Here I am. The South Island circle that i started 2 and half months ago is complete.
I hitch-hiked up the whole West Coast within only 3 days!! Beautiful very green landscapes along the ocean. I left Franz Joseph Glacier this morning and broke the distance record today thanks to a “super ride” from Greymouth to Blenheim, last stop before catching the Ferry tomorrow morning.
Great Hitch hiking experiences again, here are a few stories:
- A 50 years old gay American telling me how much he is enjoying the simplicity and sincerity of kiwi people, their laid back state of mind, always very helpful and tolerant; in opposition to the American society. He asked for permanent residency in New Zealand, and wants to spend his old days here
-A dread-locked Kiwi explaining me that it can be raining hard in Queenstown, and sunny 30 km away on the same time. Once again, you never know what to expect her: Driving a few curves and you discover a totally different weather and/or landscape
-A retired Helicopter pilot from the British army that is spending 6 months a year in NZ. He owns 2 helicopters and is free to fly around anywhere at any time, and land on any (amazing) spot he wants. I wished he offered me a free Heli-ride
- A DOC (Department of Conservation) fire rescue officer -in a fire truck, the coolest ride i had so far- A real nature lover. He told me a lot about the region but also about his longest solo tramping: over 7 weeks!!, carrying 60kg material but only one week food. He had to go hunting, fishing, catching, picking to get some something to eat. A real”Man Vs Wild”. My “little” 7 days tramping seemed to be a afternoon walk for oldies in comparison.
- 3 Kiwi young guys on the way back from one week hunting. With helicopter ride in the middle of nowhere and shit. Really tough guys drinking lots of beers on the way. Even the driver and even if one them was a cop.
- A group of 4 Chinese tourists. I didn’t expect them to give me a ride. Very funny experience, they were singing Chinese songs, taught me how to solve a Rubiks cube and of course they were stopping at every nice spot to take some pictures.
I also met a French hitch-hiker and a very nice German couple that gave us a ride to a great campsite next to the beach. Full moon and huge waves. Magic.
3 weeks in Queenstown. Crazy weeks. I had a fun time here, met really cool people and have been partying a lot. That’s all this town is about.
But clearly, this is not really what my travel is about. Living in a very busy and noisy Hostel, sharing a messy room with 7 other people with totally different sleeping time, being unsuccessful by getting a job, doubting about my plans for the next months. I got a little bit tired and feel like having a more healthier rhythm of life. Many reasons for a change, the time has come. I decided to leave and get back on the road.
I will head back to Wellington, hang out with my friend Andy there, and get some work. I will hitch hike from tomorow over the West coast and hopefully reach Picton by the end of the week to catch the ferry. I’m really excited about exploring this yet unknown part of the south Island. I will also meet my friend Mikki on the way, that is travelling on the opposite direction but on the same road.
In order to compensate the lack of content on the blog over the last weeks, here is a new video of my pictures over the last 3 months.. pretty much all my trip over the beautiful south Island. Enjoy.
I have been in Queenstown for one week now. What a transition after many weeks in the nature. This highly touristic town is THE spot for all adrenaline lovers, and party people. The world first bungee jump site has been built here, followed by all kind of extreme sports and activities: (ski, bungee, skydive, paragliding, canyoning, mountain bike, dirt, wakeboard, and many many more…). This town has also many cool late bars, a very busy nightlife at any day of the week. It feels like all the travelers, after weeks or months of traveling around the country, are going crazy once they get to Queenstown. So did I.
Unfortunately, this place is very expensive, and i cant afford any of the very tempting activities for now. I just have been walking around, tried the dirt jump park with Tjark (he came down to Queenstown for 3 days before leaving the country), and went partying, of course.
Im actually staying at a big hostel, and i’m working for accommodation since my first day here. 3 hours housekeeping a day for a free bed. Fair enough. I also have been looking for a job here, but it is apparently easier to get hired when the winter season starts. This might be an option by then.
For now, I’m just enjoying my time and might stay for one more week, I’ll check the job options and decide later where I’m heading next. Just takin’ it easy.
