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Published: February 8th 2016
Last days of South IThere is so much beauty and scenery in South Island and although the previous weeks I had spent in towns and cities, I was set to embrace it to the full. My first stop after leaving Invercargill was to head, with my fellow German backpacker Luca, to Manapouri which was a very small dot on the map of New Zealand which I had found by accident on my phone. Hitch hiking again made it easier to decide when we wanted to go and we were lucky that we got a lift straight away from a guy who was doing the 2 and a half hour drive there. He worked for the Department of Conservation and told us of the work that he did and the conservation of New Zealand, including telling of the work towards looking after the animals that were endangered. One thing I’ve learnt from hitch hiking around New Zealand is that the Kiwi’s are very friendly and enthusiastic about their country and what they do, however never NEVER talk about the changing of the national flag which will cause angry responses! This is mainly due to the fact that the cost of which is running into millions of dollars and could have spent in better areas, which is the general consensus I got. When they talk they will go out of their way to tell you all about the history of where you are and about the local environment and I have been so lucky in the people that I have met along the way.
Arriving in Manapouri we found the hostel down a dirt track and found it was an actual campsite, motel and hostel all rolled into one, so a mixture of different type of people either on holiday for 2 weeks in expensive camper vans, backpackers like me or people on organised tours. Me and Luca were quite happy to sit outside in the sunshine people watching and chatting with a bottle of wine. The topic turned to the amount of Germans that were in New Zealand and without exaggerating there are a lot over here and the problems with them is that when they all get into a group they will only talk german, even if there are 2 of them and you have joined onto their conversation some how. It was while we were talking that we had a guy with his child walk past us and started talking to us. He was a university professor working in Dunedin who was on his holidays and was from Germany. He then asked me where I was from and obviously I replied from England, but Luka when asked said he was from Holland. After the guy had walked on, I asked why he would say that when he was a German.
“I came to New Zealand to improve my English, not meet other Germans. There are too many. If I had said I was from Germany then he would start talking in German and you would have been left out of the conversation.” was his reply.
I have heard of other Germans who have done the same claiming to be from another country and trying to stay away from their fellow countrymen.
Manapouri is a one shop and garage sort of place with an enormous lake. The views from the side looking out west is of tall mountains, taking up the landscape from left to right. The terrain, the colours and the awesomeness of it explains why so many people come to New Zealand. However we were only there for one night and the next day we traveled about 30 kms south to Te Anau which was more touristic with so many people and hotels. Me and Luca had booked different hostels so we parted separate ways saying that we would meet each other later that day. I looked around the small town and tried to find cheap excursion for the following day to Milford Sounds however like the rest of New Zealand it was way over my price budget and I feel that everything about New Zealand is expensive from the food, to hostels, to getting about. Even Kiwis who have travelled out of the country will agree with me. So I couldn’t afford to do anything within Te Anau except look at the lake! I did manage to grab a cheap coffee with Luca later that day and explained to him that I would be leaving the following day and was thinking of heading back to Alexandra for a couple of days to save on cash.
This would be the last chance I would get to visit Alexandra and see Joe and Moy as it was time to move on North and head towards North Island I obviously got in touch with Moy beforehand instead of just inviting myself across and I spent 2 days in their company, which included a long walk around Alex and seeing more of the town and trying to have a BBQ on the Saturday night near the river at one of the purpose built BBQ that both New Zealand and Australia have. You just put money in, heat the BBQ up and shove the meat on. We all made the effort of getting and preparing food, getting wine and jumped onto push bikes to go down to the riverside and hoped that we would be the only ones turning up and we were. Emptying all the bags onto the picnic table nearby we organised ourselves and then went to put money into the BBQ for it to start but nothing, absolutely nothing happened. We tried everything to find out why the heat wasn’t started and I think all the preparation and the enthusiasm that we all had for this moment in time had come to nothing. At least we had wine, so we opened bottles. Joe had his beer bottles already opened and I we spent about 2 hours as it got darker and colder drinking and talking. My made the decision that we were to head home and use her own BBQ in her back garden and considering it was half 10 by the time we got back, once everything was cooked and on the table it was coming up 11 at night. Latest BBQ I’ve ever had!
