Friday, January 30, 2009

Time to get the hell out of Dodge

Or; how I swam with sea-lions, met Renée, fucked up my schedule, and ended up having a great time anyway!

Written on Tuesday, january 27th, 2009

I've been feeling slightly cut off on my motorcycle. It was a deliberate and conscious choice to travel alone and with no attachments to home, but that doesn't mean there weren't sacrifices, both before I left and while I'm travelling.
Firstly, before I left I rejected every chance of starting a serious romantic relationship, and this came back and bit me in the arse as I realized I hadn't been honest with myself. I had a huge and tough learning experience when a girl i'd fallen for (without admitting it to myself) slipped through my fingers.
From this I learned (as I think I described earlier) to take every chance of adventure, friendship and love that comes my way, and not worry one bit about what the future brings. As it happens, when the future does show up, it always ends up bringing gifts instead of the poison I'm worried about. So I like to think that I've learned not to worry. Honestly though, It's still a work in progress.

Another big challenge is that, by travelling alone, it's quite easy to get lonely. This means that I have to put that much more of an effort into meeting new people and making new acquaintances. This can be tough, but I'm learning fast and It's very rewarding.
I think Mark Twain once said that the best way to test how much you like a person is to go travelling with them. I went travelling with myself and I'm testing how well I like the person I am. I'm steadily finding out what parts of me are working well, and what needs to be changed. It's a great, but sometimes painful journey of discovery.

one thing that needs to change is my willingness to attempt to be someone I'm not in order to get people to like me. This stands in the way of one of my key assets, which is Honesty.
Also, if I'm not being myself, there's a chance people will like me for someone I'm not, which would muck things up even more.
I've had relationships lasting years being loved for someone I'm not, and I've vowed to change that for my next one.

I think that a note on my route is in order. From home, I'd planned to go directly to Dunedin, thinking there was nothing to see on the way. One of Mike's friends suggested the detour to Lake Tekapo and Mt Cook, and what a great idea that was! As it turned out, two weeks after my arrival i'm not even past Dunedin! I'm updating my google maps with links to my blog posts, so you (and I, when I get back) can easily look up the different chapters, related to where I've been staying. I love you Google. You make me feel fuzzy inside.

The road from Oamaru to Dunedin was ok, without anything too interesting except the Oamaru boulders which I went to see. It was a 300 meter walk from the carpark, and as I walked along the beach I ran into the dutch couple from Lake Tekapo! I could see the boulders not far off, and they didn't look that spectacular so I turned around and followed them to Dunedin. The girl, Lianna, offered to take my bags in their car. Excellent! The guy (Jeroen) had banned Lianna from driving since she'd busted two of the gears, including the reverse. Their car only did 70k/h, so I sped ahead and spent some time in Dunedin.

When I arrived at The Octagon (the center of town), I realized the exhaust had come loose and melted more of the plastic bit. I almost got a parking ticket while considering what to do about it, but I convinced the officer to show me the way to a workshop instead. An hour later and I was back on the road. All it needed was a few bolts that'd come loose. A few very expensive bolts apparantly.

That night we checked in to a backpackers called Stafford Gabels on Stafford street, and later we went out for drinks. Dunedin is a university city, but the students are on their summer break, so nothing much was going on that thursday night, and we ended up at the hostel playing cards.

The next morning saw us headed for the beautiful Otago Peninsula. In particular, a place called Sandfly Bay, which thankfully doesn't live up to its name. Come to think of it, I haven't actually met any of the dreaded buggers. But I digress.
We followed the High Cliff Road, which goes right along the ridge of the peninsula. Beautiful views! They say that everyone underestimates the distances on the peninsula, and we were no exception. Eventually though, we found the bay:

notice the lack of people :)

When we got down to the beach, we realized that we were not alone. Apart from a handful of other people, four sea-lions had taken up residence on the beach, basking in the sands and fooling around. We kept a respectful distance, but I still managed to get some shots.

I was very excited about being so close to a wild animal of that size. I don't think I've tried that before.

I stripped down to my bathers and hit the water. The two others followed quickly after. It was a bit chilly, but I had a viking reputation to keep up, so I stayed in. Besides, the waves were quite big, and I had fun throwing myself against them, seeing if I could remain standing.
After a while, one of the sealions took to the water. We were the only bathers, and it had seemingly taken an interest in us. It swam calmly towards Lianna who kept her distance, and then turned its attention to me. It came right up to me, circling maybe ten centimeters from my leg.If I'd reached out my arm I could easily have touched it. I thought better of it though, thinking there was probably a reason for the name sea-LION. I think it was a female, and she was very qurious, and much larger than I'd anticipated. She swam around me with infinite calm and a pinch of playfulness. She looked right up at me, as if wondering what I was doing so far from home. When the waves came, we'd swim with them together. Me on the surface, her just below. In the breaking wave her body would turn to a distorted blob, and for a minute I got a bit nervous. That old Jaws feeling.

I think she stayed for two minutes, no longer, then swam on down the beach. All three of us were amazed at the experience, and I was just pumping!

I spent the rest of the day running on sand-dunes, feeling like a fremen and getting a savage sunburn (okay, could have been worse, but it's so rare I get to use the word savage).

