February starts with the dance of fruits and veggies. It reminds me of my previous boss, M. Moreau, while I was working as a bookseller at Virgin Megastore, who used to tell me to imagine my facing decks as an orange stall in a supermarket. You don’t want to buy some when it’s empty, you have to make a beautiful pyramid of oranges to attract the customer. Clean, Full and Tidy. That was his motto. Only a small step from mangas to oranges? Let’s see.
THE PRODUCE DEPARTMENT
When I meet my work team, I realize that I’m the only girl. Is the produce department a male thing? Looks like it. I find myself in the middle of an interesting melting pot, James and Hamish are kiwi guys, while Marlon comes from the Philippines, Edgar from Mexico and Pablo from Chile. Seems like it’s time for me to learn some Spanish. From the beginning we get along pretty fine, making jokes and laughing all the time. Hopefully, it’ll stay this way.
My job isn’t rocket science, I top up fruits and veggies. Soon I become the Banana Girl, the one creating bananas pyramid at the entrance of the shop. Kiwi people seem to be fond of bananas, we are selling crazy quantities every single day. I learn how to use their wrapper, how to cut a watermelon, a pumpkin or a cauliflower nicely, and I taste a wide range of fruits and veggies like kiwi berries (imagine a kiwi fruit the size of a date ?) or even kiwano (a pointy fruit which tastes like cucumber and melon at the same time). Marlon even teaches me how to choose a rock melon (you need to smell its ass, in case you didn’t know.)
3 nights a week I’m part of the Nightfill team, when employees stacked the supermarket shelves, from 20: 00 to 22: 00. I’m working as a team with Isha, a young Indian woman who emigrated in New Zealand with her husband. We are working on aisle 5, the aisle of Pastries/Dried Fruits/Seeds/Healthy Stuff/International Food and we get really hungry every time we face the pictures of the gluten free cakes’ packages. We curse the YumYums for being so messy every time, and we always get puzzled in front of some ‘whatthehellisthat ?’ kind of product. I help her with her French-speaking and she invites me over for a traditional Indian tea and dinner. It’s spicy, but OhMyGod this is SO good. When the shop is closing and all the customers are out, around 21: 00, Fernando puts his favourite song ever: Bonnie Tyler ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’. I think that’s a hell of a coincidence to listen to this particular song here at the Te Anau Fresh Choice, in New Zealand, since this is the funniest video clip ever for me and I had so many laughs with my friends back in Strasbourg with this song.
On a beautiful and warm Saturday morning, John my housemate, Clementine and I decide to go hiking the Gertrude Saddle. The DOC booklet is talking about a « challenging hike » but whatever, we’re determined to get there. We drive again on the Milford Highway (« wooow, « waaaaw », « amaaaaaazing ! ») and we stop just before the Homer Tunnel. At this point we don’t know that we are about to hike for 8 hours. 8 hours of walking, tramping, hiking, climbing in the middle of astonishing landscapes. There’s no path, only orange signs and cairns which make us climb, climb, climb on the rocks. We make a break at some waterfalls to refill our water bottles and take a refreshing shower in underwear, and then we go for a swim on the lake, for the day is a very HOT day and we’re sweating like animals. We don’t talk much, though, focused on every step, on every rolling stone (they want to kill me), on the snow that we can see over there (the snow !). We could have stopped at the lake but what we wanted was the summit. We wanted to see from up there.
How could I describe the most beautiful hike in my entire life?
I lack words. Snowy mountains, never-ending waterfalls, clear and pure lake. And at the summit, where I realize that I actually just climbed a fucking mountain, the view… This view over the Milford, I think I could have cried about it. My pictures can’t get anything of the wideness, greatness, wilderness, of the feeling of achievement, proudness, tiredness, happiness. That was crazy intense.
The day after, on this beginning of February, it’s time to say goodbye to Clémentine and Anja. We celebrate this at the Redcliff restaurant and I have the best kiwi meal of my life. Food is delicate, surprising and tasty for once. Our little talks are as well because we end up talking about sizes (does it count ? or not ?) between tea and dessert. Our laughter is gently reverberating on the rustic walls, and it makes the waitress smile.
This night, I don’t say goodbye to Clémentine. We’ll meet each other in Bali, right? I must admit that I cried when she left. We became so close in such a short time, we shared so much of our desires, doubts, of our true selves. It kind of feels like I’ve found a sister, who’s watching over me, a sister I wish to watch over. And I want to share so many more hikes with her (in Marseille, right ?)
