Middle Earth Day 13: From Mountains to Rainforests

I woke up early figuring I would have to stay in Franz Josef for the next two nights but I kept looking at an any worthwhile town or sight worth moving up north to. With 45 minutes before the bus would depart, I booked a seat to Punakaiki on the coast as well as a two night stay at a random hostel. This might have been my most impulse travel decision yet. The bus ride itself was unspectacular but I got to catch up on some blogging as we passed the cities of Hotika and Greymouth. Once in Punakaiki, I talked to the information desk to get an idea where I needed to go to reach my hostel (according to her it would only be a minute walk) and where I could find some food (to my dismay, she told me the closest grocer was a 40 minute drive away). 20 minutes sounded easy enough but my plans to cook a good meal for Christmas were shot. Anyways I began the walk along the main roadway while toting my heavy backpack. Time rolled on and beyond 20 minutes while the hostel still stood out of sight. I should have tried to hitch a ride but I was too stubborn. In spite of a creaking back and sweat dripping down my face, I made it to the hostel and dropped my bags down euphorically. The hostel is actually part of a complex composed of a couple of cottages within a rainforest with ferns, sleek moss, etc. The backpacker house is in the thick of the rainforest, surprisingly well hidden. After getting my pack organized, I went to walk down the wooden staircase outside when the second step collapsed on me. The board didn’t think twice; it obeyed gravity’s wish. The wooden board came loose on one side but luckily I was nimble enough to not fall with it and possibly take out the rest of the staircase. In the end it was a humorous moment. The rest of the day was quite relaxed involving a few chores like washing clothes and planning future legs of the trip. I was told that the hostel and cottage/lodge would be having a BBQ/picnic tomorrow for Christmas and to participate all I needed to do was making something, anything. I had next to nothing to work with except for a bag of carrots, broccoli, and energy bars. The manager told me they had a “Wee Shop” full of some pantry items. The “Wee Shop” is a standard open cabinet in the kitchen with a small Buddha sitting fat and sassy behind a dish full of coins with instructions to pay the Buddha. Cans of beans, rice, pasta, etc. had prices labeled on it. The entire thing was a neat shop based on the honor system. After walking the Truman Track and checking out the beach, I would try to scrap a meal together. The Truman Track is a short walk that cuts through a well covered and thick section of Punakaiki’s rainforest. Once at the beach, I could see nothing but open shoreline with the exception of sea carved rock faces jutting out into the water and thus intercepting a continuous path along the shore. But in this little alcove, I could walk on a stretch of the tiniest pebbled rocks as I watched the powerful waves crash in. Sadly, most of the west coast is not swimmable due to the strong currents that are capable of sweeping anyone out to sea in a moments’s notice. Ambling my way over and through the now drying rocks I saw quite a few starfish trying to hide under the rocks. My first true Kiwi sunset was quite special but I am sure it was like any other. Watching that orb of light pass through the clouds and seeing the colors disperse and blend with one another before fading away and then disappearing altogether below the seemingly limitless sea was still quite impressive. I found my display of Chopped cooking to be less than stellar. With the limited items resting on the pantry shelves and mystery basket of carrots and broccoli left little for inspiration. I made a pasta dish by sautéing onions and garlic as well as the carrots and broccoli before adding canned black beans and a tomato sauce. The people that shared the space and adjoining lodges were a mixed bag of people covering all ages and ethnicities. So some of them came over to comment on how it smelled nice but I felt it was a sad attempt at cooking and a disaster in the making. After storing that away, I went about continuing to plan my trip well into the night all by myself in this quiet lodge/cabin. Eventually, I had to walk back to my bed and found out a new meaning of darkness. If I hadn’t brought a flashlight there was no one I would have been able retrace my steps back to my bed after the guiding lamps went out. It was a little more relaxed and less adventurous day but a necessary cleanser.

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