Friday, January 4, 2008

Up the West Coast

We're in Karamea, NZ. It's the last town on the journey north along the West Coast as we head towards the Heaphy Track, which we start today. I slept 2 hours this morning after a full night of coding, putting in the last push for the HealthOne website. I'll be out of contact for the next two weeks, so I had to try and get my part of things finished off.

We're staying at a place called Rongo Backpackers ( It is all the awesomeness it advertises and more. The radio station and the movie room are my favorites, although I would also try the fire bath if I had more time here. I've been using the wifi (based on a donation system) more than my fair share.

The last week has been great. We've been hitchhiking north, starting from Queenstown. One night in Wanaka, a couple nights north of Punakaiki, a couple nights in Westport, and then here.

On the way to Wanaka, we picnicked and went wine tasting in between hitchhiking rides. Why not? Wanaka turned out to be a haven for 16-18 year olds on New Years' vacation, so it wasn't quite our scene and we took the bus (since the likelihood of rides coming OUT of this mecca was low) to Greymouth, where we met up with one of Sean's previous Woof places, called Te Miko. (By the way, to get a parallel view of our time together, check out Sean's blog: He suggests starting from the very beginning.)

Te Miko was rad. I'll try a better description later. Run down, functional house (was it ever fully completed? doubt it) with a monster view, 400-600m from a cliff to the water. It has a varied garden beneath it, with interspersed lawn and haphazard terracing. The lady who lives there is a glass blower, and sells her glass beads to any interested passerby. A redhead eccentric lady named Parrot lives lower on the property, in a house she built that features a hexagonal room and a room full of computer parts she tinkers with. She mentioned her next project was to try to cut a motherboard in the shape of a cow and a farmer.

I enjoyed my time, but couldn't help feeling out of my element. I am immediately known to NOT be a useful person here. The skills I have developed (which mostly consist of computer languages and the building of invisible constructions - not garden shed) have no relevance in their world. I know how to split wood, I'm just not efficient. I can weed weeds and water plants, but I'm unschooled in anything more advanced. It would take time to demonstrate my willingness to work hard; it would require proving it to them. For now, I'm an uninitiated city-boy.

The only time any differences in politics or opinions came out over the campfire, when we were discussing patent law and genetically modified food. At one point, the lady exclaimed in her NZ accent, "The world' going to shit, man! You can't patent life!" I came away from the conversation realizing I'm still on the path towards becoming cleverer, not wiser. I'm not convinced I will be changing that any time soon, though. There's too much to learn before you realize none of it is worth anything.

One highlight was the day hike we went on while in Punakaiki (sp?). Pictures coming soon. Grassy, muddy, soft trails through the woods. We arrived at a riverbed and followed it down to the ocean for 5-6 km. The riverbeds are awesome here, all wide and shallow with super clear water trickling over big smooth rocks. Sean and I had a bit of fun through some of the small rapids, although my sun glasses were a casualty of all this fun once I got sucked under for a second at one point. We also went swimming in a swimming hole and in the shadowy pats I found a 4 foot eel swimming around beneath our feet. Tried hunting him with some of the sticks nearby, but no luck. Emma was amused, but unimpressed all the same.

All three of us have been enjoying campfires the last few nights. The park we were staying at was 100 m from a great beach, with black, iron-based sand that was always super hot and great to lie down on. Sean and I have been digging the fire pits pretty big and deep because there's tons and tons of dry wood lying around. We even got marshmallows and roasted them a few hours after a great Mexican food dinner that Emma made. Pico de gallo with avocado, some chicken with burrito seasoning, tortillas, refried beans. We loved it.

Gotta go for now, but hope all is well!


chelsea said...

your comment levels seem to be slipping...i feel like that is because we were in montana and weren't able to comment on every single thing as soon as it was posted. send me an eel please

Tyler said...

I've killed many a NZ eel with pointy sticks (they make great fish bait which, in turn catches tasty fish). Man up, Chris.

PS - I was going to Kenya, then I wasn't, then I was, then I wasn't . . . and now it looks like I might be again. If this next time falls through, though, it'll likely be my last chance. Kenya's just been kind of sketchy recently with the post-election upheaval. But with all the international attention and involvement, I doubt a military coup or civil war is likely to happen anymore. The bottom line is that foreigners aren't really in danger unless in the wrong place at the wrong time. I hoping to leave in about two weeks (about three and half weeks later than planned!). I'll be sure keep you updated so that you guys can make plans!