way back I must have passed 30 people, I guess they all rushed out because the sun had come out.

In Picton, they also have the world’s 9th oldest ship. Bit random. I mean, if it was in the top 3, that’s cool. Top 5 maybe. But 9th? It made me chuckle. There was always so much of that, wherever I went, if there was something that was in some kind of top 10, this was always a big deal. But like, insignificant stuff. Like the 7th oldest curtain. Well that’s just a made up one, but you get the point. So I had a peek at that without going in the museum, because after going to the aquarium I didn’t want to drop more money. In the evening I didn’t do all that much, talked to George a bit but everybody seemed to be keeping themselves to themselves or closed off. I didn’t really think about it at the time, but once I got to Nelson I realized that there was a bit of an odd atmosphere there. I think it was because there was too much to do there, so no-one just sat and talked to each other.

They had a TV room, games room, quiet room for reading, internet room. So yeah, it was ok, but not the best. To be fair you don’t need any more time in Picton than one day, so 2 nights at a hostel at the most, so people will always be coming and going. So after Picton I got a bus to Nelson, about 2 hours away heading westwards along the north coast of the south island. I got picked up by the place I was staying at, called the bug backpackers, and ended up staying there for 8 nights. It was such a great place. Firstly, Nelson itself was really good. Awesome beach with the mountains of Abel Tasman national park on the horizon to the west, a whole load of good walks and bike tracks, very cycle friendly city (the hostel had free bikes), there was the centre of New Zealand point, which was cool, the town itself was really nice, relatively big but not too crazy, it had this cool gothic church, I just really liked the place. Plus they get the most amount of sunshine hours in New Zealand, and it was sunny and warm pretty much every day I was there.

As well as this, the hostel was awesome. I met a whole lot of really great people, and we’d just sit round in the evening, drinking some beers, maybe playing some games. So there was Mark, who was working as a cleaner at the hostel for free accommodation for three weeks, he started just before I arrived. Rudi, this German guy who was working at a place where they make signs, and absolutely loving it because his boss treats him so well, and so different to how bosses treat you in Germany. There was also a German couple who’s names I can’t remember, an English girl who was in my dorm who was applying for work in a whole bunch of places, another English girl that came a couple of days in, who was on the Kiwi Experience bus but had chosen to go to a different hostel to the one they had taken her to. Think of the Kiwi E bus as the tuk tuk drivers, taking you places where they’ll get a commission. And a whole load more people who came and went during those 8 nights. One night I went to see the imaginarium of doctor Parnassus with mark and an Austrian girl who was a friend of his who he’d met originally in the north island. That was an awesome film. On a Sunday me Rudi and an Italian guy who had worked with Rudi somewhere, maybe on the vineyards, went into to town to see the market, but I t wasn’t happening (because it was a bit rainy) so we had some food, watched the highlights of N.Z beating England in the rugby. Just lots of good times.

It would be really cool in the evenings because quite a few of the people have been working and traveling around New Zealand, and so we’d hear stories of how bad it is working in the vineyards (screws up your back pretty good) or unloading frozen fish from boats in the harbour. But if anything, it makes me want to do it now. Maybe not straight away, but at some point. I’d love to come back and find some work in Nelson, I really liked that place. There was a great atmosphere in the hostel, they had two computers which you could use for the internet, but beyond that there was none of the other frills, so everybody just got to know each other, and invariably ended up staying much longer than planned. Plus there were hammocks, and so it was pretty easy just to spend a couple of hours just reading/snoozing. Plus the owners were awesome, Anthony is from Leicester, early 30’s, and just helps to contribute to the chilled-out-ness of the place. I loved it, it was one of those perfect moments in time, with the right people, at the right place etc. Although on my last night this German girl arrived. At first she was a bit loud, and we were like yeah…ok. She’d just come out of school (not uni) and had been doing some work on a dairy farm for a bit on the north island. But she just had too much energy. She constantly wanted someone to go get a guitar and play it. She wanted everyone to move inside because it was dark, but most people were smokers, and we were pretty happy sat outside. So yeah, it seemed like I had picked the right time to leave. She was a bit crazy.

