A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand

1 month in New Zealand, in statistics

*The material side of traveling*

Things I have lost
• 1 sock
• 1 microfiber towel (was an extra, now down to one)
• 1 scarf (easily replaced by my sarong)
• 0 kg. I hiked a lot but ate a lot.

Things I almost lost
• 1 pocketknife & 1 Leatherman, left in my day pack after I checked in at O’Hare. A surly but ultimately obliging agent got me an extra box to check them through.
• My balance, many times over, hiking around Franz Joseph Glacier
• My lunch, once, passing downwind of a beached whale

Things I have jettisoned

• 1 novel
• 1 Lonely Planet New Zealand guide
• 1 cheap knockoff Camelbak water bladder. In a case of getting what you pay for, the mouthpiece perpetually leaked, either getting my stuff wet and making it look I was lactating.
• The other sock

Things I have acquired
• 1 book by a German comedian. In German, so I get to feel extra good about myself when I laugh.
• 1 jar of ginger lemon Manuka honey, gifted me by Jon. Supposedly prized for its medicinal properties. Quickly disappearing due to its addictive properties.
• 1 hat, gifted me by my friend on the Abel Tasman track, I think he felt sorry for me in the rain.
• 0 kg. Just enough tramping to offset the eating. And this despite…
• 1 potentially serious addiction to Whittaker’s chocolate
• Some pretty appalling international calling charges, thanks to some major misinformation from the AT&T store rep. This could also go under losses, depending how you care to word it.

Some items I’ve been grateful to have along the way
• My hiking boots and Five Fingers shoes, which keep my feet happy
• My pack, which enables me, as appropriate for a sea turtle, to carry my home on my back
• My tent - I love my tent
• A super duper socket converter - thanks, Ari
• Binoculars - especially good for inspecting individual feathers on Fiordland Crested Penguins - thanks, Abba
• Lululemon camping pants - fabulously comfy, and the zip pockets are probably why I haven’t lost my wallet yet kennehorah - thanks, Ema
• 1 sarong, which functions as a:
- Scarf for when it’s cold
- Shawl for when it’s sunny and/or when bare shoulders are not appropriate
- Skirt for when hiking pants get too hot
- Wraparound towel for to and from hostel showers
- Beach towel

Some items I’ve wanted with me but they would make my pack too heavy
• Wittgenstein’s Philosophische Untersuchugen
• Lacan’s Écrits
• Liz’ grilled cheese and tomato soup; Kristina’s entire baking repertoire
• A piano
• 1 Skywest pilot/cookie making entrepreneur
• 1 ASL teacher/pottery artisan currently based in Philadelphia

Other assorted facts and figures
• Kindnesses received from strangers: Too many to count
• Rude or unfriendly Kiwis encountered: 0
• Bars of Whittaker's chocolate consumed: [I plead the fifth]
• Times I’ve enjoyed my own company: Many
• Times I’ve grown weary of my own company: A few, but you learn the most from those
• Times I’ve been handcuffed: 1 (no follow up questions please)
• Kilometers tramped: 150-ish, I think…?!
• Rides hitched: 7
• Vehicles driven: 2
• Vehicles damaged: 1 (a couple times over)
• Live kiwi birds sighted: 0
• Live penguins sighted: 1
• Live whales sighted: 0
• Otherwise whales sighted: 1
• Sand flies sighted: 123,987,234,501,324

Kplr_-_sbw_silly.jpg

Posted by sbw2109 17:47 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

The Way Back

*Lamb tails and earthquakes*

semi-overcast 14 °C

After Milford Sound, time to get back up to Wellington. The next few days are spent largely in transit, watching the classic New Zealand image of a sheep-dotted countryside through the bus window. Like so:
sheep.jpg
Actually, one of the first things I learned upon arriving in this country had to do with sheep. Their tails tend to collect poop, which houses a lot of bacteria, which gets messy and can lead to infection. Therefore, before the lambs get too big, they have their tails, um, abbreviated. Okay, chopped off. And the little boy lambs usually lose something else too. This is called docking, and I was kind of troubled by it. I do understand the rationale, but still, to chop off the poor little lambs’ tails… Now, driving through this classic New Zealand landscape, and it being springtime, there are lambs everywhere. Sheep are very boring. They are either sitting or standing, maybe walking or chewing some cud. But lambs are cute and cuddly! They skitter, prance, play, run after their mothers. So it’s fun to watch. Only thing is, I am slightly obsessed with their tails. Each time we speed by a pasture, my eyes go right to the little lambs’ rear ends as I find myself compulsively checking to see whether they still have their tails. Some do… some don’t. And that’s that.
lambs_ed.jpg

We arrive in Christchurch early evening. Everyone along the way, residents and tourists alike, has reported that it is still devastated from the earthquake(s). Indeed, the first thing that happens – which has not happened this entire trip – is I have a little trouble finding a hostel because the city lost so many beds from the quakes. I finally find a place, drop my pack off, and head out for a walk. It is a cool, gray evening, perfect for a night in, but I feel I should see what the city is like, maybe grab some dinner.

