A wise woman once told me not to have expectations of anyone or anything. I understood the concept, but only life experience can teach you to live by it.
I am always so shocked at how lucky I am in life, and a few days ago someone pointed out that it may be because I don’t have expectations and am therefore always satisfied. I pondered it and decided I’m not that saintly. I expected yesterday to be one of the most boring highways and it turned out one of the most insane. I expected that camping at a hostel tonight would bring safety, but there are eight duck hunting drunks here and I am more concerned for my safety than if I’d slept in a bush! I expect tomorrow to be a really difficult day climbing the gravel over Danseys Pass. Maybe it’ll be a piece of cake 🍰. Who knows? Your perception is so different to mine. And our perceptions are changing daily. Just like the landscape. You think you know a place, and all off a sudden it transforms it’s complexion, it’s temperament, it’s difficulty, it’s atmosphere. Everything. And all of those changes are hinged to your perceptions. It’s a big world, and our mind is the biggest tool we possess in creating the world we see (and want to see).
I stayed the night with international lawyer, environment lover, sheep farmer and dog enthusiast Laura in Te Anau. She shouted dinner, took me into her home for the night, let me in on her wonderful life and dropped me off at the highway in the frosty morn to be transferred to my hitching car from the day before. Izzy, Olli, Dagne and I were on a mission to see Milford Sound in sunshine, and we did exactly that. From our little boat, we hung over the sides with wide eyes at the almost-vertical Mitre Peak, water spouts that our captain decided to put the bow of the boat right under, lazing seals, curious black dolphins and an outlook so pristine you just don’t know how to think because it’s all too beautiful. It churned memories from a decade ago when we spent the night on the Sound. Dad hoped I bloody well remembered because it had apparently cost enough!
In the afternoon we travelled (for the fourth time) through the fiordland, rolling hills and waterfall chasm walks back toward civilisation. With a sense of déjà vu I was dropped right where I began my hitching, and swapped my backpack for a glass of red with Kelly at the Remarkables farmhouse. We caught up on the last few days, and they waved me off the next morning. It feels good to know I’ll be back this year with my new job travel guiding for Pacific Discovery and can catch up with some of these people who are helping create such a brilliant journey.
Wrapped in layers and frosty breath, I cycled around a breathtaking lake track into Queenstown for a glance around town, then continued on the incredibly established and marked bike track to Arrowtown. It always takes ages to do things off road, because there inevitably some little backbreaking hills to push the bike up, more photos than usual to be taken and directions to be navigated. It’s always worth it though. Arriving in the historic gold mining town to join the hoards of other tourists, I sat in the hot sun for lunch and found a pretty jade bracelet for myself and a friend. The afternoon ride to Cromwell through the Nevis Gorge was so much fun it’s hard to explain. The wind whipping me forward with gusts, the landscape as brown and foreign as the moon, the mountains so large and looming they made me feel reckless! I passed faded orange vineyards, African workers, the Roaring Meg valley and long stretches of nothing. Music keeps me company. In Cromwell the connection ship just kept on sailing, and I turned up to stay with my dad’s cousins Kiwi wife’s high school friend, Annabelle. She and her 19 month old Archer and energy bundle of a dog welcomed me to their home with the smell of roast pork wafting through the door. Annabelle is a foodie, and when her husband Trev came home we were already into the blue cheese and red wine learning about one another’s lives. Trev is working for a breakthrough company that builds the stabilisers for movie quality drones which is going to be very important for the future of our viewing pleasure. It was such a fun night, and once again I was heartily welcomed into the family.
Yesterday I cycled to Clyde to begin the Otago Central Rail Trail. It’s a super famous gravel track that runs 150 km through the central south of the island. I used it as a launching platform and will jump off here in the middle to go over Danseys Pass and towards Lake Tekapo. It was a nice ride, with dark tunnels and lost sheep, quaint cafes, easy slopes and an adventure through the heart of farmland. I’m sleeping the night in a town I don’t even know how to pronounce, and when one of the duck shooters came back to the hostel last night drunk and pushed all my stuff off the lounge while I was in the shower, I got him back by eating the delicious packet of Asian sesame noodles he had put in a bowl but passed out before he had a chance to eat them. You’ve got to hunt for your dinner you know 😁
Annd drawing back to the no expectations rule- they are actually a wonderful bunch of men. I woke this morning and it turns out they are heading my direction to go home this afternoon so they are taking all of my panniers and bags and will pick me up on the pass when they see me later this afternoon. Perception. Expectation. Bloody wild world. They just gave me a fancy bottle of wine to give to the farmers I am staying with tonight because they are old friends. But that’s a story for another day. Ciao ciao!!