It’s been an eventful weekend, full of good luck and magic.
From the Stewart Island ferry, a sweet woman visiting from New Hampshire offered us a ride to Invercargill. We were especially grateful as there wasn’t much traffic and the weather was a bit unpleasant. We arrived at the former Grand Hotel, where we crashed last weekend, and got another room at the same low rate, despite the rates having increased over the week, because the manager recognized us and was happy to see us back. We got a room with a bathtub and quickly decided to stay another full day to rest and regroup after the long hike. It took as long to scrub the grime off the grime and fill our bellies. For Valentine’s Day, Pat and I went to a movie, an insanely expensive affair in New Zealand, but one well worth it.
On Saturday, we set out to hitch north. Our destination was Temuka, just outside of Timaru, where Pat knew some kind folks who had extended an invitation to stay with them if we found ourselves in the area. First, we had to get there: Invercargill to Temuka is a long way, and we didn’t start until 9am. Before we had even walked out of town, a car pulled over for us and offered to take us to Dunedin. We speeded there, and with many thanks got dropped off by the Botanical Gardens. After a bit of lunch, we were on the road again. Our next ride didn’t take us very far, but it was enough–he went on the whole time about how Americans are all assholes, etc. It was a bit uncomfortable, and Pat was ready to get out of the car from the beginning, but we went as far as Waikite. Our next ride was a doozie: a guy was returning to his place in Kaikoura, and so could take us all the way to Temuka. He even had Pat drove from Oamaru north so he could take a nap in the back.
Around 6pm, we dropped ourselves off at Jimmy and Lizzie’s. It was good timing: they were going out for tea (dinner) with some friends, but before they left they showed us around and made us feel very welcome. Lizzie, a vegetarian, even made us a roast chicken for dinner. Pat met Jimmy and Lizzie while hitching to Solid Earth last month; they gave him a lift and Jimmy’s card in case we found ourselves in the area. We had called them the night before to see if it would be alright if we stayed with them on our way north. I am so glad I got to meet these generous people who were so kind to us. We had a great stay with them, and they even drove us further north the next day, all the way up to Fernside, near Rangiora.
We had arranged a WWOOF stay for two weeks at a small farm with goats, as we think we might keep goats on our future farm. Unfortunately, we quickly saw that it would not be a good living environment for us. (A random Google search of “bad WWOOF experiences” turned up another WWOOF account of Merel & John’s: http://aroundtheworldandback-shannon.blogspot.co.nz/2012/02/when-wwoofing-goes-bad.html?m=1) We would not be allowed to use their kitchen and would be fed only porridge and bread for breakfast and lunch for the whole stay. It was a surprise to us, even more so when the WWOOF host told me most of the garden produce was off-limits to us and that we wouldn’t really be able to work with the goats while we were there. Pat and I had a pow-wow that night and in the morning said good-bye. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it that living with folks who seem not to trust you from the beginning is best avoided.
So, we found ourselves a bit discouraged with a big chunk of free time before heading down to Fjordland. We hitched to Rangiora and brainstormed, and had a loose plan to head up to Hammer Springs for a long soak in the thermal pools… when we got a ride with a sweet Kiwi couple with an empty bach (beach house) in Woodend Beach. When John and Joanne invited us to stay there, we accepted. And so, unexpectedly, we find ourselves in a lovely rustic bach just a few minutes from the beach.
Along with planning the next few weeks, we’ve walked and run and swam along the beach. We’ve eaten tons of good food and revived our spirits. We think we will stay for another day, then who knows what will open up for us?
It is totally counter to my nature to be so spontaneous in traveling. I generally feel comforted by plans, itineraries, schedules–knowing at least roughly what to expect on a given day. Our time in NZ hasn’t been like that at all, though. And I find that I can roll with it. It sure helps to have the king of easy-going at my side. We’ve found it so much better to stay open to the opportunities unfolding before us and go with the flow.