Te Anau zero part 2

After coffee I ran over and booked a couple of tours for the day then went grocery shopping. This time still felt fairly chaotic, just indiscriminately throwing things into my basket, but I eventually went back, got a cart, spread out all of the food I’d selected into it, sorted into meals, and found that I was actually fairly close. I needed a few less sauce packets and another box of bars and I’d be set. I also had an entire extra thing of pasta, but I decided to keep that for spare food as it works really nicely with some milk and a sauce packet. It feels really heavy, but it also includes breakfast for tomorrow before I leave and I’ll be eating a fair amount of it tomorrow, so it’ll lighten up quickly.

Afterward I went out on one of the trips I’d booked for the day, an afternoon tea cruise on old sailboat. I’d caught the sailing bug pretty thoroughly in Auckland and decided to see what they had on offer.

The boat was very cool. Lots of history. Nicely kept, etc. being out on the water was fun, and the little guided hike tour in the middle was also quite nice. Yes, I went hiking on my day off. From hiking.

They served afternoon tea and put up the sails, but honestly there wasn’t any real sailing going on. Maybe today wasn’t windy enough, but I also don’t feel like the sails were big enough to make much of a dent trying to move this beast around. Overall it was fun, but I would probably have passed on it in favor of something else had I known more.

One interesting thing I did learn is that the lake here is 450+ meters deep. The bottom is actually 200 meters below sea level! It’s also very clean and pure water. You could drink directly from the lake with no treatment or filtering. Very cool, as someone who drinks primarily wild sourced water at the moment!

Afterward I bumped into the guys I met a couple of huts back. They were also heading out in the morning and they convinced me to do the next section in 4 days instead of the 5 I’d been thinking, which is really more like 3 long days and then a mad dash to get to our shuttle pickup at 10am. Should be interesting. So I booked my shuttle from the trailhead to Queenstown. They also suggested I book my Queenstown accommodation as soon as possible, given how busy it is there right now. Oof. Even further committing me to a 4 day stretch. Welp, I did. There really isn’t much available now but I managed to get a private room near the center of town so, that’s at least sussed.

Then off to my final excursion for the day, a trip to the Te Anau glow worm caves. Earlier today I’d seen a nice catamaran with a bunch of people on it pull up next to us at the dock. Now I’d be riding on it.

A short trip with some commentary and we were out at the cave. Sadly, photography is not allowed inside. Makes sense. They don’t want people dropping phones in the underground river or firing flashes in the pitch black cave. And black it was. The early part of the cave we walked through was really cool. The water flowing through it having carved it out over the last 12,000 year’s after the weight of glaciers from above fractured the ground and forced water through. Then they put us on these little gondolas and took us deeper into the cave, which at this point was pitch black. Darker than I’ve seen in a very long time. And all these little green points of light like the tips of fiber optic tree lights in clumps around the ceiling. Super super cool.

After a solid few minutes of that, back to the roar of the water and the lights in the cave. We were all really quiet in the “sanctuary” part of the cave, and we were still quiet after coming back out. I’d love to lay on a pool float in that cave for a few hours or years. Really cool.

Then some more hiking, of all things and a short presentation with live commentary about the glow worms and what they are: maggots. Multiple times the joke was made “you wouldn’t come to a glow maggot cave”. They’re pretty fascinating creatures, but to be honest I liked the cave and the boat part way better than the actual worms. They were cool, but I was expecting the ceiling to be completely covered in them. Again. Not bad. I would do it again. But as far as expectations vs reality, the cave itself and the boat was way cooler.

So, back to the boat. From below, the cockpit looks like a super high tech command center. Combined with how maneuverable and powerful this thing was, it just felt awesome. I asked nice and they let me hop up and take a picture and I chatted with the skipper a bit. She was controlling the whole thing with what amounts to an Atari joystick in the arm rest of her enormous seat. Super cool.

After getting back to the dock we were treated with a pretty magnificent sunset and then, tired as I am, and wanting to get started in the morning with my walk, I snapped a photo and walked back to my hotel.

I was on both of those boats today!

Now I’m using this last opportunity for WiFi to finish uploading photos and one last email check, then I’m going to bed. No luck finding a ride out to the trail in the morning so I’m gonna walk out to the highway and throw out a thumb and a smile and hope for the best. 4 days from now I’ll be in Queenstown!

Te Anau zero

I’m writing this early in the morning on my zero day in Te Anau, so it may be a bit premature but I didn’t need police involvement last night and probably won’t tonight!

