THE COMFORTS OF CAR CAMPING

"Rouge et or". Red and Gold in Arthur's Pass.

“Rouge et or”. Red and Gold in Arthur’s Pass.

It’s been more than five days since I touched the southernmost piece of the Te Araroa, and several since I was in the customary groove of hiking long distances. Yet it’s 9pm and as I type this it feels like hiker midnight, my energy having dwindled when the sun touched the horizon three hours ago. But alas, it’s the way the post-trail adjustment goes.

It’s been a fun week so far, having set off from Christchurch with my friend Annélie (http://anneliegagnon.wordpress.com/), her trunk and backseat filled with the luxury of items, while my small pack sits in it’s own little space on the back seat. With no schedule in particular, we took to the road heading west. Castle Hill was a pure joy, an afternoon spent monkey-ing around. A seemingly out of place landscape of limestone boulders sits just southeast of Arthur’s Pass. Colossal sized nuggets, towers and walls lounge on an otherwise simple landscape of green grass. We strolled below and above, constantly entertained by the bewildering sight. We then headed back to the road and drove up to a free campsite, setting up our tents in a forest of mountain beech. Out came the car-camping supplies, fresh vegetables and a bottle of wine. My thru-hiking supplies have been put aside, at least until we venture up to Abel Tasman and some tracks were eager to hike, IF the weather is good.

Castle Hill. Can you find me in this shot?

Castle Hill. Can you find me in this shot?

After Castle Hill, we took an 1,100-meter hike up to Avalanche Peak. It was a good climb, one that I was still very, very much conditioned for, as I had passed a dozen people on my way up and had reached the summit in 1.5 hours instead of the recommended 3-4 hours. I was very pleased by this as if I had been more than 30 minutes later, as everyone else was, I would have missed out on the exceptional views across the valley, including Crow Glacier and Bealy Spur. By by the afternoon, the weather forecast turned wet and uninviting. Instead of camping, we continued west, driving to the coast where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the beach. We split a beer and a small cigar (Annélie’s crazy and awesome idea) and enjoyed the salt-mist kiss our faces.

From there, we drove a bit further, up to a romantically rustic hostel set within a beautiful NZ forest. Te Nikau Retreat is probably the best place a thru-hiker can end up post-trail. Quiet, rejuvenating and simple.

Another week on the road and then back to the states. Which brings me to answer the question some have been wondering. “Why so soon,” asks Heatha? As some may know, I had considered staying in NZ for a whole year, and if not NZ, then at least abroad. The thing is, I could have done that. I could have found a job here in NZ, befriended a few locals, gazed at some pretty mountains and so on… But it wasn’t what I wanted. It honestly would have felt like I was back at home, just different scenery and a long way away from home. And I would’ve had to spent heaps on warm winter clothes and heaps on finding a place to rent (it’s not cheap here). And I would have been far away from and/or procrastinating things that I really want to do. I want to learn a second language and I want to learn how to play guitar. I want to devote my time to a yoga practice. And I want to have a routine. But here’s the thing…I’m still going to travel….

So what does this all mean? Well, I came up with a plan a few weeks ago, before buying my plane ticket and exchanging emails with Rod, my boss at Patagionia@Bend. He’s stoked to have me return, as am I. In two weeks time, this little travel bug will return to the shop and resume work as the floor supervisor with a crew of peeps I really enjoy being around and a business located in a town that I just can’t stay away from. On the side, when I’m not selling and talkin’ up Patagonia, I’ll also be pouring Hop Valley at some of the upcoming summer events. Then, during the off-season of retail (january and february) and the on-season for travel in the southern hemisphere, and when these legs need a wee bit of a stretch, I’m headed south. Sailing in Mexico. Speaking spanish in South America. Trying not to get bit by poisonous creatures in Australia. That’s three big adventures and three winters, more than enough to keep this mind of mine busy. So… now I ask the question for you Heatha… “Where to?”

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