The following week, I’m hosting Anja in my room, who cooks me good food when I come back from work and with whom I’m about to discover Queenstown in her van. Queenstown is a kind of IT city in South Island, the city which everyone is talking about. The perfect place for extreme sports (skydiving, bungee jumping, skiing, jet skiing, etc.) and surely THE PLACE TO BE if you want to party. Exactly the kind of city where your money flies away. As a result, I have a lot of prejudice about Queenstown. And finally, I end up in a cute little city in the middle of the mountains, with an amazing view over the magnificent Wakatipu Lake. Only thing is… It’s bloody busy and crowded.
With Anja we stroll, then we tramp the Queenstown Hill where there is an incredible view over the city and the lake. We stroll again in the Queenstown Gardens and of course, I introduce Anja to Geocaching. We eat a big Devil Burger (because Fergburger, which is supposed to be the best burger in the whole world, is bloody busy), which is pretty good if you forget about the fries which are way too salty. Then, we spend a really good evening (night ?) at the Ballarat Pub, where there’s a gig and huge virgin cocktails for 4$. We dance, dance, dance like there’s no tomorrow and we laugh like teenage girls. We spend the night at a campsite not too far from the city, in Anja’s van, and she even cooks me breakfast the following morning…
This morning, I leave Anja in Queenstown, she’s going to Wanaka next for a new woofing. As for me, I have to go back to Te Anau by hitchhiking.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE TE ANAU ROUTINE?
After Clémentine’s and Anja’s departures, ma life in Te Anau isn’t really the same. Lucky for me, both team Fresh Choice and team Green Sunset are there for me to make me laugh and enjoy Crazy Te Anau with lots of parties, jokes, movies and dinners!
I meet Brenna (Stewart Island) in the streets of Te Anau just before her departure for Singapore, Carmello (Auckland & Hahei) in the supermarket who’s hiking all the treks around here, and most of all I meet Hélène and share with her a carrot cake and a swim in the lake. Hélène works for Pvtistes.net and travels around New Zealand thanks to this dream job. She makes me laugh a lot, in a few hours I feel like I’ve meet a new friend. I feel like over here, my heart just explodes with laughter, tenderness and love (yes, I wanna hug everybody that I meet on my travels)!
On February 29th (hello leap year !), I borrow John’s car, Bubba, and drive to Manapouri and the lake. The stroll from the beach to Pearl Harbour ( !!) is calming and beautiful. The lake is amazingly transparent. Here, it’s the start of every cruise towards the Doubtful Sounds. But, it’s very expensive (like I’ll have to sell my kidney to go there – about 200$). Later that day, I’ll discover beautiful places around Te Anau/Manapouri thanks to Geocaching, which lead me to the surroundings of the Waiau River, then at the Te Anau Lookout, where the view of the town is simply stunning. I’ll leave this place with plenty of scratches on my arms, for being too eager to find a cache in the thorny bushes, but still very happy to find a trackable in this one (I might bring it to Bali !)
February is ending brilliantly.
February was quick as lightning speed.
But, I can’t wait for March, for my very first solo hike in the Kepler Track and most of all :
My three-weeks holidays in Bali!
WHAT I’VE LEARNT HERE :
- I know a lot of fruits and vegetables’ English names now.
- « Clingstone », « stone free », « ripe », « pawpaw », and the kiwano is really weird to eat and the kiwifruit can also be a kiwiberry (and that’s bloody good)
- Playing « Balls », a game between Bowling and Pétanque, except that the balls are heavier on one side, so they make a curve once you throw them. Basically, if you’re aiming at the left side, your ball will go right. Which is pretty disturbing when you want to aim in a specific place!
- I learnt Spanish. « Come estas ? Mui bien », « Friolento », « manzana », « pepino », « me gusta cuando sonries »
- How to cut watermelons, pumpkins, sweet corn, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. without cutting my hands and without fearing the big scary knife.
- I’m not too bad at hiking, I climbed a fucking mountain at Gertrude Saddle!
LET’s GO THERE!:
THE RANCH, Off Milford Crescent 111 Town Centre, Te Anau
REDCLIFF, 12 Mokonui St, Te Anau
GERTRUDE SADDLE, Milford Highway
KEPLER TRACK, Te Anau
FRASERS BEACH, Manapouri
TE ANAU LIONS LOOKOUT, SH94
QUEENSTOWN HILL, Queenstown
DEVIL BURGER, 5/11 Church St, Queenstown
BALLARAT, 7-9 Mall St, Queenstown