My thoughts quickly go from wondering if there are any dinner joints open in this ghost town to, “Oh… my God.” Prettymuch the entire center of the city is fenced off because the buildings were either destroyed or so structurally compromised that they are slated for demolition. Through the fencing you see vacant storefronts and office buildings, fancy hotels with curtains hanging eerily in blown-out windows, streets clear of traffic but for bulldozers and official vehicles. The surrounding streets are also a grim sight – stores and businesses closed, buildings locked up or actively being torn down. I think what gets me most is some of the graffiti, and a little shrine of stuffed animals clearly mourning a child.
demo.jpg graffiti_2.jpgCrowne_plaza.jpg graffiti_1.jpg
child.jpg
I don’t have too much time to process. The next morning is a 7am bus up to Picton, a 1pm ferry back up to Wellington, and a lovely reunion with my Wellington adoptive family. I use the next couple days to catch up on laundry, email and blog (can you tell I’m a little behind?) before heading off to Tonga.

Posted by sbw2109 17:29 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Kepler Track to Milford Sound / I still love my tent

*Indulging my inner misanthrope*

semi-overcast 14 °C

The Kepler Track makes a loop, the middle of which covers an alpine pass, the majority of which is at present still snowed over. If you don’t mind the avalanche risk, says the DOC information officer, and if you’ve got mountaineering skills and the right equipment, you could have a go at it.

Um, that would be a no.

There is still an option to enter at either end of the loop and hike back out the same way. That actually appeals more because I can camp in the same spot for two nights, leaving my stuff at the campsite and doing a day tramp in between.

The town of Te Anau is the starting/ending point for Kepler, and I arrive there with plenty of time to hike in and camp before sundown. The walk curves around the glassy Lake Te Anau, crosses a dam, then enters an area of beech forest while continuing to skirt the lake. Once in the forest I fall into a quiet state of awe. It is incredibly green and lush, I have it prettymuch to myself, and it takes on a mystical quality in the softening daylight. The trail is wide, clear and easily navigable. Which of course makes me want to deviate. Stepping off the tamped down dirt path onto the mossy forest floor is like stepping onto a different planet. It unbelievably springy and soft, some unearthly matter (though earth is exactly what it is). It feels like I am walking on clouds, and if this were a fairy tale I could just sink down into the moss as into a feather bed, the friendly forest creatures keeping watch over me while I sleep.

This being real life, when I stop to camp at Brod Bay, the sand flies show up. They are reportedly especially bad in Fiordland National Park, and are accordingly plentiful tonight. I just cover up from head to toe and take my time pitching my tent to afford the best view of the beach. Not bad for real life.
Kplr_-_bea..om_tent.jpg

I decide to leave some of my food outside the tent, off in the cooking area. My nourishment for this trip includes the leftover coconut curry I made at the hostel last night, and being housed in a zip lock baggie, it is a little on the fragrant/messy side. This preference probably comes from camping in Yosemite where there are bears, nevermind that NZ has no large predators, I just don’t like having food that might draw an animal up to/into the tent. After a sunset stroll along the water and one last pit stop, I perform my usual stomping/waving/slapping dance and zip into my tent.

Silence, but for the lapping waves, birds, and sand flies landing on the tent. I was craving my own company, and now that I have it, I feel good. Really good. I never knew I was such an egotist and a misanthrope. What’re you gonna do.

Approaching the cook shelter the next morning, I see that the bag holding my curry is on the ground. Upon closer inspection, it has been ripped open and mostly eaten. For good measure, whatever beaked animal perpetrated the theft left a bunch of poop pellets on the counter. I feel… mad. I was looking forward to that curry for tonight’s dinner after a long hike. Now I’m stuck eating trail mix, peanut butter and crackers for the next 36 hours. I am so crabby that I do a slightly bad thing. This is the wilderness and you are supposed to carry all your trash out, period. But the violated bag of curry is… nevermind, I won’t describe it, just believe me it’s gross. I scrape most of the surrounding pellets into the bag and toss it down the hole in the outhouse. Which you are not supposed to do with trash. My only weak defense: It did have poop in it.

