On my first night in New Zealand, I met a German couple and went to the pub for a stein or two. When I was in Kaikoura, about fifty percent of the people I met were from the Fatherland. When I stayed in Swampy’s, wurst was the dish of the day. I’ve noticed something, there seem to be many German people in New Zealand.
Having left Swampy’s and the hitchhikers I had dropped off there and hardly spoke another word to, I was back on the road and headed north. From Blenheim, Picton is the next town along the road. This is the port for the inter-island ferry that ploughs back and forth each day to Wellington on the North Island, and is the last stop for civilisation along that road until you reach Nelson. (Yes, I know Havelock is along the way, but I had a nightmare trying to get cash from the ATM, only to have the Garage owner tell me it was for “New Zealand cards only.” Also, the Information people in the hostel told me to use the ‘free’ showers and laundrette at the marina, just for the marina owner to tell me that I had to pay for a nights camping before usage.) Picton is a great base for any adventures into the wild countryside and the gob-smackingly pretty Marlborough Sounds. I highly recommend the library; the free internet access there is like gold dust and worked well, unlike the one promised in certain clown ran fast ‘food’ outlets. Just don’t forget you’re in a library and do what I did when a friend called me on my mobile, answer it instantly and in a loud voice yell “Greetings!” then sheepishly shuffle outside with the daggers of many librarians in my back.
I stayed on a Department for Conservation campsite, a great little place called Aussie Bay hidden in the forest next to the sea. For the first few hours I had it all to myself, the only noise being the odd bird call and the gentle lapping of the waves. DoC campsites are the cheapest ones I’ve come across, usually priced at NZ$6.00 a night, so less pricey than a pint of beer at the local. For this princely sum you get a tap and a toilet. At night-time; without street lights and the trees blocking out the stars, the darkness is all encompassing and a reminder that a torch would have been a handy thing to have packed. In the morning I awoke with a sore head, partly because of the bottle of red I had drunk and partly because I had hit it on the wing mirror in the night when outside for a pee. Next day; I braved a freezing cold splash in the sea, the sun hadn’t properly been out since I arrived in NZ, it being the equivalent of a British May.
Having checked the maps, I found another campsite next to the Queen Charlotte Trail, and decided to head there. The route I followed was a twisting, turning tarmac snake called the Q C scenic road. Oh, to have had a sprightly Mini driving down there instead of an obese wheezing lard wagon. On and on it went, one hairpin turn followed instantly after another for mile after mile. Eventually I made it to Cow Shed Bay, similar to the one I had just left, except ten cents more pricey. The extra must have been for the his n her separate bogs. There were a few campers already there, and I parked up next to a trio huddled around a camp stove boiling noodles. We got talking and guess what, they were Germans.
They had had the idea to walk the QCT, except because it was so long they were going walk halfway there then turn around and walk back to the car. If only they had a second car they could drive to the other end and then they could walk the whole of this section…
The next morning, true to German efficiency, they were up at 07:00. I was a little worried that they would have all the kit and boots and walking canes, whilst all I had was a pair of battered trainers and warm coat. Two of us drove our cars to the other end of the trail, parked mine up and drove back to the start. Then, with me for some reason having ‘The Sound of Music’ going around in my head, we set off on the 24 km walk along the trail. It was a dirt track, narrow in places and covered for large parts by enormous fern trees. The views over the Marlborough Sounds were spectacular vistas of fishing boats, mountains and tiny coves dotted by villas. It was amazing for the first two hours or so, and cameras were maxing out their memory cards. After a while though, with the view never changing and no signposts to tell you how far you had walked, the cameras were put away and a battle to get to the end set in. With aching legs longing for a part that wasn’t up hill, because it always was, our small group soon became split in two. Myself and the only girl, Francine, led the way and soon we were along way ahead of the other two. It turned out we had similar travel plans and a need to get back to Christchurch before Christmas. Hmmm…
At long last, the end of the trail homed into view and my car beckoned me with the promise of a good sit down. When the other two turned up we had a celebratory drink at the nearby resort, where one of the Germans eventually wound up with a job as a chef after a talk with the head chef. He had to go back to Picton and I ended up with a travel companion – for the next bit at least – to share the fuel with.
It had been a long and tiring day. I really do wish that I had paid more attention in German lessons instead of staring out the window at the pigeons. Whilst conversation was mainly in English, some of the jokes don’t translate well and it was tedious at times for them and me whilst trying to explain. But it goes to show, Ze Germans, at least these ones, are people you can have a laugh with after all.
Mini Count:- 11, into double figures!
Sorry, no pics this time because of REALLY SLOW internet connection, and I only have an hour!