Monday, April 21, 2014

A Ferry, Hokitika and New Friends

Sunrise over Castlepoint Lighthouse

After one last morning surfing the bay, I was reluctant to leave Castlepoint. I'd spent two days and two nights there and enjoyed every minute of it (even realizing that I left my wetsuit on the roof of my car in Waimarama and having to drive for two hours to find the nearest surf shop).

Only a few days in and I already felt the time slipping through my fingers. It was as I left sleepy Castlepoint that it dawned on me that I had been very mistaken about the seemingly small country of New Zealand. There was more to see and do in this compact little island country than could fill every day for years. Perhaps even a life time.

A wider angle view of "The Gap"
The drive to Wellington was uneventful. Rolling, golden terraces and green hills kept my neck constantly swiveling as I strained to see each new vista with out running my too-wide camper off the too-narrow road. It was challenging to say the least.

Wellington was a clean and lively port city, and had I not been bent on getting as much fresh mountain air as possible in two weeks, I would have liked to see a bit more of it. As it was, I made my way to a grocery store and restocked my supply of trail mix, cheese, fresh bread, sandwich meat, and organic yogurt. I then made my way to the ferry, checked in and and followed the line of cars already making their way up the ramp and onto the ferry.

I settled in with my bag of trail mix and my kindle for the 4 hour crossing to Picton on the south island. I had intentionally scheduled the latest ferry that would still arrive in daylight on the South Island. That gave me more time to surf in the morning but not miss the supposedly beautiful views while crossing the sound to the south.

After reading for a while I got up to snap some pictures through the grimy, salt crusted windows outside. Of course, nothing really turned out so I struck up a conversation with one of my fellow passengers who was doing the same. Deanna was in the process of moving her entire life via her car from her home on the North Island to the small town of Wanaka on the South Island. She'd gotten a great job offer in a good location and had decided to take advantage of the opportunity. She spoke of missing her family already, but was determined to make the best of it. She had a kayak on one side of her roof, a mountain bike on the other, and just enough room in the hatchback's interior to fit herself. As it turned out, she was an outdoors enthusiast and had a few days to kill before she had to be at her first day of work. I was headed down the scenic and mountainous west coast, and though it wasn't the most direct route to Wanaka, she decided to follow me in her overstuffed car for some hiking and exploration.

The going was slow to ensure nothing blew off the top of her car, but we made our way to Hokitika, a small town nestled about halfway down the coast. It was a smallish town consisting mostly of one main street, on which rested several art and craft shop as well as a few pubs and restaurants. We grabbed dinner and I jumped into my wetsuit while Deanna took pictures from the beach with my camera.

Photo Credits to Deanna

After sunset, we headed to the outskirts of town to check out a trail lit by glow worms down a damp crevasse. It was pitch black except for the green glow running up the damp cliff faces on either side of us. We tried hard to get a decent exposure of the scene, but it was just too dark and my impatience with the whole affair outweighed my desire to photograph the experience. Deanna insisted that I try several times, but even a 15 minute exposure wasn't enough to get more than a speckling of green on a field of pitch black.

The next morning after exploring some of the jade engraving shops in town and watching a glass blowing presentation, Deanna hit the road towards Wanaka and I headed inland, towards Arthur's Pass. It would be the toughest trail I had done (little did I know at the time).