This will sound silly, but as I start to hike, I am still crabby, and grousing to myself in rhythm with my steps: “Jeez, man, some seagull, duck or weka or whatever, had to come and rip into my food… I bet it was a duck, that’s probably it – a duck ate my curry… duck… ate my curry…” When I was living on the Upper West Side of New York, I had many favorites, including a favorite place to get duck curry. It was an amazing dish – tangy, creamy, crisp, chewy goodness… I finally have to laugh. For all the times I’ve enjoyed duck curry, I decide that it is fair and fitting that for once a duck ate my curry.

Shortly after resolving my duck curry angst, I meet two German guys on working holiday in NZ. We walk together for a while, chatting in a mixture of both languages. Eventually I ask their names. “I’m Max,” says the one, “And I’m Moritz,” goes the other. “Get out of here,” I say. Max und Moritz are a mischievous pair of characters in a German children’s story. Here’s a portrait:
M_M.jpg
But it’s true, those really are their names. So I hike up the mountain with Max und Moritz, great views on the walk of course, and have lunch at the Mount Luxmore Hut, which is about as far as you can go unless you are into that alpine mountaineering stuff, then clamber over some snowdrifts to explore a cave near the mountaintop.
Kplr_vista.jpg

Afterwards, Max and Moritz head back down the mountain while I stay to enjoy the view from the top for another hour or so. It is hat-and-gloves cold, but the sun has come out and it’s a beautiful day to sit on a mountain so long as you’ve got that hat and gloves. I also kind of feel like hiking down alone, pleasant company though they were. Again, indulging my inner misanthrope. Is this bad?

Back down at Brod Bay, I have my gourmet dinner of peanut butter on crackers, another sunset stroll on the beach, and settle into my tent as dusk falls. Ah, another peaceful night, I think. Then I hear a motor and voices out on the water, moving closer. A boat comes into view, pulls right up to the beach, and several guys hop out. They see my tent and wave. I wave back, pull on camping pants over my pajama pants, and get out to say hello. I am promptly handed a beer as I meet seven friendly but inebriated Kiwis in their 20s, here to make a fire and hang out on the beach.

Alas, the fire is not working very well because all the available wood is all damp. To help things along, they throw some extra petrol from the boat onto the pile of sticks. Flames shoot up several meters high, the conflagration ringed by drops of burning petrol on the sand. Then it dies back down. This is repeated, but the fire still won’t take. They decide to take their party elsewhere, and offer me to hop on the boat and join them. I consider this offer – travel is all about going with opportunities that present themselves along the way – and briefly entertain thoughts of a reprise Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs episode. However, I am ultimately swayed by the cons: (1) I cannot identify a single one of them sober enough to drive a boat, (2) I have a very early bus tomorrow, and (3) given their sobriety level, I’m not liking my chances of getting back to my campsite at all. So I sadly decline, wish them well on their evening's festivities, and get back into my tent to enjoy that peaceful night after all. I love my tent.

The reason for my early morning is a 9am bus to Milford Sound, and I am camped a good couple hours’ hike from the town of Te Anau where I need to catch it. So I am up before dawn, packing up my tent, and setting off back around the lake. If I had to be up this early, it is a lovely place to be hiking.
Kplr_sunrise.jpg

Fellow travelers have told me the bus ride to Milford Sound is a treat in and of itself. I see what they mean as we make our way west through Fiordland National Park’s glacier-carved scenery, through looming mountains and hanging valleys. Even the color of the water in the glacier-fed pools here is different; a dreamy, luminescent blue-green that gazes back out at you.
Hanging_valley.jpg
glacier_pool.jpg

People generally see the sound via kayak, cruise, or scenic flight. Back in Wellington, Louise found a “Grab One” deal on a 90-minute cruise, so thanks to her keen eye I am all set. The bus pulls right up to the wharf, and I get on the boat. Visitors are always warned to expect rain, as the area averages 7m / 23ft of rain annually. But we do not get rain. Nor sun, nor partly cloudy, nor anything the weatherman may have on his dropdown menu. For much of the cruise, about half the sky looks sinister and foreboding, while other half looks like an artist’s rendering of heaven. Mist shrouds the peaks and broods in the hanging valleys. The mountains rise sharply out of the dark water and – the captain explains – plunge to equal depths down below, ending in a U-shaped bottom formed by the glacier. We are fortunate to see a Fiordland Crested Penguin preening himself on a rock. Through my eyes and zoomed-in camera lens he looks like this:
MS_penguin_1.jpg
Through binoculars, he looks like this:
Fiordland-..guin_1_.jpg
And then there were sea lions…
MS_sealions.jpg
And waterfalls…
MS_waterfall.jpg
There’s not much more to say, other than that the pictures don’t begin to do the place justice. I tried to take a few, then put the camera away and tried to take it all in.
MS_2.jpgMS_3.jpg

