After hiking 100km in a week, my past self had decided that I needed a week off to hang out and recover. Finally, my past self is getting some sense. Technically I stayed in Sawyers Bay, which is a tiny town 10km NE of Dunedin. I had booked myself into an Air B&B for 3 night with a couple named Steve & Anita and their 3 year old daughter Aquilla (forgive me if I mess up names!).
Past self did not really look at what time they were booking buses for, so the morning after the Rakiura Track I was on a bus by 8:30am. Steve was kind enough to come get me from the bus station, which was great because I had been sleeping most of the way and was mildly confused when I got there. We drove along the coast to their place which is nestled back in the hills, overlooking both the mountains and the sea. You could tell Steve and Anita had put a lot of their time and their own personal touches into the property; it had a very eclectic vibe and was full of reclaimed treasures. It really reminded me of Salt Spring Island in BC where all the artisans live. No other guests were staying there, so I got the big bed and room all to myself. Boo yeah! A relief after huts, tents and bunk beds! I met their daughter Aquilla, who was like a little ethereal fairy child, so calm and gentle. If you know me, you know that me saying she was a really awesome little kid is something, since I don't really like most children that aren't related to me. Sorry, it's true. But Aquilla rocked! She said 'sorry' all the time, so I am dubbing her an honorary Canadian :) I spent the first day there just hanging out and enjoying the company of these down to earth people. Anita's mom Sue was up visiting for a little while. She is a nurse and we had some great conversations about working in the medical field (I can't escape haha).
The next day I again just took it easy, hoping to go for a little hike the next day. I Skyped with a few friends and family and worked on some photos. At one point I heard an unfamiliar voice shouting my name. I go outside and isn't it one of their neighbours who had been on the Kepler the same time as me! New Zealand is becoming a freaky small world. That evening everyone was headed to Aramoana beach to get some mussels and asked if I would like to come along. I jumped at the chance and headed out with my camera, hoping to get some good wildlife photos. Once we got to the beach I was totally blown away by the scenery. Also, there was a seal RIGHT THERE by the parking lot. Excitedly, I took out my camera and...dead battery. Totally dead. No I did not have a spare. Lesson learned the really hard way. I did snap some pictures with my iPhone at least!
We walked all the way down the beach to where the mussels were. They were just past a seal colony over some rocks Steve pointed out to us. The puppies of the sea are pretty big and you don't want to get too close, so we just had to walk along the shore line. Easy enough... andddddd nope. It was apparently low tide, but the waves were still strong enough and coming in fast enough that I thought I had better not chance it. Having almost drowned in Hawaii and Ontario, I didn't want to go for the trifecta. Yes I can swim, I just have to plug my nose. If I go under without doing that I automatically start gulping in water because my brain works that way. I am a shitty Pisces. So I chickened out. We ended up going to a secret secondary location and getting tonnes of mussels; it was a really cool experience and one I won't soon forget! Once home, Sue and Anita prepped them a couple ways for me to try. I really liked the flavour, but just plain and by themselves I found the large ones a challenge texturally.
My last day I decided to go for a 'little' hike. I had asked Steve and Anita about hiking the mountains you could see from their house. They told me Mt. Cargill was supposed to be a great hike and said it would take me about 4 hours round trip. I could see the top from my balcony, there wasn't any snow up there, this will be easy! I am beginning to realize I have a problem with accepting reality and my own limitations. I automatically assume just because I physically CAN do something, it means I can do it with ease. Not so much. I did indeed get to the top in about 2 hours, but there were so many spider webs in the bush, then switchbacks, and finally the blazing hot sun as it was over 30 that day. It was a total elevation gain of about 2000 ft, not such a 'little' hike. I wasn't feeling great when I got there, specifically my left hip which has been bugging me since day 2 of the Kepler. I actually went up Buttar's Peak instead of to the top of Mt. Cargill because it looked a little more scenic. Finally a good decision. I will let the photos speak for themselves.
Please be aware, I had to upload low quality of my videos until I am somewhere with real hi speed wifi!
After spending an hour on Buttar's peak taking pictures and acting like a 5 year old, I decided I had better start back. Once I got back to the first road, I thought I should see if I could catch a ride back with anyone because spider web alley had lost it's appeal. Luckily, there was a group of girls from the local university there the same time as me. They gave me a lift part way down and I just walked along the side of the road the rest of the way. That evening Sue really wanted to go pick cockles (clams) so the girls all headed back out to Aramoana. This time I had a fresh battery! Don't you know, a HUGE storm was blowing in and cut the visibility to zero. The winds were pretty crazy so we headed half way back home to get the cockles and I made due with the scenery I had. So help me, I will get my seal photos in this country.
Remember past Melissa and the terrible times she books buses at? Apparently I thought a 7:45am bus was a grand idea. Ugh. Anita very kindly explained exactly which bus I needed to take into town the next day, where to catch it and where to get off it. I easily got to the bus station and promptly passed out on the bus for my 6 hour ride to Christchurch. I'm pretty sure people saw me drooling in my sleep.