This Friday, with my coloured hitch hiking sign, I raise my thumb in Invercargill, hoping to go to Te Anau. Some Indian guy picked me up and drove me until Winton. In this little town, it’s getting harder to get picked up.
And there’s this weird guy who’s offering me a ride :
ANOTHER HITCH HIKING ADVENTURE
« – So… You’re going to Te Anau. Where is it? Is it far away from here?
-About two hours, I guess.
-Look, I’ve got to finish my job and after that, I can take you there. Do you drink beer?
-No, I don’t drink. But Te Anau is not on your way, right?
-No, but you know. I see a pretty girl hitch hiking alone. I’m thinking I can take you there. Are you married?
-… Hem. Yes. Yes, yes. My husband is waiting for me in Te Anau actually.
-Ok, so I’m gonna go and finish my job, and if you’re still here when I come back, I can give you a ride, ok?
And lucky for me, LUCKY FOR ME, an Israelian backpacker heading towards Te Anau picked me up. Man, you saved my life.
WELCOME TO TE ANAU!
I settle myself at the Bob & Maxine Backpacker, a little bit out of the city and far from the lakefront, but the place is quite comfy, the hosts are lovely and most of all, there are free bikes to borrow! On the evening, I get to be part of a Shabbat night because a group of Israelian people from the backpacker gathered for Shabbat. Shabbat is a traditional dinner on Friday nights, a special occasion for family or friends gathering around a big (BIG) meal. If I plan to go to Israel one day, I will definitely plan to arrive on a Friday night.
I enjoy the lake, my friend Clementine, and also Julius that I’m meeting again only a few days after leaving him on the wharf in Stewart Island. Most of all, I get to have the FASTEST job interview EVER at the Bailiez Cafe. Yazan, the chef, is already waiting for me (thanks to my friend Clementine’s tips) and the contract is already ready to be signed. NO CV, no interview, I’m hired, just like that and I start on a Tuesday as a Kitchen Hand.
LET’S GO TO THE MILFORD SOUNDS BABY
In the meanwhile, the Milford Sounds are calling me. Alessio and his new young German travel mate, Simon, came in Te Anau to join me on the cruise ship. I haven’t seen the Italian Lover for two months now. The last time, I was hitch hiking away towards Oamaru. We stayed in touch. Of course. Talking with him is a relief. And yet, somehow, when I saw him on that day, I felt a peculiar awkwardness in my stomach. This is not going to be as easy as I thought it will be to see him again and spend time with him. What makes me feel the most uncomfortable is that I know his feelings towards me and I can’t give him what he wants, what he deserves. I notice that it’s not easy for him neither. We simply don’t know how to behave with each other. We are friends, alright, but something more as well, aren’t we? Do we hug? Do we kiss? I’m so lost and confused. Our mutual awkwardness sadly has lasted the all week end.
I booked for the 12:30 cruise ship on Sunday on the BookMe website. We left Te Anau around 9:00, cause the road is going to be a long one. 2:30 drive in the middle of nowhere. Sharp turns, enchanted forests, streams, rocks and… BOOM. Majestic snowy mountains with waterfalls around the corner. Honestly, this is the most beautiful drive ever. Seriously.
Except that… Alessio didn’t plan enough gasoline for this trip. And we’re in the middle of nowhere. No cities, nor towns, nor inhabitations around here. Like not at all. We start to freak out a bit while watching the gas level getting lower. Finally, we found a place where we could find some emergency gasoline (looks like we’re not the only stupid tourists to get there, hey ?!). 4$ /L, that’s the double of the normal price… Fuck. We put just enough gas to reach the Milford Sounds, hoping to get some gas at a more decent price there.
When we reached the Milford, we make some sandwiches in the van’s boot and here we go! I’m so excited, the surroundings are amazingly beautiful, we’re in the middle of green mountains with snowy summits. I’m gazing all around me, wide-eyed when we reach the wharf. I fully understand now why we call this region Fiordland. As you might know (or not), a fjord is what’s left when a glacier withdraws from a mountainous valley. The sea is making its way in the middle of the mountains, which are in general quite steep after the glacier had melted away. It’s like the sounds are threading their way between the mountains, reaching sometimes about 10km into land. It looks like the mountains arisen from the seas. Superbly astonishing.
Milford Sounds, Piopiotahi in the Maori language, is one of the most touristic places in New Zealand. Rudyard Kipling (The Jungle Book) even called this place the 8th Wonder of the World (nothing less…) This place can be reached only by sea, with a cruise for instance. Many walks and hikes can be done in the neighbourhood, climbing mountains to get amazing lookouts over the fjords. The mountains are not this high, about 1 693 meters high at the Mitre Peak (only a few meters more than the Grand Ballon in Alsace, to get some comparison), with sometimes 1200 meters of high difference.
These mountains are covered with rainforests and loads of stunning waterfalls. Fiordland is the place when it’s raining the most in all New Zealand (I thought it was Stewart Island… haha), so there are huge waterfalls everywhere, which sources are so, SO HIGH, that you get dizzy with vertigo. I’m following with my eyes wide open the path of these wild waters through the mountains, falling from several meters, then hitting some rocks or huge trees, getting back on its course again, on the left, stopping again, winding on the right and finally flowing into the Tasman Sea.
We’re lucky because even if it’s windy, the weather is great and sunny and we got the chance to see sea lions, yellow crested penguins and dolphins. When, after two hours of amazement, we have to go back to land, I’m moving backwards, I don’t want to go. My head is full of fjords, waterfalls and wild life.
THE MILFORD HIGHWAY
On the way back home, we take our time. There are many walks and hikes around the Milford Highway. This place is also the start of the Routeburn Track and the Hollyford Track. We choose to explore The Chasm, these waterfalls so powerful that the rock all around is eroded, the Lake Marian’s waterfalls where we lied down on the warm rocks, feet into the water.
There was also Mirror Lake where sadly the wind prevented us to see the mirror effect. And my favourite, Lake Gunn. I put my feet into the Lake and enjoy the fabulous view over the mountains.
You feel small in Fiordland. Really small. You’re facing the wideness. The wideness of the mountains, the wideness of the sea, the wideness of the sky. The wideness of wilderness. You feel really small, you stay quiet.
If I open my mouth, I’m afraid to disturb the landscapes.
LET’S GO THERE :
BOB & MAXINE BACKPACKERS (BBH), 20 Paton Pl, Lake Te Anau
CAFE BAILIEZ, The Distinction Luxmore Hotel 41 Town Centre, Te Anau