I'm in a grouchy mood right now; my camera has somehow decided to corrupt my SD memory card, and I've lost all my photos from the past week. This includes photos I took of Punakaiki Rocks in the sunshine, my Shantytown photos, and most tragically, all the photos I took at Millerton. :-( I rode a bike uphill for 6km and hiked for three hours to an amazingly cool (and dangerous) place, and now I have nothing to show for it except my blog entry and my own memories. If I would allow myself to swear on my blog, this is when I'd do it.
This morning I walked down to the post office to mail thank-you cards to Warren Smith and Ian Tibbles for their help and generosity in letting me purchase the Shantytown Steam School textbooks, and then I sat in the lounge of the hostel and added photos to my Heaphy Track: Day Five blog post. Yes, all five posts about the Heaphy Track now have photos to accompany them! Hopefully the photos provide some context and make the posts more enjoyable to read.
At 1:30pm this afternoon I caught the Intercity bus heading for Nelson; or rather, the Nelson Coachlines bus operating as an Intercity bus. Now, I'm not sure if our driver was accustomed to automatic transmissions, or if the bus has a really sticky gearshift, but either way, we were mashing gears and jerking all over the road the whole way... "find 'em, don't grind 'em", as Bill Nye would say. I'm thinking it was the operator's driving ability that was lacking, because we were also screeching to a halt at yield signs and traffic lights and getting thrown into the seats in front of us (or maybe this bus has a faulty brake pedal as well, but really, I'm not buying it).
As the bus started from Franz Josef this morning, we stopped at Punakaiki Rocks (whoo-hoo, my second time in four days) for a lunch break; I didn't bother going down to the rocks, but sat instead in the café, eating an overpriced (but relatively tasty) chicken sandwich and reading my Steam School Module 1. We continued on up the coast to Westport, picked up a few passengers, and then headed inland on SH6, through territory I traveled with Stray on November 10th. Twisting our way up and down the winding highway, I took in the sights of the Buller Gorge, which reminds me so much of British Columbia. We made it through Hawks Craig without getting stuck under the rock overhang (the one-way stretch of highway was carved out of solid rock!).
We stopped at Murchison for tea at 5:30pm (at the same café the Stray bus stopped at for lunch); I didn't partake, as I had spent my allotted food money for the day; instead, I sat at a small table on the deck and read my book until it was time to get back on the coach. From there it was another hour and a half to Nelson, which welcomed us with warm, yellowy-orange rays of sunshine and the sight of dozens of people enjoying a drink or meal out on the balconies of all the restaurants we passed by.
When we arrived at the bus depot I called my accommodation - Bug Backpackers - for a pick-up, and twenty minutes later I was checking in to one of the smaller but funkier backpackers I have been to; it seems a little cliquey, even, perhaps, but it should do the trick. The name refers to, of course, VW Bugs and station wagons, which are the running theme; the room I'm staying in, for example, is called "Nelson Bug". I was supposed to be booked into a dorm room, but due to circumstances beyond my control I'm now in a four-bed share room instead (so no bunks), with three guys (sigh, I'm always the only girl). I will have my earplugs and in-ear headphones + iPod close by tonight when I go to bed; statistically speaking, I'd be very surprised if at least one of them didn't snore!
Tomorrow I'm going to check out the Saturday market and do a little wandering around Nelson; the hostel has free bikes we can use, so I may take advantage of that in the afternoon. And judging from George's skin (the French guy here in my room), I'm going to wear a double layer of sunscreen... he is very lobster-like indeed. Night!