It was a bit emotional leaving Alexandra as it is the only place I’ve returned twice but it was now time to do the West Coast. Standing on the side of the road it wasn't long before I had my first lift and it was a lass with her 4 year old boy. She was going as far as Haast which was explained was on the way, so she reckoned it would be a help for me, but I had no idea where this city/town/village was and with no signal on my phone I couldn’t check but she was so sure that I jumped in. This woman should be in charge of tourism for New Zealand, there was so much enthusiasm on the drive telling me about each location and the Maori legends, who was the first Europeans in the area and every time that she thought that there would be an ideal photo opportunity of the scenery then she would stop and order me out the car to take pictures, in a nice way! I saw some of the most spectacular area hidden away that most tourists wouldn’t be able to see. After a 3 hour interesting drive we eventually got to Haast which I discovered was a 1 street village in the middle of nowhere. Undeterred we said our goodbyes and i stoop by the side of the road with my thumb out yet again but after 2 hours of hardly any traffic, I had to admit defeat especially as it was getting dark and the sand flies were taking a liking to my bloody with their constant biting. With no data on my phone to let me know if there was any hostels around I shoved my heavy backpacks on and headed towards an area that had been pointed out to me before getting dropped off where I had been told was the ‘main street’.
On arrival I found that there were 2 hostels! Really? In the middle of nowhere? The owner of the place was already in the middle of a full conversation with 2 Swiss people and on seeing me asked if I was after a room? I replied I was and when he realised I was English then he carried on his conversation which involved insulting every nation. He was of the ‘older’ generation of Kiwis and every time he paused for breath I would try and ask him if I could book in. I was tired and hungry and instead asked very quickly if there was shop to buy food, to which he looked at his watch and said it closed in 5 minutes and i should be quick, this gave a chance for the Swiss couple, as quickly, to bow out of the talking to they were getting. Grabbing food from the local supermarket next door, i got a key and a poor response from the owner. I think he was enjoying his audience and I had messed it up for him! The next day I was up bright and early and back on the road with fingers crossed that i would get anyone as the road was so quiet, but I got lucky after an hour and a South African guy welcomed me into his car. An interesting bloke who was quick to tell me the problems of his country and then went onto his problems, his favourite saying was “I’m not raciest but….” I’m not sure if he was after a hitch hiker or someone to help him with his problems and it ws at that point I saw a sign saying ‘Franz Joseph’ a place I had heard of before. Before he could start on why he was homeless or whatever was coming next, I blurted out that this was my stop, even though I again had no idea where i was. He argued that I was meant to be going further but a 2 hour drive with this man was long enough.
Franz Joseph is a big tourist spot on the west coast and is named after the famous glazier that is in the area. Hostel are everywhere along with high price hotels and it was easy to find one that someone reckoned after getting dropped off. This was a bad time for me because of money. In the past when travelling I have looked at my finances and realise that emergency funds were getting low so I would cut back on stuff like decent food and better hostels, but now I was surviving on basic money. The hostel was cheap enough and they supplied free breakfast and for the first time soup on an evening, which meant i only had to survive on getting extra noodles and I would be fine and plenty of water. This was also a hostel where there were a lot of backpackers (with money) who would party on a night time and look at me in pity while I drank my water in peace! My toothache was coming back in full force again and i was taking too many pain killers just to get some decent sleep which sometimes worked. So my first afternoon there was spent walking around in the rain and trying to see any views though the dark clouds. The West Coast in South Island is well known for having bad weather due to the mountains and the warm sea current. I gave up after a couple hours and went back to the hostel to drink my water.
The next day i woke up and had breakfast with the intention of hiking towards the glacier, however within an hour I had the most intense incredible pain in my stomach, of which I had twice before but I had managed to walk them off in an hour but this was much worse, to the point I was almost in tears. Google is a mighty tool for discovering the worst and putting in my symptoms I reckoned it was definitely not athletes foot or cancer, but trapped wind! After getting expert advice from anyone on Facebook, it was recommended to get peppermint tea, which I could afford on my budget and drank 3 cups, while walking around the block a couple of times in-between each cup. The pain was getting less and less with each belch and wind coming out my body. I eventually went to bed and had a lie down for half an hours sleep and the pain was gone on waking up. Oh My God was I relieved! I even put on my hiking shoes and headed to Franz Glacier I was feeling that good.
The walk took me through a mini rain forest with signs all over the place telling me about the vegetation and animals in the area and why it rained so much. It took about an hour to get the foot of the mountain range and there were so many lazy people who had decided to come but had driven the short distance. There was a choice of two walks, a short one of 20 minutes to a view point of the glacier or an hour and a half that would lead you to the nearest safest point of the glacier, however it was my turn to be lazy and with it getting late I did the shorter version. I was not disappointed. looking up through the 2 main mountains was a sheer block of brilliant white ice as tall as a sky scraper and looking as though it went through the mountain range, it was hard to believe that over the decades it has grown smaller. Its not from global warming though as it is a leftover from the ice age and has been growing smaller over the centuries, but its still amazing to see, even through the clouds and the rain! English in me accepts that sort of weather…. Walking back to the hostel I thought about hitching it from the car park, but I needed the exercise. New Zealand is a place full of hikes and they are everywhere or tramping as they like to call it and backpackers do them as they are free but the majority of them are over 5 hours long and I don't think I have enough interesting facial gestures to look at another fern or another mountain when you’ve been through the centre of South island and seen Mount Cook, even though it was in a car!
