We were arrived in Welly at 10pm with no plans. Thankfully our mate was able to host us for a night even if she already was sleeping in her flat's lounge. It is a nice and weird feeling to be back here! We spend a day doing groceries, paperwork and some planning because we don't know nothing about the North Island and have two weeks ahead of us. After enjoying some city life - understand restaurants and fancy craftbeer bars - we stayed at the creepiest backpacker hostel on Earth. The morning after we headed to the trainstation because we figured it was the cheapest, easiest and more enjoyable way to get out of Wellington to get to a nice hitch-hiking spot.
A couple of hours, three rides, some free sight-seeing and honey ice-cream offered by a Maori later, we were dropped at the foothills of Mt Taranaki. Way too easy! After a short and cold camping night in the bush, we hitched early in the morning to the visitor center and the trailheads. We started walking to the first hut at 7.45am and reached it at 9, just on time for breakfast and a little nap on the sunnydeck with the scenic view. Imagine a perfectly conic volcano surrounded only by flat lands with the Tasman Sea on one side and the Tongariro on the other... The weather was awesome and we decided to climb the Taranaki that day. After a 4h steady climb in the rocks, we reached the summit. Ho my g**, holly crap, f**** hell it was just AWESOMELY AMAZING! Definitely one of those undescreptible views, summit above two seas, one made of cloud, the other of water.
We didn't really want to go down but couldn't stay neither. We will be back! The descent was a good run and we quickly got back to the hut that was now totally overbooked and noisy with kids and a large group of Russians. We spent the next day chilling there, enjoying the scnery and the deck.
After a good night of sleep, we hiked back to the visitor center. As soon as we got to the carpark, we saw a car leaving, showed the thumbs up and off we went for another crazy 9 cars ride towards the Tongariro! We got to National Park - yes, that is a tiny town name - at 6pm, booked a campsite where we were the only brave ones actually camping. Winter was slowly coming on us and the night temps were definitely below freezing. But we realized that we picked the very only campsite with a free spapool. Perfect to recover from a long hitching day and be ready to explore the Tongariro National Park.
Once again the NZ weather played with us. We have been stucked in Wanaka and Hawea for a week, waiting for the rain to stop (THANK YOU so much to John&Flav and John&Tina for hosting us over these days).
Finally the sun was back and off we went up Breast Hill, above Lake Hawea. We had a nice short first day climbing the steep slope to the ridge with olala views over the Southern Alps and both lakes (Wanaka and Hawea) on our back. The second day was an other easy day along the ridge with plenty of time to sit on the summit and enjoy the view. Not too bad for a last glimpse on Wanaka!
The third day, the serious stuff started with a steep descent into the Timaru canyon. Some people told us it was easier not to follow the trail but just stick in the riverbed. So we did. Bad idea. The water was really cold at this time of the year and the sun couldn't reach the bottom of the valley. We were freezing in the shade with quasi non-stop icy cold water up to the shins, often the knees and sometimes the waist. Awesome. After two hours of struggling in the river and on slippery rocks, we finally got back on the trail where we had lunch in the sun. It gave us the energy to walk the next 4H that lead us to the hut just before dusk.
Day four was another long day, with a pass-climb in the morning. Thankully the trail was mostly 4wd and easy to follow. The kilometers flew by in this awesome high Canterbury country. We were really wishing to be out on that day but the trail ended in the middle of nowhere, on a gravel road going along the Ahuriri river. We reached the intersection late in the afternoon without really hoping to get a ride.
But here started our next crazy journey. Roughly 15 sec after we got there, a car came by, stopped and took us to Omarama (half an hour drive). We couldn't believe it! After a quick snack (chips and M&Ms) we decided to keep hitchhiking because we wanted to get asap to Wellington to say farewell to a friend leaving NZ. We actually didn't really want to stay stuck in Omarama and to have to pay for an hostel. Ten minutes later, Rudolph stopped and took us in his brand new camper. He explained to us that he lived in Alexandra but had to drive to Christchurch to get his camper fixed. Looked like it was our lucky day. We stopped in Geraldine for the night. The camping was flooded so we couldn't sleep in our tent. No worries, Rudolph offered us to stay in the queen-size ultra comfy and fancy bed coming down from the roof while he would sleep in the bunks at the back. We spent an awesome evening talking and drinking beers with our new Kiwi-Frisian friend.
The day after he dropped us off outside of Christchurch, towards Picton. Waouw! But we had only a few minutes to realize what happend in the last 24h before a Maori bus driver told us to jump in so he could drop us somewhere better to hitch. He then gave us a free ticket and told us to wait for another bus that would bring us even further on the highway, totally out of the city! Half an hour later, we were 30km away from Chch and back in the hitch-hiking game. Again, we didn't have to wait too much for a car to pick us up for another long drive up to Murchinson and the road cross towards Picton. A couple of minutes after we were dropped off an other folk stopped and told us he was going to the ferry. Sounds good for us.
We got to Picton at 6.30pm, ran into the ferry terminal without thinking and asked when the next ferry was leaving : 15 mins, hurry up! We swiped the bankcard, dropped our bags, ran on the platform and sat on a coach. In less than 30h we transitionned from the mountains on the Otago-Canterbury border to Wellington.
This long travel has been full of intense living experiences, joyful and painful. I left home with 3 grand-parents alive and will head back without a generation. After my Bonne-Maman in April 2016 and my Mami in July 2016, my Papi has now gone to join his beloved wife after 8 months bereavement and 60-years of marriage.
This time I couldn't handle the loss without the physical presence of my family. Our travel has then been put on hold as I quickly returned home for a couple of days.
I have now all the time to think about the amazing human-being he was and as a small tribute to his legendary moustache, I solemnly aver to proudly keep mine.
Tramping, cycling, running, skiing, travelling, I keep exploring this amazing planet we live on. The following texts give an insight of my various wanderings. From poetry to trip reports or thoughts on particular subjects, this pages try to reflect how I travel through this modern world.