What year is it?

So there I stood, ready to write my name and date on my bag of food so I could put it in the hostel fridge without them throwing it away in the morning. Yep… 09/04/….03 (they write the day first here in the date). Yeah, it’s 2003, right? Shit…or is it 2004. It’s not 2005. I think. Dammit.

I eventually just took a look at the expiry date on some butter. I left before the year change and don’t have to think about which year it is that much. Give me a break.

So what’s new with me? I’m in Dunedin! My plan is to check out this bustling little city (with a cool University vibe) before heading south to Stewart Island to do a 10 day hike around the island. But, the last time I posted, I was in Queenstown. So, let’s backtrack to how exactly I got here.

Like I was planning, I did the Greenstone hike as a “shortcut” (of sorts) to Te Anau. I had no luck hitch hiking so the hike seemed like a better option. It turns a 3 hour car ride into a 20 minute lift so I was on my way. I headed back to the hostel, cleaned my boots and backpack and let them dry next to the heater overnight (they both smelled like DEATH) and was ready and charged by the morning. I headed to the Greenstone Valley and started the hike.

And I was carrying all my stuff.

And my backpack was soooo heavy.

I don’t know how many times, exactly, I called myself an idiot. Why not just take the bus? I’m gonna pass out with all this weight on my back! But I soon realized I was making good time. I was at the first camp site ahead of the recommended time, so I continued on. After a 15 minute lunch and another 6 hours of walking, I arrived at the second, and last, hut. Soooo, that put the grand total to about 8 hours of continuous hiking. I arrived in the dark and the cold, and arrived right before I was about ready to give up and just put up my tent.

“You planning on sleeping in the hut tonight?”, a guy who was cooking his dinner on the front porch, in the dark, asked me.

“Yeah, that’s the plan”, I replied.

“Good luck. There are about 15 kids on a school trip in there and it’s a madhouse. We’re starting to claim parts of the floor.”

I got in quick and put my stuff under the table. That’s MY table! I ended up sleeping under it.

In the morning, I took my time getting up, had breakfast and finished the 2 hours of walking to the main road where I met a couple from Spain and chatted with (in Spanish, of course, so I don’t forget it) them for a little bit while I changed clothes and had lunch. Then I went to the road to get a lift. The first car stopped and a Swiss guy happily helped my bags into his car. We chatted on the ride to Te Anau.

Once there, I found a hostel and hung out. Not much to do in Te Anau on Good Friday. Everything was closed (you couldn’t even buy liquor in the town) so I hung out and read The Economist and watched movies on cable. A bunch of high school kids from Vermont kids were staying there for a school hiking trip and all the girls were staring at me while I ate dinner and trying to talk to me. Cute. If only they were like 5 years older. But it always works out like that, no? The next day went pretty much the same. Everything was still closed and I tried to do as little as I could.

I was tired. Near burnout from the hike (try walking 8 hours in wet boots with 60 pounds strapped to your back after hiking nearly every day for a month) and needed a rest. You really have to pace yourself sometimes. A day “lost” can save you from having to just sit and stare at the wall for about a week because your totally burned out from doing anything. So, yeah, I enjoyed doing nothing. It hurt to walk and was raining anyways.

So the next day (yesterday), I decided I would try to hitch hike to Dunedin. I stood on the highway and after some Israeli’s ahead of me got a lift, I got a ride from an American couple. They left me about a quarter of the way there as they split of to go up to Queenstown. I then got picked up by this huge guy out for a cruise in his Mercedes. He told me he was a bus driver and that he didn’t have much money to travel, although he tried to get out every 2 years. He took me to the next town. The sky looked ominous. It was going to rain. Next? An English guy who lived in New Zealand picked me up. I smacked my forehead on his door (I still have a big bump) and got in. We had a great discussion about New Zealand opinions from an outsider’s perspective and talked about farming and prices and stuff. Very cool.

So he let me off, in the rain, in a town called Gore – home of New Zealand’s largest Brown Trout statue (Quiet down, people. Please). I tried to get a ride, in the rain, for about 45 minutes before giving up. Two cars stopped, but could only take me 5k up the road. No one wants to take a wet backpacker to another city. So I gave up and checked into the only hostel in the city. Easter Sunday. Again, not much open. I read and watched “A Knight’s Tale” with the others in the hostel and managed to secure a ride to Dunedin with three others who had a car. Right on.

So now I’m here. After spending about 3 hours walking around the town with my backpack, looking for a vacancy in a hostel (Easter weekend, remember), I found a place and am killing time until the weather gets better.

I’m not keeping my fingers crossed. After all, this is New Zealand.

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