I arrived on the North Island of New Zealand on Wednesday. From the air it was lush and green and I knew it would be hot. Exactly what I want, to escape the cold Canadian winter and cheat life a bit. I met my friends at the airport, Bec and Andrew. They travel between Canada, Australia and New Zealand often and I had met them in Canada last summer for a hike out in Waterton. Andrew is from Canada and Bec is Australian. They had been travelling the South Island for the last month and we had set up to travel together for their last 15 days and My first 15. They also have a car that I will buy off of them when they leave, mutually benefiting.
We drove a lot the first few days and I have begun to learn the backpacker dirtbag life. I love it. We don’t know where we will end up from day to day and pinch pennies buying lunch and dinner from grocery stores along the way. I had always wondered what it was like to cook a stir fry in a jetboil.
A few things that I love about this place and how I know I will be just fine for the next two months: 1. They have the best instant coffee. 2. They put milk in their coffee here by default. I am set. Well I suppose there is a third reason too, probably the number one reason. The country is absolutely stunning, and I am on the lesser island and still blown away. The South Island may be too much for me to handle.
I drove for the first time here as well, on opposite sides of the road. It was weird, I am used to being such a confident driver I felt like I was learning to drive all over again. I feel like everything here is so backwards, roads, seasons and the school year. It’s the New Zealand summer after all. Something that hasn’t changed however are the people, which are as friendly and as helpful as back home. The accents are hard for me to pick up sometimes though! Bec and Andrew are the best travel companions as well. They have such seasoned knowledge of the country I feel like I have an upper hand, and they are teaching me to drive and live cheaply. Major lessons out here.
After a few days I was itching to get walking. We drove North to the Bay of Islands and the weather was horrible. Pouring rain as we drove, yet we decided together that we would try and do an overnight walk to Cape Brett and stay in a hut out there. The walk was 16.6km one way, not bad, however the costal mountains made for atrocious up and down climbing the entire way. The night before the walk we stayed at this place called “The Farm.” It is a farm about 15km from the trailhead where backpackers are welcome. Bec told me I was spoiled to have a hot shower and kitchen available. I felt spoiled. The farm has horses and cats and dogs so I was very spoiled, I love animals.
Cape Brett- 33km Overnight Hut
We started the walk in the heat. Lucky for us it stopped raining but it was amazingly humid and hot. The first part of the walk was all uphill and the sweat came hard and fast. The humidity refused evaporation so we started to get sticky and perpetually wet with our own sweat. It didn’t take long to feel the exhaustion. The steep downhill sections had slick over-travelled clay that could send you on your bum before you knew what was happening. With a pack that weighed well over 30lbs it was an added challenge to balance. We hustled through however, and I have to admit I was happy to have a butt kicking. I haven’t been running or teaching fitness for the last month so an abusive hike was just what I wanted. It was also so primal for my mental being. The sound of cicadas through the tunnel of trees made me feel like I was deep in a tropical jungle. We didn’t see much until the end which Bec and I agreed was our favourite kind of hike. The scene unveils itself in the last moments of our effort and gives way to a reward of beauty. And my God it was beautiful.
There was a giant eggshell white lighthouse greeting us as we descended down the last slippery slope. We could hear each other’s gasps as our eyes feasted on three tropical cliff islands behind the lighthouse and the small red roofed hut in the distance. It reminded me of Anne of Green Gables. Green and blue and white. A feast of colour.
After satisfying ourself with photos of the landscape we made our way down to the hut. A large group of locals our age had passed us on the trail and settled to the hut before us. As we walked up three shirtless dripping wet boys came up the steps from the coast with bright red fish dangling from their spears. Giant flippers in one hand and spear guns in the other they had joy on their faces, cracking out, “We got dinner!” The mood was infectious and the air smelt of the sea.
We sat looking at the massive cliffs for a bit of time with some fresh coffee. We chatted about the hike and rested our tired now bootless feet. Our bellies soon grumbled with urgency to fill our energy resources. We ate some dehydrated meals I brought called “Good to Go.” It was a new company I have been trying out with the healthiest ingredients I’ve seen in a dehydrated meal and I like to eat things I can pronounce. The thai curry was more than exceptional. The smell of coconut and curry tempted us as we waited for it to be ready. It didn’t take long to shovel down as we sat in the kitchen of the hut surrounded by the smell of frying fish from the other group.
We played Monopoly cards into the evening, a game in which Andrew was eager to teach me because he claimed it was “better with three people.” As we shuffled off to bed with 25 other people in the hut, we were down for a hot stuffy night. It was soon over with light from the sunrise and we packed up quickly to catch what looked like a poor sunrise, so the rush was not felt. Like every good sunrise we were not prepared and the hot orange sun revealed itself too quickly into a sea of pink. We ran to catch the light at the lighthouse. The soft orange light captured the details of the coastal rock and it made our efforts worthwhile even for only one photo. We cooked breakfast after satisfied with the best light of sunrise and then started back up the track, knowing the difficult day was ahead.
It ended up feeling easier however, we voted it to be the cool wind and reduced heat of the day keeping us from the exhaustion we felt from the previous day. I don’t think I have ever smelt that bad before, I couldn’t even handle my own stench at that point, the urgency to shower was strong. We came back to the farm again to refresh, where I write this blog. We are headed South now to some volcanic parks. Guaranteed to provide more stories and memories.