After a night of free soup and some noodles, to save cash I sat outside the hostel with water and ended up talking to a British guy who had been travelling for 3 years and working along the way through Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Only 23 he had planned on University but decided against it as, in his words, “I would be working to survive after it, but here I’m living life”. There are many things I can say against a backpackers life style after 11 months but when you see the world and attempt to try everything that it has to throw at you, then its the University of Life and although no qualifications are given to you but you have experiences that most people will never have.
Next day after a bad night of toothache, I had breakfast and decided to hit the road with my thumb and stood on the side with 1 bloke there already, who told me he had been there for an hour. It was drizzling and already I wasn’t in the mood to be a happy-go-lucky traveller talking to random strangers who pick me up and within half an hour of standing there hoping a car would stop in front of me instead of the other guy, the stomach pains started again! More severe and more wanting me to drink more peppermint tea. I had enough so went back to the hostel that I had just said goodbye to and ask if they had any room! I was thankful they had as I could drop my bags off and just try and get rid of this wind again which took a lot longer. I realise now that the diet I have is not the best. I can say its cheap but its not the healthiest with cheap bread, pasta, noodles and cheap pizzas. I knew that if I wanted to get rid of this then I would have to splash the cash on more decent food including fruit and veg and not the pineapple you got on a Dominoes. Even though a pizza costs $5 which is £2.50 in english money. It was straight to the supermarket to buy fruit and more peppermint tea and hope that this latest trapped wind would go away. It did eventually and the next morning I did away with bread/toast for breakfast and had watermelon and with no toothache to keep me away, I went back on the road feeling a lot better.
Next stop for me was Greymouth and hitching there I was picked up by a Swiss couple who had never picked up a hitch hiker before. Their car was full to the brim as they were living out of it just about so it was a tight squeeze to get in but I managed and they were a really nice couple who kept on stopping when seeing the various sights along the way and so lots of photos taken.
Greymouth was a stepping stone to stop off at before heading for my final destinations of South Island before taking on North Island and it’s a small town that is not really known for anything apart for being at the start/end of the west coast and so lots of travellers stop there for a night or two. I had a walk around to see if the place could excite me but it didn’t! The hostel was a decent place, called Noah Ark, all the rooms were named after animals and I was lucky to be staying in the Penguin Room, where inside there was pictures and cuddly toys of penguins! Strangest room I’ve stayed in so far Not much to say about Greytown so I left the next day with my stomach still in good working order.
Although Nelson, my next port of call, was a 4 hour drive it took me 8 hours to get there as everyone that picked me up was taking me about 10 km up the road to the next village and was taking forever. The last guy who took me the furthest was a surfer dude who was on his way to a concert and tried his best to get me to go as I was “an awesome human” in his words after hearing of my travels. I had to decline as I was in need of getting to the North Island to complete my New Zealand journey. I always know when its time to leave a country when I feel that I have seen enough and want new adventures and it was getting this way for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the country. The scenery is absolutely stunning, the people are so friendly and its been a month and a half of seeing a lot of places, but I’m in the need for new challenges.
Anyways, Nelson is a city on the North of South Island and I checked into the YHA hostel on the main street with the intention of staying there for maybe 2 nights but ended up staying for 3 because I fell in love with the place. Who ever is in charge of the tourism deserves a medal as there are signs everywhere detailing everything and there is a lot of history for the place. From the cathedral and the church steps, to the memorial park, even the canal walk was littered with interesting stuff. The place was clean and tidy with lots to do, even the YHA hostel which are usually too big to get to know people as they have their cliques, was well designed and made talking to people easy. I know that this is short for 3 days but to describe everything would take at least a page and I’ve already written more then usually blogs and this has only been a 2 week journey! But leaving Nelson I felt that I had seen as much of South Island as I could, even though when you meet people they say “Have you been to ….” or “You haven’t been to ….?” and to be honest if I had the money or it had been a lot more cheaper then I would have done all the places but North Island was next and the day I got the ferry I got a lift from Nelson to the port in Picton by a young Kiwi lass who surprised me by saying she had travelled throughout Europe playing her guitar and playing in festivals. She obviously wasn’t famous but was talented to be over there and was on her way to Auckland to play yet another festival but was more back in New Zealand to relax and spend time with her family after being away for so long. That actually got me thinking that maybe thats what I needed but it was time to grab that ferry and head North……..
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