Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Why pay for bus tickets?

So hitchhiking in New Zealand is a really easy and cheap way to get around so far. It did take four separate rides to get to Murchison for the kayak festival. A local logger, an ex-pat hippie, a New Zealand Air pilot and a fellow American traveler made up my relay team.

At "Bullerfest" they set up a massive 25-foot ramp out of plywood and scaffolding, lubed it up with cooking oil and dish soap, aimed it at the Buller River and sent off a slew of crazy fools in kayaks for a big air competition. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes an official X-games event. Heck they’ve already got a pair of color commentators and sent a drunk and naked local off the ramp who had never before kayaked.

Anyway, I met this really nice guy there who gave me a life down to Franz Josef. I found out he’s a glacier trek guide and not only did he let me stay at his flat, but he also hooked me up with a free full-day glacier tour.

I was pretty impressed with our leader, this Swiss girl who basically carved the group a set of stairs up, down and around the crevasses with a pick axe. Here’s me with her axe at the high point of our hike.

That night I went out on a Kiwi tour and after an hour of waiting in silence in the woods, a cheeky little snuffling wingless specimen, one out of the last 300 of its kind left in the world, probed the nostrils on the end of its bill into the ground 3 feet in front of me before hustling off into the bush.

No pictures allowed unfortunately.

The next morning I caught a ride down the gorgeous west coast with the ocean on one side and the Southern Alps on the other.

Those tiny dots down on the beach at Knight’s Point are fur seals. Unfortunately they weren't the rare Fjordland Crested Penguins that sometimes come ashore this time of year to molt.

It wouldn’t be a post without a bird pic.

This one’s an alpine parrot called a Kea. They supposedly have the intelligence of a 3-year-old and are known for stealing food from backpacks, dropping cameras off cliffs and peeling rubber seals from car windshields. Fortunately this one just came to check out our glacier hiking group.

I’m in Wanaka in the moment which is maybe a bit like Switzerland, not that I’ve really spent much time there. I like the feel of the place and am tempted to stick around a bit, but got to keep moving since I’ve got lots left to see and less than two weeks to fit it all in. The next target is Milford Sound, where cameras run out of film and poets run out of words.

Here’s me and my most recent ride, an Aussie surveyor on holiday from Abu Dabi, where we stopped along the Haast pass on the way to Wanaka. Hope the next one is this friendly!

No comments: