Sunday, March 27, 2011

WWOOFing Springfield and Exploring Castle Hill

Leaving wine country was hard after all the free tastings, but we managed to drag ourselves away. We were on the road again, heading to Springfield, a long ways away. This drive was supposed to happen with Richard, our friend from Christchurch, but the earthquake happened. We decided to bypass Christchurch and take the split onto Arthur’s Pass from Kaikoura. Our first pick-up was with Evelyn, a typical Kiwi mother, young and kind. She dropped us 30 minutes up the road. On a side note, we realized you have to take every and any ride you can get, even if it's 10 km up the road. So our next pick up was by Nick, a clothing designer heading down to Christchurch for a meeting about moving the office from the quake disaster. We rode with him for hours, occasionally stopping to show us a waterfall or a nice beach. When we reached the split, he dropped us off, and it started to pour. We hoped for an instant ride seeing that we were two girls standing in the rain, one with a shredded poncho and another without anything. That was me, poncho-less. Yes, I'm stupid (or maybe stubborn and frugal). After waiting ages, and looking like a wet rat, a jaguar pulled over. Mistake? I think not! An older, conservative couple was giving us a ride. This was going down in hitchhiking history! We were amazed and it was great to see new types of people. They definitely felt bad for us, but who cares, hitching is all about guilt anyway. They were so nice they drove us right to our destination, not wanting us to get rained on any more. So sweet.

We arrived at our WWOOFing destination. A backpackers/pub. It looked nothing like the pictures. Definitely needed some work. The owners weren’t even around to give us the low down, so we sat around for awhile. We finally got ourselves a “Pod” via phone call by the barmaid who was angry we didn't buy anything. This pod, the place in which we slept, was basically a trailer box with bunk beds and electrical outlets. Nothing special and definitely budget. The one reason we chose this place was because we figured out the owners were gay men. I love, love, love gay men! Unfortunately after meeting these two they weren’t as lovely as we expected. There was Malcom, who was the butch and ran the business. Then there was Chris, who looked like the blonde guy from Queer Eye, who was the bitch in the partnership. They were all over the place and needed to get their shit together. We cruised the first day and joined a little soiree in the backpackers lounge that night. That day we also met Glenn, a fellow traveler, on a solo journey. We partied with him as well. I liked to call him a skinny Gimli because he had a long red beard. May as well if we’re talking LOTR.

The next day all we did was paint a wall. Seriously. All white. Whomever painted it prior needed a lesson on painting. We made that shit shine. Later that day we took a little side trip with Glenn (who had a car) to Castle Hill. This place was known for rock climbing and bouldering, or just plain fun. We also discovered they’d filmed parts of Narnia and LOTR here. Sweet! We roamed around for awhile and enjoyed ourselves. The next day we decided to leave. This place wasn’t what we expected and although we get food and board, it wasn’t anything special. We said our goodbyes without hesitation and made our way to Greymouth. Jillian had a friend who’s mother had a friend and wanted to make sure we were safe after the quake. We were also feeling aftershocks here (in Springfield), so it was no joke. Knowing nothing of these people and hoping for the best, we hitched our way there. Good thing for good people in the world. You never know where they are hiding and when you will get to meet them. This next stop was randomness at its best. The outcome was completely unknown and we were okay with that. That has been the entire mentality of this trip. Just go with it.

Winetasting and Couchsurfing in Marlborough

When in Marahau we decided on our next move. Would we WWOOF or would we couchsurf? We both utilized our resources and sent out emails from each. First hit back was a couple from Maui living and working in Renwick, wine country. When I sent out the email I knew it was a shot in the dark, but I figured they wouldn’t pass up a fellow Hawaiian. I was right.

Hitching from Marahau was a bit tricky from the area we were staying. We both made cardboard signs saying “Motueka/Nelson/Blenheim” and “Anywhere is better than nowhere ;)” We were picked up by Herman the German going to Motueka.
Then we were picked up by a son and father, Simon and David, going to SCUBA dive near Nelson. Finally, we were picked up by Adam from Nova Scotia. He turned out to be a really sweet guy living and working in the same area we were going. He made a
couple of stops, one in which we hopped into the river for a swim in our underwear. He dropped us at a gas station and not long after that Sam picked us up. We immediately went for a few wine tastings, a good ice breaker for sure. When we made it back to the house it was a beautiful area with a big garden, a cow, chook (chickens), and two adorable dogs.

