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November 30, 2023:
We went out for breakfast at a local café. A few people at the table next to ours gave us some dessert after they saw our backpacks and asked what adventure we were on. They figured we would need the calories.
After we ate, we went to take a nap on the beach. We chose a spot that had a heart drawn out with white pebbles. We laid down on the rounded grey rocks that were being kept warm by the sun. After some time, I lifted my head up to the view of the waves gently crashing into the shore. A woman was laying down on her back reading a book and a couple behind us was sitting on the bench cuddled up. Romance was in the air.
We started walking towards the road after about an hour and I saw some birds from a distance that reminded me of a mixture of herons and penguins. I approached them as close as I could without startling them. They flapped their wings a few times, then a couple of them dove into the water. The rest were perched on jagged rocks, looking into the abyss of the sea.
We walked toward the road so we could start our hitch towards Picton. As we walked the main strip, we saw a yarn store (that I may or may not have gotten distracted by), a house covered in various kine bones and a surf store with a map of NZ on their wall. Orange gave a demonstration using his trekking pole to show where we would be hiking.
We had a very hard time getting a ride so we made a shitty sign on a piece of cardboard that read: PICTON.
He pulled the sign away from his face to get a better look at it then says, “Focking terrible.”
Everyone that drove by kept squinting their eyes trying to read it. Despite the shittyness of it, we still got a ride shortly after. The guy who picked us up was an older gentleman named Victor who drove us about halfway. We made a quick pit stop to check out the wild seals and their pups. They looked like fuzzy fat sausages sunbathing away! We couldn’t stay for long because Victor had to go see his dad who was apparently dying.
We made one more quick pit stop at a café so we could get a view of the beach while Victor got a hot cup of coffee. Orange and I walked down a pathway to where the grass met the sand and found a teepee made out of driftwood. We were about to go check out the garden, but Victor called us over to let us know his brother reached out and told him to hurry up.
“My father is deteriorating and we need to go,” he said, “but first let me down this cup of coffee.”
Before we got back in the car, we all got distracted by the cuteness of a newborn black lab puppy.
We got dropped off and went to the hardware store to get some zip ties so we could attach our hiker tag onto our backpacks. Then, I learned that pedestrians did not have the right of way in New Zealand. I was crossing the road and the car approaching me was not stopping. Orange quickly put his arm up to stop me from walking any further.
“Cars have the right of way here,” he said.
We eventually walked over the bridge and got an immediate ride to Picton. We settled into our Airbnb and walked over to eat our last hot meal before going into the mountains. On the way there we saw a massive pine tree that appeared to be scraping the sky. It appeared ancient! I wondered what its view might look like at the very tippy top. I hugged it. The pinecones it released were unlike any I had ever seen before. They were similar to the tiny ones found after a forest fire in the redwoods of California, however these ones were five times the size.
Once we found a restaurant we both vibed with, we sat at the wooden table to read the menus to figure out what we wanted.
Simultaneously, we overheard two people across from us say, “TA.”
Our ears perked up as we both looked up at the same time. Our eyes quickly scanned them, picking up that they might be hikers. I approached them before we went inside and ordered.
“Aloha, I don’t mean to be intrusive, but we overheard you talking. Are you hiking the TA by chance?” I asked.
“Yes!” they both said.
“Oh my god! We are, too!” I exclaimed, unable to hide my excitement.
They said we were more than welcome to join them and so we did! Their names were Bon Appetit and Vicky. They had just finished their trek of the North Island and were excited to experience the south.
“There were so many cow fields up north,” Vicky said.
Bon was a chef and his favorite meal to make was spaghetti bolognese. Vicky ran out of money so she was going to work for a couple of months in Picton to save up before continuing on.
After we ate, we all said our goodbyes (for now). Orange and I made one more quick stop to the grocery store to buy some local lollies for me to try. I wasn’t fond of the chocolate filled raspberry licorice, but I fell in love with the caramilk chocolate bar! It reminded me of eating cans of condensed milk when I was a kid.
When we made it back to the room, Orange taught me to face my shoes away from the room to keep the evil spirits out. I called my mom before I went to bed and told her I would be heading out tomorrow.
“If you don’t reach out to me in a week and you see helicopters at some point down the trail, just know that I called those in,” she said.
We laughed at the visual.
About a week ago, she told me she had a kidney stone. She almost fainted due to what seemed to be excruciating pain. The doctors gave her morphine and said if she wanted a homeopathic remedy for her to lay in a hot bathtub and drink beer. Today, I asked what she was doing.
“In the bathtub trying to pee out my kidney stone,” she said.
“Are you drinking beer?” I asked.
“Yep,” she said as I heard the ripples of the water.
We both started laughing.
I had grown a much deeper appreciation for the perception of other human beings around me. I was mindful of their time with me, treating our interactions like it could be the last time I would be seeing them, because for all I knew, it could be. I always loved to end things with smiles and laughter.
Words I’ve learned NZ so far:
Mate-similar to bro
Wee bit-little bit
Bloody-used to accentuate something you’re talking about
Chuck it-throw it
Op shop-thrift store
Wheelie bins-garbage cans
Cheeky-playfully naughty
Boot of the car-trunk
Glow worms-bioluminescence
Cheers-mix between thanks and good luck
Bugger-fuck but in a more polite manner
Smoko-small work break
Buggered, stuffed, shagged-tired
Jandals-flip flops