Lianna and Jeroen; law abiding law students

The netherlanders went back to the hostel and I thought I'd head for the albatross colony at the tip of the peninsula. Like I said, I underestimated the distances, and since I hadn't filled the tank since leaving Oamaru, I ran out of gas and had to switch to the reserve tank. I made it back with two liters left. Later, I calculated that the bike will go 225km on a full tank, including the reserve, but I've yet to put it to the test and I hope I'll never have to.

The day after, Lianna and Jeroen went on through the Catlins, and I had to move to another hostel since the Gables were full for the night. I found a place just a block away called Chalet Backpackers, which is the nicest, comfyest, and friendliest place I've stayed so far (as a plus, there's rumours of a resident ghost).
I'd planned to stay home and look after my sunburn, but three german girls quickly had me convinced to go to Sandfly Bay again. I covered myself up in pants and a long sleeved t-shirt and spent an uneventful day at the beach. (I slept for most of the day, drooling all over. So much for a good first impression.)
I hit the town again that night and latched on to a small group of locals. Went to a couple of bars, all playing shit music but I had fun anyway, and then went home and fell asleep.

On the evening of the next day (which was spent taking care of a severe hangover made worse by the unbearable heat, but miraculously cured by a killer dinner made from all I had left - which included pasta, cashews, pesto and a wonderful cheddar. Here's a picture:- I took another, that's how much I loved it! The setting only made it better...
And by the way, this is probably the biggest parenthesis you'll ever see!), I was sorting out my baggage getting rid of all the stuff I'd found I didn't need when a late arrival slumped herself on the last empty bed in the dorm. I introduced myself with the oft underestimated introduction (and intergalactic peace offering) "would you like a pair of socks?"
That's how I met Renée, the craziest girl you could imagine.

Renée is from tasmania, and recently found out that she's been away more than twice as long as She'd thought (seven weeks in all)
I'd planned to head out of Dunedin by the next morning, but instead I cooked up a hike with Renée to Tunnel Beach. I've never taken such an instant liking to anyone. She's stark-raving barking mad and, quoting her, she should be locked up. Thankfully though, she's not. She posesses an odd mix of inner peace and crazy adventure that I can't help but admire. I'd tell you of her first night in NZ, but that would take up an entire new post, and besides, no-one can tell it like her.

So off we went in the morning, headed for tunnel beach (after I'd switched back to the Gables since the Chalet was full for the night). This is how much I enjoyed the walk on the way out.
That changed on the back home as my feet developed a blister and three sores from sandals I haven't broken in.

All the way we were constantly taking the piss on each other, and she ended up claiming I was worse than her which is of course impossible. I still marvell at how effortlessly we switched from piss-taking to profound and personal conversation, and at how quickly a quite deep friendship developed.

The beach itself was very small, but our reason for visiting was the rock formations.

Meet Renée

The little cove nestled between the cliffs.

Renée tried to take a photo of me, but she made me do weird things, so the only one that turned out decent was this self-portrait

To get to the beach, we had to go through a fairly long, very narrow tunnel.

like I said. Bat-shit crazy.

You couldn't ask for a more beautiful setting for the lunch.

She's headed up to Christchurch to get a flight back to Australia in a few days, but we agreed that she'd show me around tasmania for a few days when I get there. Can't wait!

Since I'd postponed the trip south to the Catlins for a day, I thought today would be the day I'd head out. I sent a big box home, bought a sleeping-bag, and was just about ready to go when the skys opened up. It'd been windy since last night, and with the downpour, I just couldn't see myself enjoying the ride. I booked another night at the Gabels, and around 5 mins later the weather cleared. Great...
Anyway, the weather kept changing through the day, so I'm okay with not leaving until tomorrow. I've spent the day keeping up on my blogging (writing, not posting. Internet connections are slow here, and I'll wait with posting until I find somewhere to do it for free), and I went sightseeing a bit with Renée before her bus left.
I've got a couchsurf set up with a girl my age in Invercargill in a few days, so all that's left before I hit the pillow is do a little planning for the Catlins. I hope the weather turns better tomorrow, but I'm going no matter what. Dunedin's been great, but staying here against my will is a bit frustrating, as you can see in this inspired photo.

Looks like I'm in a hospital or something.

Besides, I'll probably get plenty of rain once I get to the fjordlands, so I might as well just suck it up.

On a side note, I've found that I really miss hitchiking, so I think I'll park the bike sometime in a place I know I'm coming back to, and then ride on my thumb for a while. I'm thinking of doing this in Nelson, hitching up to the Abel Tasman national park and back before taking the ferry to the north island.

That's all for now folks!
Now get me the hell out of Dunedin!


Torben Nyman Nielsen said...

Hi Joph.
Fantastic experience with the sealion I really envy you. Also your pictures from the beaches are very nice - beautiful colors of the water and the sky.
Happy to hear you are still going strong.

Allan said...

skæg tur....og fedt med googlemaps...det er sku næsten som at være der selv :)

Lucas Alexander said...

My god I wanna go, maybe I should stop writing that all the time and actually get out more hehe...
I really like the fact that your so open and honest in your blog, bro! Love you!