Posted by sbw2109 01:04 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

More South Island / Hostel Burnout

*Franz Joseph Glacier, Wanaka, Queenstown*

semi-overcast 14 °C

My bus rolls into Franz Joseph Glacier on a rainy evening. The town, a small collection of hostels and restaurants, serves as a stop along the West Coast and a base for visitors to the glacier. At the hostel I wind up chatting with a cool girl from Germany, and we watch the rugby together. This rugby thing is growing on me. It’s loads of fun to watch and I find myself squirming/shouting along with the action on screen. Not that I understand the half of it, but no matter. Meanwhile, my Israeli friend from Motueka walks in from the rain bearing hot pizza and joins us on the sofa for the rugby. Given that there are only a few ways to get around NZ’s South Island, people often end up following the same route, so there tend to be reunions along the way as you hit the major nodes of the network. A neat little phenomenon.

Next morning. One can experience the glacier via hiking, heli-hikes (whereby you helicopter up to a point on the glacier and walk around on it with crampons and pickaxes and such), and scenic flights. My own two feet seem by far the most budget-friendly option, and a perfectly good one at that, so I hike with the German girl and four French guys to a lookout point near the glacier. NZ tramping continues to be fabulous. This hike has some steep challenging parts, more swing bridges, and the view is awesome.
FJG_reflexn.jpg
FJG_swingbridge.jpg
FJG_-_the_group.jpg
In the evening the French guys make crepes – yum! Meanwhile I have moved to the hostel across the street (lured by free internet), and my roommate is from Spain. So my day has been a lovely language soup of French, German and Spanish.

The next day the Frenchies are driving down to Wanaka, which is the direction I want to go (toward Queenstown), and they agree to take me. They have rented a camper van with two seats in front and a sleeping area in back, so it is three of us lounging/rolling around in back on the 5 hour drive down to Wanaka. It looks kind of like this:
FJG_-_van_ride.jpg

Wanaka is a small city/town with a nice offering of tramping and ‘adrenaline activities.’ Set on gently sloping hills around a lake with mountains in the background, it looks - as does much of NZ - like a postcard:
wanaka_-_postcard.jpg
wanaka_-_sunset.jpg
At the hostel I re-reencounter the Israeli guy, who feels like an old friend by now. We take a quiet walk along the lake and grab food at a kebab stand as the sun sets. I am craving quiet now, by the way. Although I am meeting great people, human interaction is beginning to feel taxing. As a matter of fact, I am noticing a pattern. This seems to happen after a few consecutive nights in staying in hostels. I have started to think of it as “Hostel Burnout.” Its chief symptom is that no matter how pleasant other people’s company may be, I basically want to be alone. So the next day, instead of sticking around Wanaka to hike with friends (lousy hiking weather anyway), I book a bus to Queenstown where I don’t know anyone yet.

Queenstown has a cool vibe. Restaurants, pubs, all night hamburger joints, and countless businesses catering to the adrenaline junkies that gravitate here (no pun intended) for bungee jumping, paragliding extreme mountain biking, river sledging, skydiving etc. Which reminds me. About all that adrenaline stuff... A couple months back, I managed to slip a disk in my neck. Wasn’t my first stupid injury, but this time there was… Nerve Pain. That plus some absurdly intense muscle spasms obviated sleep for weeks, and it put the fear of God in me. Eventually things seemed to be moving in the right direction, I had clearance to travel, and I asked my PT about bungee jumping. He made a pained face and groaned (much like when I asked about tumbling the week before). He finally said it would probably be okay, like the odds were in my favor should I care to chance it. Strolling down Shotover Street now, I recall this pronouncement, consider the sumptuous adrenaline menu, then juxtapose it with… Nerve Pain. I decide that God willing I will have the opportunity to bungee jump/skydive/et al when I am not three months post slipped disk, and for now, hiking it is.