On the docket for today is first and foremost: coffee. When I first came to New Zealand in November 2016, I was not at all aware of their coffee obsession. One of the things I always worry about when I travel is where I’ll be getting coffee. I’m too lazy to carry a rig and make my own, especially because I’d prefer to patronize local coffee shops if available, so finding a good anchor coffee shop wherever I go is a priority. I needn’t worry about that here. When I first landed in Auckland and made it out through customs and such I hooked a left out of the doors of the international terminal and there was a little cart (think Portland food cart) serving coffee. I quickly got in line then quickly realized that my usual: 12oz Americano, was likely to get me a blank look. So I whipped out my phone and frantically tried to figure out what I should order. Next thing I know it’s my turn and the guy behind the counter is looking at me expectantly. “12oz Americano?” I say. The guy behind the counter and the guy who was ahead of me in line both laugh and immediately start taking the piss. Guy behind the counter tells me Starbucks is downtown. I laugh. They inform me that a long black is what I’m after, and after some more culture shock of not needing to sign the receipt and being told “we don’t tip here, mate” I was far less worried about the coffee situation. See, New Zealand loves coffee. Big time. It’s actually harder to find bad coffee here than it is to find good coffee most anywhere else. So I immediately was in love. Evidence to this is the fact that last night the touristy bar, burger place I ate dinner at in a touristy town had a La Marzocco and a competent barista behind the wheel. At a bar. A tourist bar. In a tourist town.

One thing New Zealand also does really well is breakfast. When I was cruising around last year I kept seeing signs advertising “all day breakfast” and thought it was cool there were so many places that always had breakfast. Well, they do. But “all day breakfast” is actually a dish here. It’s called that because it’s all you need to eat all day (unless you’re a TA hiker, then it’s a decent appetizer to first breakfast). It usually has eggs, a huge pile of bacon, grilled mushrooms, hash browns, toast, sausage, and my favorite: grilled tomatoes. Something about the way kiwis cook their tomatoes is just the best. The best ones I had were at a place in Christchurch called The Caffeine Lab, I think they used charcoal or something it had a very nice smokey flavor.

Anyways, so I have in front of me an all day breakfast and a long black and am content with the world.

Also on the docket today is grocery shopping. I need 5 days worth of food for the next leg which will take me to Queenstown. It’s entirely possible I’ll only be taking 4 days to get up there but that means 3 long days in a row so I might break it up a bit more. Really loving that the farther north I get seemingly the more choice I have with regard to day length. Up until this last section it’s fairly rigid where your stopping points are unless you want to try to free camp somewhere but even along most of the route so far that hasn’t been legal, and in many places would have been quite difficult. Plus I like to have water and a toilet nearby at the very least, even if it is just a stream and a long drop (in that order), it feels better than just pitching up any old place. Plus there’s the possibility of running into other hikers along the trail which is always fun!

Aside from that it’s mostly just relax and enjoy the town a bit. I already did laundry. I already hit up the local sports store to replace some gear that either was not working out or I’d burned like an idiot, so most of my errands are done. I got some stamps, need to get some postcards and fire them off.

Likely I’m going to do a Lake Te Anau cruise, glow worm cave, and hit up the bird sanctuary. For food I’ll probably have pizza for dinner, a big milkshake somewhere for lunch and afternoon tea on the lake cruise.

Oh and I still have the rest of that 6 pack of coke to drink. I tell you, with a huge shoutout to /r/hailcorporate, there’s very little as satisfying as an ice cold coke when I get done hiking for the day. I’ll be including some in any resupply boxes I send out going forward just to have on hand when I arrive, along with Tim Tams.

I’ll post some pictures later. It’s super super pretty here. Lots of tourists but it seems like a pretty chill, laid back kind of place. I like it a lot.

Nightcaps zero

Yesterday I decided I wanted to head into nightcaps to resupply and fix my food and water situation, as well as to take a rest day and take care of some blistering on my feet. So, I did. The road to Birchwood Station is fairly low traffic so I started walking. After nearly reaching Ohai I finally nabbed a ride from a nice lady whose name I can’t remember sadly.

I got to nightcaps, got what I needed from the store and stepped out onto the sidewalk and took a seat on the bench in front of the city hall to wait for the pub up the street to open which I’d heard has rooms available. I called my dad on the phone to check in and say hi, and while I was talking to him a lady approached and asked if I was looking for a place to stay and invited me over. Hearing nothing but great things about Kiwi hospitality, especially Maori hospitality, I decided to go for it.