“No plans? the most exciting plan” I left Hanmer Springs on Monday morning, bye bye Max&Marmot’, hitch-hiking on my own to Christchurch (I had some stuffs left there, remember?).
Pretty sad atmosphere there, the damages of the earthquake are far more impressive that i could ever imagine. The whole city centre has been badly destroyed, and still today there is a large red zone, a no man’s land. You can read distress on the faces. Very impressive. I spend the night in a very unfriendly and expensive hostel (-), but I met Karl (+). He just arrived in NZ and he is heading south. Hmm well, why not? we are hitch-hiking together on the next day.
Hitch-hiking: A great and cheap way to travel but with constant uncertainty. It feels great, ecological, human, cooperative. And sometimes (when you have been waiting more than 45 min) you feel like being marginal of the society, judged by your outlook, “why the fuck are those people selfish or scared?”. I never been waiting more than an hour tough, New Zealand is great.
We spent one night (free) camping next to Lake Tekapo, and we reached Mount Cook village on the next day. We have been hiking around during 2 days, WOW! Climbing a mountain facing Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand (3754m) with endless glaciers, priceless. I have no words to describe it, but a few pictures below.
We left the town this morning and managed to get to Queenstown in the afternoon. I will look for a job here. And maybe settle for a few weeks.
Maxime and Marion, my two French friends that I haven’t seen since high school about 5 years ago, gave me meeting per email at a shelter on the side of the road 73 about 7km before Arthur Pass.I hitch-hiked all the way down from the lodge next to Picton, over Kaikura (where i had to spent one night) and to Christchurch where I left many of my stuffs in order to keep travelling a light as possible. By the way, I got an address there thanks to my Dutch friend Simon that is currently travelling in central America (one positive side of Facebook that makes these improbable things possible).
On Sunday, I finally reached the shelter where Maxime and Marion had been waiting for me to show up during 2 days!! 5PM. I don’t want to make them wait any longer, we decide to go ahead and start our Tramping week straight away. The plan is to go over Goat Pass, the Deception Valley, the Taramakau Valley, Harper Pass, Kiwi Pass and finally reach a road 25km away from Hamner Springs. 7 days into the deep Nature.
Majestic mountains (some Maori people says each one has a soul), huge Valleys, mystical forests. Amazing contrasts of lights, colours, land shape, and clouds movements. This is what New Zealand is about, and my expectations are “over-reached”.
A tough week tough. 7 (rainy) days without coffee, a proper bed or shower, meat*, fresh veggies or fruits, beers or wine, or any contact to the outside world. We walked up to 9 hours a day, constantly crossing rivers (=wet shoes all the time), and sometimes without any track just heading to one direction trough rocks or very dense bushes. This makes you think about the much underestimated daily comfort we are used to. When drinking a tea next to the firehood with a rationed piece of chocolate becomes the greatest moment of the day. Just being able to enjoy simplicity at its best.
I will moderate this last paragraph; by the fact that there are (most of the time) pretty comfy huts with firewood or stoves to get dry and spend the night; By this amazing story* about Maxime catching a wild Goose (Animals lovers: don’t worry, it had a broken wing and wouldn’t survive much longer anyway) that we prepared and grilled directly on the fire.; and by some natural hot pools on the way that allowed us to have a break and wash with hot water.
We finally reached the road on Sunday and hitch hiked 25km to Hanmer Springs on the hurry to find some well deserved fish&chips and beers. This cute little town surrounded by mountains has hot water springs where we spent a very relaxing resting day.
I left Takaka on Saturday last week, but I had no idea where I was gonna stay until Monday.
Some of the guys from the camp were going to a music festival and had to go pick pick up a friend (Tina) in Nelson, so I decided to take a ride with them.
I got very lucky again. Once there, I met Tina’s boyfriend that kindly offer me to spend the afternoon at the beach and a couch for the night. His name is Tjark, he is German, and we quickly got along with each others. We spent the night out together, went to a very nice electro/didjeridu concert. And as I told him about my plans, he decided to contact the lodge and ask if he could join for the woofing. Positive answer, we were hitting the road together on the next day. And after a night camping, we were at Havelock on Monday.
