Wednesday, the day after my Glacier walk, the germans gave me a ride up to Hokitika. We stopped on the way to see the Franz Joseph glacier, and after letting me off they drove further north to Greymouth. By then I'd somehow had enough of their company, and I think it was mutual. Unfortunately, I forgot a merino shirt and my knife in their car. They left it for me in a hostel on the north island. I hope I won't miss it too much before then.
Homesickness kicks in easily when feeling down, and ever since the glacier walk I'd been slightly depressed. The hostel was practically empty, so it was hard to think of something else. I felt like doing nothing, but luckily I didn't follow that impulse.
I came to Hokitika for one purpose: Pounamu caving (pounamu is NZ Jade, or greenstone). Pounamu has been sacred to the Maori for centuries, and I liked the idea of carving my own piece instead of buying some off-the-shelf pendant just to show I've been travelling. The owner of the shop turned out to be a very amiable, pleasant, and very patient guy from the Solomon Islands.
I started out designing my piece. I had no clear idea of what I wanted, but after browsing through some pictures for inspiration, I settled on designing a variation of the traditional Hei Matau, or fishhook.
The owner, Steve, was very impressed with my design, and during the carving process, whenever he had me refer to it, he exclaimed "That's good! I like this!" with great joy. It took me two days and upwards of 13 work hours to complete my Taonga, and what I now wear around my neck has so much the greater meaning to me because of the effort and love I put into it. I designed it, carved it and polished it. I broke seven drills, and Steve broke two while helping me out with the holes.
The results of the first day's work:
Steve is showing me a new technique
The finished pendant
Friday afternoon, after finishing my piece, I headed for Christchurch again. I'd thought about staying the night in Arthur's Pass, but after consulting my Lonely Planet guidebook I shortened my stay to a 15 minute one.
On the way to christchurch, we passed the Castle Hills. Man, Andreas is gonna kill me for not climbing these!
Once in Christchurch, I hooked up with Mike Hodgkinson again and stayed in town for a couple of days.
It was a weird sense of homecoming, since Christchurch was the first familiar sight I'd seen in six weeks. Would Christchurch recognize me?
As it happened, Sarah, of Invercargill and Queenstown fame, happened to be in Christchurch, and we went to see the Banks Peninsula, visit a museum dedicated to Ernest Rutherford, and on a spur decided to go see the RNZAF museum.
I've always been crazy about warplanes, and finding myself in a hall filled with old fighter planes, including two of my favourite beauties, made me completely unable to contain my glee!
Glad I brought my sunglasses!
I had a geek-gasm right there. The P-51D Mustang in all it's glory
I had a big beautiful model of this one when I was a kid
If I was in world war two they'd call me Spitfire!
- Sarah, can I drive back to Christchurch?
- sure, why?
- I gotta pilot something right now!
Sarah headed back home that evening, and I went to a couchsurfer event at a restaurant in Christchurch. It was very interesting to see how tight a community couchsurfing really is.
My lift out of Christchurch is worth a rant. It was a two hour drive to Kaikoura, and from our conversation I quickly gathered that he was a religious man.
About one hour into the drive darkness settled and he seemed to gather his nerve and ask me what'd apparantly been on his mind all the time. "Have anyone ever told you of the light of Jesus Christ?" I felt a paralyzing panic run through my body. Fuck, He's about to start preaching. Get me out! Turns out he was a fundamentalist creationist. One of those people who not only doesn't believe in what they called "the religion of science", but believes it is the work of Satan meant to distort our view of "god's truth". He felt it his mission to try and convert me, and his arguments were the most ridiculous ones I've ever heard. I've read about these people, but meeting one made me realize how mind-numbingly stupid and narrow-minded they really are. He tried to point to obscure "holes" in science (evolution in particular, and the fact that the earth was older than the 6-7000 years stated in the bible), and whenever I countered them (which I managed quite well considering my panicked state) he changed the subject into something even more obscure until he found something I didn't know enough about. When I told him that evolution is not a theory but an observed fact, he replied with "well, have you seen it?" How do you argue with a guy like that!
He ended up being plain rude. I'm very hard to insult, but his comments about how he felt sorry that I was so ignorant and "taking other people's lies for fact" managed it. 'Look who's talking' I thought, but I didn't say it. I was more than offended. I was angry. For some reason I didn't stop him or ask to be set off. I felt I had to be polite since he'd given me the ride, however obnoxious he might be. The next day I was still angry, and I decided that if someone insults me like that again I'll ask to be set off immediately. Darkness or no.
It made me realize that I'm too polite. I'm letting people step on me without complaint and I've had enough of that. It's fine if someone doesn't agree with me, but I won't take the kind of disrespect he was pouring on me. Never again.
Wednesday dawned as blue as can be, and I went and did what I came to Kaikoura to do. Fulfilling a childhood dream:
I! Flew! An! Airplane!
With an instructor by my side, I:
- took off from the ground
- flew the plane for the better part of an hour
- made the approach between mountains
- landed the plane
- taxied to parking
I did it, and it was easy as!
(note, Easy As is kiwi slang meaning very easy)
Remember what I said about hitchhiking in the video? I was proven wrong trying to hitch to Nelson. Every single pick-up that day took more than an hour to land.
Arriving in Nelson, I had a real hard time finding a hostel, and seriously considered sleeping in the park. I opted out of it though, as I didn't want to attempt it in the middle of the city. I was surprised at how calm I was. Surely a night with no place to sleep should be a panick-inducing prospect! Soon, I found the reason for my calm. It was rooted in a certain october night in Scotland about 8 years ago.
I was hitch-hiking through Europe on my own, and back then my 16-year old mind thought it would be cool to do something so uncomfortable that I'd always be able to say that 'I've had worse'. This quest culminated with me trying to sleep outside a gas-station in the middle of nowhere. It was october, it was the highlands, it was cold as hell, somehow the bugs weren't dead yet, I was hungry, and occasional drips from above made it miserable. It took me three hours to realize the stupidity of what I was doing, and ever since I've looked back on that night with a shudder of embarassment. That night in Nelson, however, it all made sense. I was so calm about it because, no matter what the night would bring, I'd survived worse! The night in Scotland ended with a scottish family taking me in , and the night in Nelson ended with me stumbling upon a backpackers with beds available.
The One Ring used in the movies was made in Nelson. By a guy from Denmark no less. His shop is now run by his son, as Jens Hansen himself passed away. I put it on, but resisted the urge for plunder and genocide. The ring has no power over me.
This whopper was used for special effects shots and closeups of the ring.