Sonya was a breathe of fresh air. We instantly got along with her. We also learned that Sonya went to the same university as Jill in Colorado. What a small world. The next day Sam was leaving on a trip to tag some possums and we had solo time with Sonya.
Staying with her was like staying with family. Comfortable.
For the next four days we went wine tasting anywhere we could in Renwick and Blenheim, tasting the best Sauvignon Blancs of the Marlborough region, what they are known for. Jill was finished with tasting after the first two days, but I kept trucking, making the most out of the free wine tastings.
When it was time to leave it was almost like leaving an old friend. I felt as though I’d known her for years rather than days. These were amazing people to better our journey in the South Island.

New Beginnings: Hitch-hiking and Abel Tasman

When Jill and I finally embarked on our journey together from Wellington, everything seemed right. Except for the fact that we had to take three modes of transportation just to get to the ferry (that wasn’t very far away in the first place). I found it amusing that the ride from the North to the South Island was only three hours. What was even more interesting is that locals living in Wellington had never been to the South Island. Bizarre. The ride was gorgeous.

 A perfectly painted picture and more gorgeous the closer we got to our destination. We passed the Marlborough Sounds, dozens of islands, some of which people lived and had to get to by boat. When we finally arrived in Picton we began our hitch-hiking journey. At first we didn't have much luck because of all the tourists getting off, but we were eventually picked up by Suzie, a Bahai eccentric white lady. She did most of the talking, eager to get us to work in the vineyards or to join her cult, we were unsure. She dropped us off in a spot that we later realized was the worst spot ever. Our endeavors continued with various drivers, one of which owned a vineyard that produced grapes for Kendall-Jackson, so that was interesting. 

The most amazing ride happened to be from Richard, the local Kiwi from Christchurch that made the excursion to Nelson each week. We drove us nearly four hours, and if it weren't for his kind presence we would've have stayed in Nelson. That night we had dinner and he paid the tab. He was one of the more gracious drivers that showed us local sites without asking.  We hitched ride into Motueka and finally Marahau, which is where we planned to hike for a few days. We stayed at a backpackers called Kanuka Ridge, which was kind of ghetto and a bit miserly. I swear we were being scammed for everything, including the campsites we had to book in advance for the hike. I got Jillian hooked on Scrabble, so we played every night we could. It really has been a great travel companion and I'm thankful for it. The next day we embarked on our tramp from Mutton Cove, the very last beach that you could be dropped off at. We had 50 km to finish in three days, and when we were dropped off by our water taxi, we were ecstatic to see the beach so secluded.

The Abel Tasman track was pretty popular. I wasn't ask excited to do it because I knew how many people would be on it and that I had to pay $12 a night for a camp spot. The track was spectacular; picturesque beaches and coast, it reminded me a lot of Kaua'i's Na Pali Coast.A lot of the hiking was done on the beach itself, which made for really awesome sand blisters later on. This hike was our first encounter with a plethora of bees and sandflies. Not charming. Luckily I had no bee stings, which would have been fuck-all seeing that I'm allergic. But those damn sandflies were little bastards, eating away at my ankles and fingers. They are relentless, and quite possibly, the only horrible thing about New Zealand. You will itch for weeks because of these buggers, leaving gaping wounds because they irritate so much. We stayed in Tonga Quarry the first night. Epic sunset. The next night we stayed in Watering Cove, which has the most peaceful sunrise I've seen in ages. Throughout the three days we were eating the most minimal of food and water, consisting of carrots, apples, peanut butter, tortillas, and honey. For dinner we'd have tuna and pasta. The last nigh we were hiking out to Marahau, we both realized we had pains in our ankle, possibly a sprang or hairline fracture from overexertion. I also realized that I was in a state of euphoria...possibly from lack of water or a bee sting. I will never know...
When we finally finished the hike, we ate the most amazing meal at The Fat Tui. If ever in these parts again, we must have food from here. It's probably the best I've had in NZ, even if it's only a food cart.

South Island thus far: Fantastic
Abel Tasman hike: Pretty lovely, but too touristy to do again.