Man, I have done an absolutely horrible job keeping you people in the loop about what I’ve been up to in this country, haven’t I? I didn’t even finish my harrowing tale of how I arrived in this bizarre mammal free country. (Seriously! Only native mammal is a bat. What. They don’t even have pumas, what kind of country doesn’t have a puma? [Shut up, I know most countries don’t.]) But I’m writing here and now, aren’t I? That’s the important part. And if you don’t think that is the important part, you should do something that is anatomically unlikely. But possible. Just have to be really bendy.
I think I shall give a brief update of what I have been doing with my time in New Zealand: wasting money, and sitting around.
Which really is fine with me, despite what Joy and Garth may say about vacation and going out and doing things. One doesn’t have to go and see the top of Mount Victoria to have an interesting and worthwhile time in a new country, it’s just as when you’re in your own native land: are you happy doing what you are doing? Yes? Good. Keep doing it. Of course I’ve gone out and done the touristy things, and they’ve been quite fine (and often remarkably beautiful), but these touristy things aren’t the same by yourself as they are with others, and they certainly aren’t close to the only (or even main) reason I desire to travel. I’ll come back to this later. First, a bit more in-depth description of what I have been doing.
I didn’t even discuss my first big foray into the world of Kiwis, and that was the four day tramp we took the day after I got off the plane. (Tramp means hike, here, by the way.) It seemed like a reasonably good enough idea to begin with, we’d have a four hour or so hike per-day to get to our new campsite, then we would set-up camp and poke about the area until we lost light and then converse and play games and cook until we went to sleep. A simple time out, with friends and nature, right? WELL FUCK YOU, THAT IS WRONG. The first day started off pretty horribly with us climbing 100m up a mountain in a two hour span, with our 40-50 pound packs on our back. By the time we got to the top of the mountain we were off schedule, but only by about half an hour so we weren’t too worried about it. Of course, when you go up a mountain you typically have to go back down it! Which we did. Slowly. Very, very slowly. See, there were trails that we were following, but these trails aren’t what we would usually call a trail. They were mostly just where water naturally flowed down the mountain, which meant that we had to climb down roots and things like that the whole way down the mountain. All two hours of it.
Okay, so we’re four hours in but on the other side of the mountain. According to the map, we have a decent hike along the side of the river, but not too bad since it looks like river flats. Oh, did I forget to mention the people we were with didn’t remember how to look at countour lines? Well, they didn’t. We found a sign that said it was two hours to our campsite, and off we went. Climbing, and hiking, and mudding, and doing more climbing. And river crossing. And having two of our four people walk ahead outside of yelling range. And two hours later, we found no hut.
So the sun went down.
Now, we’re 6 hours into a supposedly four hour hike, it’s dark, we’re climbing up and down mud slides, we’re cold, we’re wet, and we have no idea where our campsite is. Welcome to fucking New Zealand, Joshua. Finally, after TWO more hours, we get to a large river which has a suspension bridge across it that has a weight limit of one (ONE!) person. Crossing that river at night, nearly exhausted, was horrible. The wind actually was moving so fast that it howled, and the bridge went wobbly wobbly the whole time anyone was on it. We finally crossed it, and we got to our campsite and were forever happy.
The next day it rained, so we stayed in and rested.
On the third day, we packed up and headed out to the next campsite, and the day started out supremely well. The river side was actually a flat rolling plain, and we were all in pretty good spirits so we ambled along and chatted and marveled in the scenery. Then we got to a hill we had to climb. Then another. Then a river. Then up another hill. Then down it. And on, and on, and on. We grossly underestimated the time it would take us to hike this section of the track, again, and Michelle and I found ourselves by alone, again, crawling through wetlands as darkness descended. Superb. And to top everything off, blocking the trail in all directions, was a mud puddle. But not just any mud puddle, but one that was so deep it came up to the middle of Michelle’s thighs. (She has longer legs than me, as I discovered.) It was god awful. GOD. AWFUL. Covered in mud and water and cold and dark, we stumbled into the next campsite.
And then, the most wonderful thing of the whole trip happened.
A drunk hunter was lecturing the girls who had left Michelle and I behind, telling them that the stupidest and most dangerous thing one can do when out tramping is leave part of your party behind. Which is, of course, common sense, and I felt very justified in enjoying the girls discomfort and shame, because the drunk hunter was right. If I had somehow stumbled and broken my leg, there was no way Michelle could have moved me and it would have been hours before the girls would have come back to check on us. (Let it be noted: we had no compass. Wtf.) I felt substantially better going to sleep that night.
The next day we tried to get out on the trail as early as possible, so as to have as much light as we could. The trek started off poorly as Michelle’s lungs weren’t functioning properly and this put her in a horrible (and tired) mood, and the girls were refusing to move ahead of us, but also refused to move at the same pace as us so we had them pushing us ever faster the whole morning. Eventually Michelle got fed up with it and told them to fuck off and we meandered at our own pace, giving her time to reoxygenate her body. And everything seemed to be going okay. The trail had leveled off, and the shade was keeping us cool, we had a decent conversation going, we saw some cute animals and beautiful sights. Then. Fuck. The trail decided to just cease existing, save for a near vertical climb along a good four hundred yards of mountain side. I eventually suggested that we go down into the river itself and use the sandbars to take us further down, then climb up the banks and pick the trail back up. One of the girls decided that we should just cross the river, because, lololol, we needed to be on that side anyway. I argued that we couldn’t see past the bend in the river, and had no idea if there would be anywhere for us to get up the riverbank on the other side, so we might have to just come back and cross the river again. It made more sense to go where we could see, and use the bridge around the corner, than to risk two river crossings into unknown territory.
Put mah foot down ah did.
We had lunch out on a sandbar, then packed up and meandered down the bank for a bit, until we could climb up the side. We did so, then Michelle found the trail and off we went! The bridge was almost immediately around the corner, and the riverbanks were about 20 feet up on the other side. Turns out I was right anyway. Haha, sucks to be you lady! Also sucked to be us, because that was the halfway point of the trek, four hours in.
The hike from then on was fairly uneventful, one of the girls began to flip out because the Kiwis on the trail “intentionally” lied to us about how long we had left to go, Michelle got pissed off at how many times we went up and down the same damn hill (I can’t really fault her there) and we had to climb over some trees the Department of Conservation had yet to move from the trail. Oh, and we had to climb over another missing section of trail. Erosion makes the world go ’round?
We finally got out of the woods, and Michelle’s boyfriend picked us all up and took us to McDonald’s for glorious fatty food. And it was glorious. Then I came home and slept.
Next time: Adventures on the South Island or, Joshua Gets Drunk and Hits on Himself