New Zealand [week 17]

We managed to cram a surprising amount into our last week in New Zealand.

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a multi-day hike around the coastal perimeter of New Zealand's smallest national park. I couldn't convince Sam to do the whole thing so we settled on just the first quarter. We began the day with a water taxi ride thirteen kilometres up the coast and spent the rest of the day walking back.

Half an hour into the walk, we could see where we had begun.

The ocean was constantly visible through the trees but never quite accessible. This became a real tease when the weather started cheering up.

Eventually though we made it down to the beach, which was absolutely lovely. In typical New Zealand fashion, we were the only humans around.

The following day we attempted to hitch to Westport, an ambitious journey of several hours. It was a catastrophic failure. In three hours we managed to progress just twenty minutes down the road to a completely hopeless, baking hot stretch of road with almost no traffic. The majority of drivers were old and too sensible to pick up idiots sheltered beneath umbrellas they made from clothing and branches they found on the ground.

In the end we gave up and hitched (with surprising ease) back to Nelson, where we stayed the night. This wasn't the worst outcome in the world as the hostel was one of our favourites. One of the major perks was free chocolate pudding and ice cream every night. Amazing.

We had intended to try again the next day, until we heard this news. A couple of hitchhikers had been attacked and stabbed the previous day not far from where we wanted to go. This - coupled with our growing frustration for this most unreliable method of transport - was enough to convince us we should probably just catch the bus instead. We skipped Westport and went all the way to Greymouth, stopping off briefly at Punakaiki to admire the wild west coast.

In Greymouth we met up with Pierce and Emma, a couple we had met the previous month in Kerikeri. They were working in a hostel but had the afternoon off, so we went on a trip into Arthur's Pass together, an impressive road cutting through the mountainous heart of the South Island.

Devil's Punchbowl Falls.

Pierce let me play with his fancy pants portrait lens. I wouldn't normally include photos like this on my blog, but this is way too nice to exclude.

That evening our friends dropped us off in a hotel and returned to Greymouth. Assuming everything went to plan, we hoped to arrive back in Christchurch the following day so this would be our last evening away. I couldn't think of a better place to spend it.

God was aware it was our last night travelling and scheduled the sky to change colour in our honour.

The following morning, we positioned ourselves by the side of the road for our last hitch of the trip. Given our string of recent failures, we were quite nervous about this.

But we needn't have been!

Our driver stopped off in Springfield for breakfast, a tiny town whose connection to The Simpsons surely keeps the place alive. A previous incarnation of the donut was burnt down in 2009 and replaced by a much heavier one which the mayor claims is "very hard to destroy".

It was an amazing feeling to be back in Christchurch after so long. We spent four days seeing as many people as possible, culminating on Friday night with my leaving party. It was actually my sixth leaving party in four years (Ipswich '10, Ipswich '11, Long Lake '11, Whistler '12, Ipswich '13, Christchurch '14)

And on Sunday morning we got on a plane and flew away.