October 6, 2016
I leave my sleeping spot in the suburbs and find my way to the top of Bluff Hill Lookout. I had tried to scale the spiralling road the night before but it seemed daunting in the dark. Now I'm here though and it's lovely. Gusty and lovely. I read a sign that describes the giant birds that used to live on this island before humans hunted them to extinction. So it goes.
I keep following my paper map while getting pulled off the road by signs and the idea of nearby, hidden places. Near Colac Bay, I stumble upon Monkey Island and stay there for an hour. The crests of the Southern Alps are blue shapes on the horizon, parading over the water. Gulls are in the sky, wind is blowing, I run along the beach barefoot, sprinting in my dress. Being feels easy. It's low tide and the sands extend to the tiny Monkey Island so I walk over and climb the stairs to the top of the little mound. Stare at the mountains. Stare at the rocks. Stare at the waves. Stare at the yellow flowers on the shore.
Keep going. Walk across the suspension bridge by Clifden. Picnic by the water at Te Anau. Drive on Kingston Road along Lake Wakatipu on the way to Queenstown. It's one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The mountains are so huge and the lake is immense and the road is so twisty. It's an incredible drive.
I discover there's one spot near Wanaka where freedom camping is allowed and I go there to avoid sleeping in suburbs again. Diamond Lake. It's only a 20 minute drive. When I head there for the night, the sun is setting and turning the sky behind the mountains intense shades of pink and yellow. I stop along the way to take pictures and call to the sheep congregating on the roads.
October 7, 2016
My mountain sleeping spot is insanely fucking cold. This shouldn't be a surprise but it kinda is. It is so cold that I wake up at 430AM and pull my body under the awning stretched over part of the backseat and make a little cave with my few blankets. Huddle for warmth.
Morning comes and it is still cold but I also haven't died from hypothermia, which is a nice surprise. The toilet is a good kilometre up the mountain hill and beyond that there's a track that takes you to the lookout over Diamond and Wanaka lakes. The early light is impeccably beautiful, washing over the peaks and the fields and the water and the rabbits jumping about. I sit there for awhile and think about moments and time and write down some thoughts and try to just breathe it in.
More driving. Wash my hair in a sink by the lake at Wanaka. Pay too much for petrol. Short hike to the blue pools at Mt. Aspiring National Park. Past the Gates of Haast. Walk part of the way to Fox Glacier but I want to get further north before sunset so I turn around. The freeway past the glaciers gives me the best driving of my life—tight, winding roads through forested mountains and under cloudless skies. At Hokitika, I park by the beach and have a picnic on a driftwood log as the sun begins to set. Someone has tied a bunch of ocean-washed branches together to form the word, Hokitika and stuck them in the sand. Everyone is taking pictures.
I spend a long time trying to find the glow worm den that's located just outside of the Hokitika town centre. It's not very well marked and I drive past it several times in the dark. But I find it and it's magical—all these little strings of stars dangling in the dark. Winking playfully.
October 8, 2016
Greymouth in the rain, again. I drive more carefully on my way to Westport, where I meet two friends from the hostel in Picton. It's my fifth day on the road and I haven't had a proper conversation with another human during that whole time. All my words tumble out of my mouth with rapid enthusiasm and I can't stop laughing and joking and chatting with Zeb and Jake. We get pita and hummus and some vegetables from the supermarket and sit outside on a dry patch of pavement to eat as locals walk by, carrying on with their days. I tease Jake for buying the expensive tomatoes because we're homeless travellers and buying expensive tomatoes seems absurd. Jake says, Look, I've been homeless for a really long time so I can buy the expensive tomatoes.
The boys are considering rendezvousing with a man who has offered to show them to how to fish for whitebait. I drive them to Cape Foulwind so they don't have to hitch but as the weather worsens, we decide to wander around the cape instead. We watch giant seals flopping on the rocks and the rain soaks into our jackets. It's a relief to laugh with old friends. I didn't think I would see either Zeb or Jake again so this whole day is a beautiful surprise from the road.
I leave them at Charleston and continue driving north. I am getting so tired of driving.
I catch the ferry from Picton, stopping by Sequoia Lodge briefly to hug Mim and say goodbye one more time to the little place that was home for a little while. The boat arrives in Wellington at 2AM. I have to drive to Auckland tomorrow. Things are nearly done.