I must strive to keep this brief, as I am currently sleeping in the dining room of an open-plan house, and there are four other people within earshot who likely don't want to listen to my typing.
I didn't "rest in peace" last night like I hoped I would... the girl below me got up at 5:30am and started nosily rustling around (she must have packed everything she owns into plastic ziploc bags). As such, it is 10:40pm at night now, and I am very tired, having not had a decent night's sleep for two days in a row now.
Lynne from Tombstone Backpackers drove me down to the Interislander Ferry Terminal for 11:35am, where after a delayed berthing I met up with Sally and her entourage. And what an entourage it is! I still don't have everyone's name straight. There are ten in total of us going on the track: Sally, her husband John, Mary, her husband Bevin, Katrina, Lynn, her husband Mark, and another Lynn and her husband Puff. I met Sally, John, Mary, Bevin, and Katrina at the ferry terminal, and we all hopped on a "Grape Lander Tours" bus which is owned and operated by Alastair, the brother of Bevin (I'm not sure how all this is working right now, but I think we (Mary) are paying Alastair to operate as our personal tour bus).
We drove from Picton to Blenheim, where we did a grocery run at the Countdown and I was finally able to buy the rest of the food for the trek (I was able to get bagels, yea!). I’ve settled on muesli and kiwifruit for breakfast, bagels with cheese and tuna for lunch, trail mix and dried fruits (and a couple chocolate bars) for snacks, and my glorious freeze-dried meals with tea for dinners.
After traversing the Marlborough region's “Golden Mile” of endless vineyards and pastures, we stopped in a café in Havelock for lunch (I didn’t partake; I had bought potato salad at the Countdown because I wanted the plastic container it comes in for food storage!). It was intensely humid and hot outside of the air-conditioned bus; it reminded me strongly of Hong Kong.
A couple more interesting differences between New Zealand and Canadian lingo: they say “house bus”, we say “motor home”; they say “caravan”, we say “trailer”.
Traveling along State Highway 6 was fun for me, as I relived traveling this exact same route with Stray in November as we made our way to Abel Tasman National Park (going over Pelorus Bridge again made me smile). When we got to Nelson, however, I was this time treated to its spectacular sunshine and sandy beachfront, with hundreds enjoying themselves frolicking out in the ocean. We picked up the two Lynn’s and their husbands Mark and Puff, and then drove to the Nelson Airport to pick up their bags, which apparently didn’t make it over from Wellington on the same flight that they did (that’s what happens when you check in late).
As we drove into Motueka I noticed hundreds of names and messages written in the sand in the beach by the highway: using stones from the riverbeds that feed into the bay, individuals have spelled out their names, famous sayings, cutsey “Paul loves Anna” and less cutsey “Adam is GAY!”, etc.
State Highway 60 took us over Takaka Hill, which rivaled and then surpassed the hill found on the drive into Abel Tasman; when we finally managed to navigate all the way up the windy, narrow road with its hairpin turns, we were treated not only to a spectacular view Takaka Valley, but another set of switch backs cut directly into the side of the hill. I took a picture when we were safely down in the valley below; it looks like a giant took his finger and drew a sharp zig-zag down the mountain’s face.
We arrived in Collingwood, here in the beautiful Golden Bay region around 6:00pm; we have taken over the house of Bevin’s twin brother, who is currently down farther south on the island, and graciously allowed us to crash at his place. We’re atop a slight hill looking out to the valley of pasture (filled with dairy cows) below, and the mountains of North West Nelson Conservation Park in the distance. I also find it amusing that out here, in the middle of nowhere, I’m getting the best reception and speed I’ve ever gotten on my mobile internet key.
For dinner we headed into Collingwood proper to the Collingwood Tavern, where I had a “Maori Roast” (as Stefan would call fish and chips) and a ginger beer, and watched the sun set over the ocean inlet. Then it was back here to the house, and I packed my hiking backpack with all the things I need to take on the track; I’m worried my pack is still too heavy and will become uncomfortable, but I can’t change the fact that I need to carry a tent and a sleeping bag and my food (the three heaviest things). The best I can do is make sure my pack is adjusted as much as possible for me to make it comfortable to wear, and to console myself with the thought that the food weight will go down as the journey goes along.
Now it is 11:24pm, and I really must get some sleep, as we are to be up and out of here by 7:30am. I can hear someone starting to snore on the other side of the dining room table... sigh. The hardcore snorers always find me! In-ear canalphones and iPod... check.
I won’t be updating my blog for the next four days (as I will have neither internet access nor my computer with me on the track), so don’t panic if no new posts appear. All things going as planned, expect an update from me on January 7th, as I finish the track and head to beautiful Granity for my next WWOOFing assignment. Wish me luck for the Heaphy Track, the weight of my pack, and goodnight!