The main tramp near Queenstown is up to Ben Lomond Peak, a mountain overlooking the city and surrounds. It starts with a steep ascent to the upper cable car terminal called Skyline Complex, which is also a starting point for loge tracks, ziplining adventures, mountain biking and probably more. Nearing Skyline Complex I hear some strange noises that I realize are mountain bikes braking. Frequently and sharply. They sound almost musical, like blasts on a clarinet. Then the hiking path intersects with a mountain biking trail known as “Vertigo” whose grade is so steep that I would scarcely attempt it on foot, let alone a bike. I’ve done my share of hazardous things, but gain a new level of respect for these ‘Queenstown adrenaline junkies’ who are clearly much crazier than I.

What can I say. Another fabulous NZ hike. Ben Lomond Peak, reached after a couple hours of challenging uphill, rewards you with killer views from up in the clouds. It is above the bush line, above the snow line, and – a special treat – above the sand fly line, so you can hang out without being pestered. At the summit I meet a couple guys from overseas who are living and working in Queenstown. We pass around some cookies and binoculars as we chat. I also inquire about a sofa to crash on, just in theory (why not save a couple buck on a hostel?). They explain that they live in a house with 15 people and the landlord doesn’t technically allow it… but hey, it’d probably work, so let them know if/when I need it.
Qtown_hike_-_sbw.jpg
Qtown_-_in_the_clouds.jpg

Back at the hostel, I make dinner for the second night in a row courtesy the Asian Mart, where I have taken a liking to shopping. Last night was udon soup with fresh tofu and bok choy, tonight coconut curry. It is a pleasantly quiet evening. Some hostels are more social than others, and people tend to hang out, make dinner together and plan activities together. Here it's more like everyone does his/her own thing, which is exactly what I wanted. Still. I am craving even more pure isolation, like tramping and camping. Queenstown is fairly far south, so most of the Great Walks nearby are still limited by wintry weather conditions, i.e., the DOC updates say things like, “extreme risk of avalanche.” The Kepler Track, just outside Te Anau, is partly passable and sounds beautiful, so I book a bus for the next day.

Side note: Apart from the ride with the French guys, which is different because we already knew each other by then, I have not hitchhiked since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I can posit two reasons. (1) I am now traversing routes fully covered my prepaid Flexipass, and (2) That ‘Driftwood’ episode felt like hitting the hitchhiking jackpot. Anything after would be anticlimactic, and really, I just don’t want to press my luck because if it comes in any kind of finite quantity, I have surely maxed out.

Posted by sbw2109 16:54 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Driftwood

*Or, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs*

overcast 16 °C

Yom Kippur morning. I wake up in my tent to birdsongs and wind along the Karamea coast. I have decided to fast today as I am less than two hours’ walk from the trail exit, so it’s not like I’d be hiking all day without nourishment. I will drink water, though; not looking to pass out here.

On the walk I sight two 60-ish looking men a ways down the beach. We wave hello; NZ is just friendly like that. When we get close enough to exchange a few words, I ask if they are by any chance driving back to Karamea later. Affirmative.

I take a liking to Rob and Gene as we engage in the usual getting-to-know-you conversation. They are from the North Island, here on holiday, staying at Gene’s brother’s house with some other friends who came for the whitebaiting (to be explained later). Meanwhile, there are some caves about 20 minutes off the highway known as the Oparara Arches that I would have liked to see, but it is only practical to go by car. When Rob and Gene mention they were there yesterday but missed one of the arches, I volunteer that if they’d like to catch that last arch I’d be happy to tag along. So off we go onto a dirt road winding through forested hills. Amazing how quickly NZ’s vegetation can change and it feels like you’re in a different ecosystem. As for caves, geology happens slowly and I’ve never really had the patience for it, but I can appreciate amazing rock formations when standing right at/under them.
oparara_arch.jpg

As we drive back to the main road, Rob asks if I’m hitching a lot. He is a little concerned for my safety, says bad things do happen albeit rarely, and asks where I’m trying to get. It feels just a little weird to be having this conversation while driving along a remote forest road with two strangers. But here I am, so I answer that I’d like to make it to Westport or Greymouth and catch a bus on south from there. Rob says they are driving down to Greymouth tomorrow morning and I am welcome to join if I don’t find anything sooner. They’re staying just down the road and we can meet in the morning. For that matter, I am welcome to bunk with them at Gene’s brother’s house, “but that’s up to you – we are seven men, after all.”

