Middle Earth Day 22: Sweet As and No Worries

Before I regale you with my latest day in New Zealand, I would like to bring up a couple phrases that are quite common amongst the Kiwis and have found a way into my daily vernacular. On many poster boards and more frequently as I traveled in New Zealand, I had come across the phrase “Sweet As”. When I first saw those two words, I initially thought “sweet as…what?” Apparently, it is a stand alone phrase that means cool. This one has begun to grow on me but not as much as “No Worries”. Anytime someone feels like they need to apologize to you whether for bumping into you or getting in your way or even asking if you need something extra, you say “no worries (mate)”. I love this phrase. It has a Bob Marley/reggae feel to it (“Don’t worry about a thing…”). From a Californian that has made kind of a life in New Zealand, I learned another phrase but one that is much more Aussie than Kiwi. The Aussies butcher the phrase “how are you doing?” into “how yen?” I don’t know even want to bother trying to explain that one. Alright back to my day that started in Nelson. I woke up from the worst night of sleep yet in New Zealand. I was beyond cold; I literally wore every article of clothing that I had stuffed into my backpack. The chilled night rattled my bones and kept me wide awake for long spurts during the night. I must, and I repeat, I must buy some more clothes, specifically a hoodie and pants. I would have bought the pants off of a homeless man if given the chance since that night was so utterly cold. Hopefully in the next town I can find a second hand store or some sort of bargain outlet. Not too confident of hitching a ride, I started my long walk back to Nelson. An hour walk is nothing; I am not a lazy bum. However, when I have to carry as much as my backpack holds, the equation changes drastically. I can’t put a definite weight on it but it is mother f***ing heavy. My back gets chills just thinking about that. Anyways, enough complaining for now. Halfway through my hike, an angel appeared before me and offered me a ride in his car. He could take me directly to where Nelson departs to Picton for my next ride. At first, I felt so odd waiting on the side of the road with chicken scratch handwriting emblazoned on a piece of cardboard but now it almost seems natural. Surprisingly, I did not have to wait too long and got a ride from a Swiss. We chatted for a while but my lack of sleep was getting the best of me. In between spurts of half-dazed napping I made sure I would be getting off at the right stop. He dumped me off in Blenheim where the road diverted to Picton. Most shocking of all, a woman in her forties all by herself chose to pick me up. I applauded her for her willingness to pick up a guy all by herself but she said she always made a point to pick hitchhikers whenever she had the opportunity. She dropped me off at my final destination, Picton, where I went to get information about the ferry through the Cook Strait all the way to Wellington, hostel availabilities, and hikes in the area. Unfortunately, only campsites were available so another night in my wondrous night was what I had to look forward to. At the hostel, I was given a spot on their lawn and from there I went about washing my filthy clothes and arranging my cruise over the Cook Strait that would depart tomorrow afternoon. I would have liked to stay in Picton longer to really take in the Marlborough Sounds but I didn’t want to press my luck when I had a lot left to see in the North Island. It made me a little sad knowing I wouldn’t be walking the Queen Charlotte Track, a 3-day hike along the Sounds but as I have become more and more aware, not everything can be seen in New Zealand. Even people that have a year long working holiday visa will have to pick and choose what they would like to see during their time on the islands. I can’t forget to mention I had another taste of the cuisine gifted from the gods:chopped tomatoes, flavored tuna out of a can, and some mismatched spices smeared atop toasted bread. I know your mouth is watering reading that. Time was running short and I had yet to do anything worthwhile today. After getting some advice from the hostel owner, I began my hike along Picton Bay and out towards the Sounds. The pace was relaxed at first until I realized that if I really wanted to complete the hike before the sun set I needed to quicken it to a jog. When the bush would allow it, I was given panoramic views of the Sounds. I know I have tried to describe Milford Sound before but humor me once more. The Sounds are, if you can picture this, mountains or very steep hills covered thoroughly with bush (trees of all shades of green, ferns, and all that other fun stuff) and separated by a body of water that stretches all the way to the ocean/sea. The Sounds have many different bays that cut into the well forested land forming a variety of misshapen figures unique to themselves. The Sounds continue and grow more astounding further and further away from Picton as the coves and bays become more prominent. Looking off into the distance the Sounds begin to fade and get more blurred through the hanging fog. All of these bays or sounds meet in the center or core of the Sound. The experience of seeing something so picturesque can not be cultivated by words alone. Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, I don’t care who you throw out there, none of them can describe that or give justice to something so profound and beautiful. I had a great view of the Sounds from a high lookout point and wanted to stay there forever, not willing to give up that moment. I had been told the hike ended further along at a 120 minute return. It was already 7:30 and the sun wasn’t going to hold out much longer. I began a furious downhill jog and with each downward spurt I began thinking how much it is going to suck to go back up. At the end I found a less than stellar view; this view may have had the perk of being at water level but the elevated position cannot be beat. Wishing I could just camp out at this very spot and delay the inevitable, I took a deep breath and began my climb uphill. The jog was just as bad as I had imagined but there was no quit in me. Just like the entire international backpacking trip itself, I want to challenge my body, mind, and soul thoroughly and unrelentingly. I reached the apex drenched and if anyone passed me by they would have thought I had just gotten out of a monsoon. The jog continued since I had nothing else to lose and I wanted to get some groceries. On the way back to Picton after that hellish hike, I jogged at a smooth pace as I listened alt-J with my arms spread wide feeling as if I were flying. In that moment, I had not a care in the world and the widest grin known to man. I kept shaking my head and couldn’t escape the feeling that I was almost untouchable. It was a sense of pure unadulterated happiness that I am experiencing more and more as I keep putting more kilometers between me and the place I first began this wild adventure. Dinner was nothing to brag about but it was different. Scrambled eggs with caramelized onions and carrots, peanut butter, milk, and a variety of spices including curry. Tonight also brought a well deserved shower. Sweet Jesus I am tired. Good night everyone!

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