After a day filled with weeding, painting, trekking and cooking, I find myself sitting in front of a fireplace listening to the sound of the crashing waves. Yes, it is true. I have finally left Hanmer Springs. Only four days ago, Eamonn and I left the comforts of our little home and the friendship of our housemates in Hanmer Springs to WWOOF across the rest of the South Island. (WWOOF is an organization that started with people working on organic farms for food and accommodation. Google it if you’d like to know more.) In between our wwoofing, we will camp as we make our way down the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
Last Wednesday, Eamonn and I packed up Arlene (the car) and headed west across the Lewis Pass. We drove through the scenic Buller Gorge until we got to the West Coast. We drove to Cape Foulwind (had to take a picture or two there) and decided we would do the Cape Foulwind walk that starts at a not so interesting lighthouse and would end at the much more interesting seal colony. But, that is another day.
It was getting upon early evening and we wanted to find our campsite before then. We drove south of Westport to a campsite run by an odd German man. The campsite was very nice and we parked our car and set up our tent and made a quick dinner. We did this all very quickly to so that we could get in the tent to get away from the sandflies. As per usual, the first night in a tent is always the hardest; rocks poking into you, bugs biting you and of course the unfamiliar sounds of the night all keep you awake.
Our next morning we headed back to Cape Foulwind and had a leisurely walk along the ocean cliffs. At the end we came to a seal colony where we could see some pup seals slithering on the rocks and frolicking in the water. It was fun. We then headed to Westport where we had a lovely lunch and then a nice coffee. After a bit of poking around the metropolis we got out the atlas to find a new campsite for the night.
In the atlas there is a list of all D.O.C (Department of Conservation) campsites in New Zealand and the location of them is marked on the map. We found a promising looking D.O.C. campsite at the beginning of the Wangapeka Track (just some hike). We drove through another incredibly scenic valley that had views of the ocean and rolling hills of Jurassic Park like foliage till we came to a gravel road. We followed this gravel road past farms until it came to a gravel parking lot. A dead end. No Campsite. Just a sign marking the beginning of the hike.
OK, not good. We had driven a good ways into the middle of nowhere to a campsite that didn’t exist. The next nearest campsite we knew about and that was marked on the map was the one we had stayed at the first night, which was a good few hours away. We weren’t going to give up so easily.
To the side of the parking lot was a grassy drive. We cautiously drove up it until we came to a small clearing with a picnic table and a few other cars parked around. We got out to explore. Didn’t look like a campsite. Not sure what it looked like. There were gates, piles of firewood and derelict looking sheds peeking out of the overgrowth.
Eventually a grey haired man appeared that we could ask. He answered our hail in a thick non- kiwi accent. He was saying that the Google must have made a mistake about a campsite here because these past few years people have been coming to his house looking for a campsite, just like we had. We told him we got the information from an atlas, he still blamed Google.
He generously offered the use of one of his yards. As he opened the gate and Eamonn started to pull the car in, the man told me to follow him. The whole time he was mumbling (to me), but I couldn’t understand a word of what he said. Turns out he was trying to tell me about an old truck that had been converted into a camper-van that we could stay in.
He unlocked the door to the red behemoth, pointed out the gas stove, the table and the sleeping area above the cab of the truck. His only advice, turn the gas off when done.
Eamonn found us just as we were exiting the contraption. We followed the man to his gate, thanking him for his kindness. His retort was “Your lucky day!”(in a rather unfriendly and sarcastic tone).
Me being born and raised in the US where all we ever hear are either American accents, posh British accents, or the universal “foreign accent” on television, I was unable to determine where the man was from. Eamonn on the other hand had figured it out. Our unwilling host was from Northern Ireland. In an attempt to be polite and make small talk, Eamonn asked where in Northern Ireland he was from.The response was unexpectedly scathing. Let’s just say, he doesn’t talk about it.
On that note, we were both rather put on edge and a little nervous about staying the night in this mans converted truck. Where he knew we would be sleeping…..
Anyway, we walked for a bit on the washed out, yet wildly beautiful hike and then came back to a slightly less drafty than a tent caravan. It was very nice to have a place to sit and eat like proper people. We lit the candles when the sun went down and read late into the evening.
Going to sleep that night should have been nicer than sleeping in the tent the night before, except that I was afraid that we might be murdered in our sleep. Yes that is a bit extreme, but we were in the middle of nowhere and the man, while being generous, had given off an unfriendly and rather negative vibe. It was the perfect beginning to a horror movie or slasher film. Take your pick.
With every shift of the truck, snap of a branch, or draft coming through the window, I thought he was coming to get us.
Needless to say, we made it. The first words Eamonn said to me that morning were “We survived”. I assumed he was joking, but he had been just as worried as me. I was very happy to eat a quick breakfast and head to Granity to meet our WWOOF host.
More on that later. I am going to pick up my book and read and enjoy the fire.