I say thank you very much, I’ll think it over. Which I do not. What a no-brainer: Absolutely not, why would I ever do such a thing. And yet. I have an odd little sense that maybe, just maybe… As we roll into Karamea and they ask whether to drop me off there or head to the house. I hear myself saying, Let’s head to the house. They chuckle over how the group will react when I show up. “I’ll let you do the explaining,” I say. “Oh no, we’re not gonna say anything, we’ll just walk in with you and see what they do.”

The banter starts up right away. “Where’d you find her?!” “Well, we were just walking along the beach and there she was looking for a ride, so we picked her up and took her home with us.” “Like a piece of driftwood, eh!” The nickname sticks. “Make yourself at home, Driftwood! Care for a beer?”

I am thus welcomed and christened by these seven Kiwis in their 50s and 60s, having a holiday away from the wives to hunt and fish and enjoy friendships forged over decades. They are highly amused at Rob and Gene’s beachcombing find, and offer me more food and drinks as we sit around chatting. Rather than saying, “No thank you, I’m not hungry/thirsty” for the next six hours, which would (a) seem weird and (b) be patently untrue, I explain that I am fasting until sundown because it is an important Jewish holiday.

“Really? How about that!” They are all interested, and a hearty fellow named Mike is particularly tickled. “Wow. I’d never have that much faith, I wouldn’t, wasn’t raised that way you know. And I’m sorry, the way people go on about religion sometimes, all a bunch of bullshit and jellybeans. No offense mind you, I admire it I do. You must be bloody hungry, though, eh?! So what’s this holiday all about?” I explain a little about Yom Kippur, then we’re off on a conversation about life, death, belief, etc. In between hunting stories and exploits of epic proportion. “Bob here, he was so fit he could run circles around all of us. Just run up and down the mountain with two deer on his back, he would! Say, Driftwood, do you like venison? Ever tried it? How about whitebait?” They promise I’ll taste both tonight.

I’ve been hearing about this whitebait stuff for a while now. As best I can gather, it is a small fish that swims down the rivers and streams this time of year, making for whitebaiting season. The classic preparation, known as a whitebait patty, is to throw some fish into a pan whole and cook them up whole along with some egg. Which doesn’t sound half bad going on 20 hours of fasting. They pull a bowl from fridge to show me the day’s catch. The fish are tiny and clear, and they are still alive, squiggling and squirming to get out of the bowl. “Whitebait, it’s also sometimes called white gold. What’s in this bowl here, it’d probably sell for $100. But we just like to fish it and eat it – you gotta have ‘em fresh, of course. And a lot of restaurants, they do have fresh whitebait around now, but you go to a restaurant and order a whitebait patty, you might get an egg patty with two little fish somewhere in there. Whereas these ones we’ll be making here, they’ll be chock full of whitebait they will…”

Meanwhile, rugby makes the New Zealand world go round, let alone a Rugby World Cup. Ireland is playing France tonight, so some of us head to town to watch at the bar. Yom Kippur excuses me from having a beer, which is fine by me. As we stand around chatting and watching the game they periodically remind me, “One hour left til sunset, eh Driftwood? You’ll be good n’ hungry! Soon you’ll be tasting the finest whitebait patties you’ll ever eat.”

By the time we return from the match it is decidedly dark and I am decidedly hungry. Bob, who seems to be the appointed chef, is cooking up the whitebait, and in no time appears with a steaming platter. The patties are golden, fluffy clusters of the delicate little fish held together by just the right amount of egg. I add lemon and salt as instructed and take a bite, my hosts watching closely for my reaction. I don’t have to fake it: This is GOOD. Then, the main course is venison steak (courtesy Gene’s grandson’s hunting) with a balsamic reduction, served with fabulously creamy mashed potatoes and vegetables. As I take my first bite of venison they again watch my reaction: Delicious. “Did you ever think you’d be eating whitebait patties and venison tonight with seven Kiwi guys tonight, eh Driftwood?” Someone else says, “It’s like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs!” That name sticks as well, and we spend a while trying to recall all the dwarfs’ names and decide who’s who among us.

We turn in around 10pm. I sleep out in the shed with one of the guys who says the rest snore too loudly for him. Indeed, the few who have already passed out are inspiring visions of chainsaws, jackhammers, trombones and tympanis. In the morning Rob, Gene and I head for Greymouth, with a quick stop in Punakaiki to see cool rock formations with blowholes.
pancake_rocks.jpg
As we part ways and I thank them again for everything, Rob gives me his email saying, “Just write me in a year to let me know you got home safe, okay?”

Posted by sbw2109 15:45 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 10) Page [1] 2 » Next