I’d booked a day in Abel Tasman national park, which is further west from Nelson, which is ridiculously beautiful, with golden beaches and amazing views, loads of wildlife. It’s one of the famous walks, and takes 3-5 days to walk all the way through, but I was only doing half a day walking and half a day kayaking. I got transported first from Nelson to Motueka, and then changed buses to get to Marahau, which is the last place before Abel Tasman national park. After a bit of confusion from the people organizing the thing, they realized I was doing the walk part first, so a guy showed me a map, told me he’d be at watering cove at 12pm, and it’ll probs be about 12 by the time I walk there. Sweet, so as a join the trail, it tells me that its 13km away, about a 3 ½ hours walk, and I found this out at 9.10am. So I was a bit confused because the guy had told me I could take my time and that it wasn’t that far. So I went off at a decent enough pace. It was a nice walk, with some amazing looking beaches, and the way the rocks had been eroded, as usual, just looks crazy. While walking along the trail, I spotted a black rabbit just chilling out. I grabbed some snaps from far away, thinking it was just going to run off when I got close, but I got right up next to it and it didn’t seem to mind! It was another really sunny day, but most of the walk was covered by the vegetation, so it was a nice walk. And as I made my way along I realized that 3 ½ hours would be a pretty slow pace, and made it to watering cove a bit after 12. Sweet.

So there were a fair few kayaks there, and I wondered over to the guy who I was meeting. More people turned up via water taxi, and the people who had kayaked to this beach started their walk back to Marahau. So it turned out I was the only one who had walked to this beach for the kayak back, everyone else had cheated and taken the water taxi :D Before we started I got talking to two guys from Dudley (I could tell where they were from pretty sharpish!) who had just been in south America for 6 months, one of them had been trying to write his journal entirely in rhyme, but gave up quite often and just wrote it normally! They seemed like they’d spent a wee bit too much time together, they seemed to have gone a bit crazy! Plus the fact they had bought a station wagon which they were sleeping in, so they hadn’t really met anybody for a while. They seemed pretty excited about having other people around! So we had a bit of a safety brief/how stuff works from the guy, they were all two person sea kayaks and I managed to get the Dutch guy I was sharing a boat with to take the front, because then I could sit in the back and control the rudder with the peddles. Fun stuff :D

We had a pretty casual paddle along the coast, the wind was behind us which was nice. We stopped after a while on a beach and me and the 2 English guys were chatting to the kayak guy. He’d studied outdoor ed like the majority of people at outward bound Canada had, and of course he knew all about outward bound so that was cool. But he was just pouring sand on his feet, and we were telling him what a sweet job he has, how at that point he was being paid to pour sand on his feet! Because of the tail wind we tried to do some sailing, so we pulled out a tarp, rafted up, hitched the tarp to the bottom of the front of the kayaks on the left and right, and then connected it to the two paddles at the back which were raised, and tried to catch the breeze, but it died on us straight away! We just held it up anyway as the current was taking us where we wanted to go, so we had a nice little cruise for a bit, and a chat. We made it back to Marahau, back to the start sight. Had some cookies and waited for the bus. I was going back to Motueka for the night, and possibly staying for another if there was good stuff to do there! So I arrived in Motueka, met an English guy in my dorm who told me there was a bit of a day walk I could do, but beyond that not much. The hostel wasn’t all that great, but they did have the departed on DVD so we ended up watching that.

The next morning I was trying to decide whether to leave or not (while in bed) but I was pretty tired from the day before so decided to stay put for one more night. It rained all day. Boo. But I got stuff organized for the next day, a bus to Collingwood and accommodation. Yeah, it rained all day. I watched a couple of movies, caught up on my journal a bit, read a bit. There was an English girl who had a job in motueka and was staying in the hostel and I wondered how she kept herself entertained, because there really wasn’t anything going on!

Next morning I got on the bus to Collingwood, which is west again, in an area called Golden Bay. It’s a pretty remote and cut off area, with only one road in and out. It’s another famous area as you can start another one of the famous walks, the heaphy track, for nearby. At one point Collingwood was going to be the capital of New Zealand, this was during the gold rush era when Collingwood was thriving. But at some point, the gold dried up, people left, and now it has a population of a few hundred! I was staying at a place called Somerset house, which was the only backpackers in Collingwood! I arrived while they were still cleaning the dorm room so I went out for a wander.

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