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October 14, 2004

Te Anau to Invercargill

There isn't much Te Anau but at least I was able to do a little grocery shopping and eat properly for a change. I hiked a very small part of the Kepler track which was designed to be an alternative to the famous Milford track. Both these Great Walks are impassible right now because of the avalanche danger. I had the idea of spending one night in the first hut of the Kepler (before the snow) and then return the next day, but once again a front was announced and I decided to move on. I didn't want to be stuck in Te Anau in bad weather, since there is really nothing to do there.

Emboldened by my recent experiences hitch-hiking I walked out to the road that leads to Manapouri with my stuff and waited for a ride. During the long periods when there were no cars to wave at I was entertained by the sight of loaded clouds marching over the whitecaps of the lake towards the town. The wind was howling. Pretty soon the drivers were entertained by the sight of a poor backpacker trying to put his raingear on without losing any pieces to the wind. My experience on Franz Joseph Glacier taught me that my "rainpants" were barely "drizzlepants" so in Wanaka I had purchased a suitable replacement. I was very happy to have these that morning.

The trickle of cars seemed to diminish and the storm was testing my waterproof layers, but after some time an 18-wheeler carrying dead car batteries plucked me off the roadside. I felt fully recharged as I exchanged small talk with the driver.

Manapouri is south of Te Anau. It is the base camp for visitors to Doubtful Sound, Milford's longer and less steep brother. I didn't feel drawn to the Sound because of the costs of getting to it. It is not directly accessible like Milford is. I was more interested in reaching the far south, and to get there I could continue to ride my good fortune and attempt to hitch-hike the Southern Scenic Route to Invercargill. I thought the odds would not be good, and I was prepared to abandon the idea in time to catch a much more likely ride to Lumsden, then South to Invercargill. Amazingly enough, I waited only ten minutes and it didn't even rain during that time. My driver was a crew manager on an overnight cruiser on Milford Sound who was heading home for her time off. We enjoyed clearing skies and good conversation about life and work. During the entire drive we only passed 2 or 3 cars going the other direction so I felt very lucky to have caught a ride in 10 minutes.

At her own recommendation my driver dropped me off at Colac Bay, a small surf town on the Tasman. After a very quiet night during which I was able to catch up on some reading and writing I got a ride from the owner of the Hostel to Riverton from where it would be easy to hitch to Invercargill. Amazingly again, my ride to the city was from the same woman as the previous day! She had spent the night at her home in Riverton and was headed into the city for the day.

I am now in Invercargill trying to prepare for Stewart Island. Ferries were cancelled today because of the winds, and cheap flights have limitations on baggage, in particular camping stove gas canisters.

According to my plane ticket Saturday will mark the mid-point of my New Zealand adventure. That's a hard pill to swallow. I feel as though I have just started having fun. Indeed my attitude is getting delightfully relaxed. When the Te Anau hostel attendent asked where I was going I shrugged: "I don't know". I was pretty sure I was going South, but where exactly and by what road was something that would be resolved as it happened, not before. I enjoy waking in the morning and packing my bags not knowing where they will be unpacked next. That is part of the beauty of hitch-hiking: no planning required.

Various thoughts are floating around in my head, such as extending the trip, sticking to the South Island only, and maybe even hanging around one area for a while so I can get to know people and experience a different type of journey. So far I have not made any changes.

Posted by piegu on October 14, 2004 02:12 AM
Category: New Zealand

Olivier, merci de nous faire rêver. Tes textes sont très agréables à lire et les photos....whaoooo!!!! whaoooo!!!!....on en redemande.
Bonne continuation et bonnes bises de nous 4

Posted by: Cat and Co on October 20, 2004 04:34 AM
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