When I walked in my gut was telling me something was wrong. The place was reasonably clean but shabby as all get out, half broken furniture, an old crt tv in the living room, and it was just this young couple living there. They seemed nice enough and I’m trying not to judge how people live, combined with a large heap of “how do I politely decline after getting the walk through”. I didn’t see any bed bugs or needles so, whatever.

My goal for the day was to resupply, fix a couple of things, treat some wounds and lay in bed and watch trashy tv all day. This was mostly what was on offer here so I took advantage.

Later in the evening we walked over to the pub, I got a burger and fries takeaway and we walked a couple of houses further down to one of their friends’ place where we hung out and played pool and listened to music in his garage. Despite the ignorantly racist jokes the guy kept making about Compton, he seemed like an alright guy.

Then 8pm rolls around and I want to get to bed, I need to get up early and eat breakfast then try to hitch a ride back to the trail, so I want to get to bed early and get some sleep. All is well. I probably end up falling asleep for good around 10:30 after doing some pre packing and reading while trying to fall asleep.

At some point in the night I realize there’s a party going on now in the house. It seems mostly contained to the rear part of the house but the music is making it through to my room. I’m fairly annoyed by this but whatever, I try to tune it out and go back to sleep.

That’s when things start to get interesting.

At some point I hear what sounds possibly like arguing. Or fighting. Not being sure and thinking maybe it’s just drunk people wrestling (I’ve done it) and faffing about, I try to put it from my mind and keep trying to sleep.

A little later and it’s clear this is not just faffing about. Given that I don’t know how many people are out there and what’s going on, I grab my phone and call the police. While I’m on with the dispatcher, the guy of the couple comes into my room, clearly quite drunk; and says something to me, then says get up, and walks out of the room. Fortunately I’d decided to hide next to the bed on the floor and I don’t know if he saw me or what. One of the reasons I had hidden is it originally sounded like maybe the argument was between the couple and maybe about my presence, so I did not want to get in the middle of it. At some point she comes in and says I’m fine and closes the door. Meanwhile I’m still on the phone with the dispatcher. Things seem to calm down a bit and then more fighting begins. At this point it sounds like it’s between 2 guys and she says something about “you’re bleeding” and I mention this to the dispatcher. Eventually the dispatcher advises me to try to get out the window if I can. So I grab my pants which are right next to the window, conveniently, and out I go. I run about half way down the block in my skivvies and duck into a storefront area to wait for the police to arrive. At some point the fight spills outside as I hear the woman yelling but I think it’s behind the house and I’m just staying away.

The police eventually arrive and I talk to them for a few minutes. At this point I think the people involved have either left or whatever as things seem to have calmed down. The cop enters the house and starts talking to the folks while I hastily pack up my shit and prepare to gtfo. One last look around the room and I’m convinced I have everything, so I walk out into the hallway and out the front door. The couple seemed to be playing off that they were just going to bed and that things had calmed down. The cop seemed way more interested in my safety than whatever was going on between them. I just wanted to leave and would leave it up to him to do his job.

Out the door and into the car and off we go. I tell him the story of me doing the TA, and how I even came to be sleeping in these folks’ house and we have a bit of a laugh. He says that address is known to him and that I pretty much lucked into the worst place I could have gone. Oops!

So, here I am, in a garage behind the police station in Ohai, NZ, my gear spread out around me, 4am almost certainly not going to be able to get any sleep, writing this entry.

Both the cop and the dispatcher were letting me know I shouldn’t treat this as a typical example of Kiwi hospitality and I got quite the laugh. Great folks, all. I don’t remember the dispatcher’s name but the cop’s name was Chris.

Oh, and after I started kinda unpacking at the police station I realized I didn’t have my medicine. He went back over, didn’t find it, came back, let me know, I told him where else it might have been. It had been on the table I defenestrated myself over next to my pants so I would see it and remember to take it in the morning while packing up. I suggested maybe it was outside the window. So back he went, saying if he found it he’d bring it to me and if not he’d be back around 8am and I could come in to the station for coffee and such. About 15 minutes later I hear him roll up. Sure enough, it had gone out the window with me. Yay!

So yea. Now I try to sleep a bit before morning. I have 2 chairs, no power, and a concrete floor. Good times.

What saddens me is the day had been going so well, I even got a group selfie with a bunch of us, but now I can’t post it. Oh well.

TL;DR: I don’t have as far to hitch in the morning to get back to the trail.