What a fantastic week! Our host Don pick us up with his boat, and after 45min ride trough the amazing landscapes we reached the Kaiaho Eco-lodge on a small Island in the Kenepuru Sound. A dream place. The house is very spacious and has a big balcony with an amazing view on the see and the hills. A very eco-friendly place: Solar powered electricity; the water is collected from the rain, filtered and boiled to make it drinkable; dry toilets, etc.. This way of living requires a very good organisation, and we learned a lot from Don that build this place and made it work in total autonomy. Respect.
We spent our days working of few hours for our host but also walking around, swimming, kayaking, and I even been fishing! Thanks to Tjark cooking skills, we made very nice dinners, and had good kiwi wines and conversations. It was definitely one of my best experience in New Zealand so far.
New week, new plans. I got in touch with Max and “Marmotte”, two french friends that i haven’t seen in years. They invite me to join them in the region of Christchurch, to go for one week tramping. I left the lodge this morning and I’m now hitch hiking down south, and I will hopefully reached the point of meeting (Arthur’s pass) by tomorrow. By the way, i had a little stop on the way (next to Kaikoura) to see this:
It has already been one week since I came to Takaka! I’m leaving tomorrow to hitch-hike in the direction of the Eco-lodge where I’ll spend the next week for woofing.
Here is a selection of pictures of the last days: We have been building a raft by recycling wine bags (it wasn’t really successful but it was fun!). I went for a two days trip on the very north west of the south Island with Andre(German), Oscar(Swedish), Maddy(Canadian) and Joel(English). We spent a night outside watching the stars, discovered the amazing Wharariki Beach (one of the most beautifull spot i have seen so far..), and went swimming in pretty big waves in the ocean.. Great time!
So as told in my last post, I decided to leave Nelson and go straight to Takaka to meet my friend Mikki.. This little town is really relaxed, many hippies around. This is definitely a big spot for backpackers, located in the wonderful “Golden Bay”.
Mikki introduced me to the free camping very close to the town. Amazing, well hidden in bushes, next to the river. A little spontaneous community, where everyone shares his food and wine, cook together, we even built a oven! I’ll stay here for a week at least. A very cheap and relaxing way of life, very close to the nature. I spend my days swimming at the river or hitch-hiking to the next beach..
(updated on 14.02) I got a confirmation this morning to do some woofing from next monday, at Kaiaho eco-lodge. I heard from Chantale about this magical place located on a nature reserve and only accessible with a boat!! I just got in touch with the hosts trough their website and luckily got a positive answer! I cant wait to discover this isolated piece of nature..
09.02.12. First steps on the south Island.
I took the ferry from Wellington to Picton, and started hitch-hiking straight to Nelson. I met a Chinese girl going to the same destination, so we hitch-hiked together. Quite easy even for 2 people, we didn’t wait more than 20 minutes even in some really quite areas. We took a lift with 3 different drivers, the last one was a really crazy dude. He told us about his way of life, between the dream of becoming a stuntman (until the day he broke his back as he jumped from a roof, totally drunk, and missed the mattress) and his job as a Gold-digger. Mostly in real gold mines but sometimes on his own, on very-hard-to-acces spots. “You need some balls..” he said. Epic.
I reached Nelson in the evening, the weather is way warmer than Wellington even at 8pm! I looked for a hostel, but everything was packed because of a music festival (and the high touristic season)… after a few tries and walk around i finally found a bed at some lodge – bit expensive- so I hope I’ll find some place cheaper for tonight. It is really funny to get into the backpacker life (that I didn’t really experienced so far), and meet people living on very short terms plans. The main interrogation in the morning is “where am i gonna stay tonight?”, just like me..
My plans? try to catch up with Mikki that should be in the same area at the moment, apply for some woofing places, I already got a positive answer for an amazing place apparently, but only for less than a week at the end of February.
PS: By the time I published this post, i got a text from Mikki “Im at TAKAKA. Get yourself and hith hike here fast. We have a great camp area for free and there is a great live band playing tonight” > Looks like I have a plan for tonight hahah!
A short post with a selection of cool pictures taken during this last -crazy- weekend in Wellington. Thanks to everyone! I’m really excited about the next step, the South Island. And i will, of course, keep updating the blog.