Mar 062009
 

After 7 weeks hitchin around the two islands of New Zealand, it’s good to be back home on board Bodhran. I’ve just uploaded a photo album with all my pics from the last two months:

New Zealand Pics

From here, I need to extend my import permit to allow me to keep Bodhran in the country for another year without paying taxes on her. Then I’ll be flying up to Fiji to help Greg and Bonnie sail Willow back to Hawaii. That’ll probably take at least 45 days and then it’ll be time to get back to Seattle and start working tug boats again, cause I’m officially broke. Of course what do you expect after not working for 20 months?

 Posted by at 4:53 pm
Mar 012009
 

The quaint little mountain town of Arthur’s Pass:
ArthursPass

Well the corn is getting high and there’s a nip to the air. It looks like summer is winding down here in the southern hemisphere. My life has been dictated by rain most of the last week. There were four straight days of it in Franz Josef. We played the bars on a couple of those nights, but there were a couple of very slow days in there. Still it was better to be at Johnny and Greg’s house than trying to hitch down the road in the pouring rain. Funny how people don’t like picking soggy hitchhikers.

I got a lift out of Franz with Melissa, who’d also been staying at Johnny and Greg’s. We didn’t make it far, just up to Hokitika. I ended up staying at the same dreary hostel that I’d stayed at one the way down, but at least there was some sunshine this time. My first ride the next day, I was picked up by a couple who’d been working on mega yachts the last 10 years. They had just turned down a delivery job from the Galapagos to Tahiti. If I had met them a week earlier, I might have found some work. Well they only got me up to the junction at Komura. There a waited for 45 minutes until I got a ride to the far side of town, where I waited for an hour before being picked up by an East German fella who put me through to Arthur’s Pass.

The road across the mountains was stunning, and the weather was holding off so I actually got to see. Apparently the views from Franz Josef are even more spectacular, but in 2.5 weeks, I never really got to see the mountains. Well Arthur’s pass certainly is a quaint little mountain town with two restaurants, two hostels, a little store and lots of trailheads. I got into town mid afternoon and started scouting out day hikes for the next day. Turns out that a bunch of us from the hostel went out for beers and Susan offered me a ride all the way up to Picton. Well that’s a 7 hour drive and would probably have been 2 days of hitching, and since the weather looked like it would have spoiled the views from the trails I decided to skip the hike and get up to the ferry.

That night in Picton found Susan and I at the Juggler’s Rest. I was sitting on the front porch playing my guit-fiddle when one of the other guests asked me if I was in Nukualofa last November. Well what do you know? The crew of Oops was also staying at this little 6 room hostel. Well we were sitting around chatting about sailing through the Pacific when one of the Kiwis piped up and mentioned that she worked in sales for a major paint distributor and would be happy to get Oops and myself friends and family discounts on bottom paint. Bottom paint is pretty expensive, so I was certainly glad to make a new friend.

Leaving Picton on the ferry:
Picton

The ferry across to Wellington was uneventful. I decided that hitchin out of Wellington would be difficult, so I busked for an hour or so and then caught the afternoon train up to Otika. Otika was supposed to be a pleasant little beach town, but in the driving rain somehow it’d lost some of it’s charm. What was charming however was my room above the local dive bar/horse betting parlor. It certainly had an ambiance to make Tom Waits proud.

Boiling mud pool right next to Rotorua
Thermal

Yesterday, I caught the bus from Otika up to Rotorua. I got in late and after trying a couple of backpackers whose receptions were closed, I ended up staying at the dingiest worst hostel of the trip. Kitched stacked to the ceiling with dishes, you had to rent bedding if you wanted it and the bathroom was flooded with standing water. Made me wish for my dive back in Otika. I think that I’ll be hanging out here today, checking out the thermals and boiling mud right in the middle of town, but I’m definitely changing my hostel.

 Posted by at 9:27 am
Feb 212009
 

Another great shot of the Franz Josef Glacier from my hike up the Robert’s point trail:
Franz Josef Glacier

And less than a 30 min drive away from the glacier is Okarita Beach:
Okarita Beach

It’s been more of the same here in Franz Josef for the last week now. Hiking, glaciers, the beach, hot pools, fishing, big meals and music are the order of nearly every day. If only the weather would cooperate more. I was going to leave for Queenstown today, but it’s raining cats and dogs and I really don’t want to go get drenched standing on the side of the road waiting for a ride. Though I’m sure that the drowed bear look would induce much sympathy and quickly get me picked up. Anyway, it looks like a few more days of rain and then I’ll try and get out of here. It’s always hard to leave a place that fits you so well…..especially when it’s raining. We’ll see maybe Queenstown by Monday. In the meantime here’s some pics from Franz:

Pickin on the beach with Alex and Johnny:
Pickin on the beach with Alex and Johnny

River by the forks where we did some fishing and some cliff jumping:
Forks

One night only, The Icepickers. Actually we just couldn’t get the sound right and stopped playing 1/3 of the way through our set list:
AlexJohnnyLanding

 Posted by at 3:01 pm
Feb 122009
 

New Zealand……COOL!!!
Franz Josef Glacier

After my stellar day hitching from Nelson down to Graymouth, I was deeply disappointed by a 30km day that found me waiting in the rain for over an hour twice before giving up and finding a backpacker hotel in Hokitika. The next day however found me in the backseat of a car with a couple from Peru that had taken 6 months off to go traveling. They got me all the way to Franz Josef and dropped me off in front of the Glacier Guides where Delaware Johnny works. Delaware Johnny is an old bluegrass pickin buddy of Tate’s the he had met years ago in the Ecuadorian jungle. I’d been hearing about this guy for years, but we’d never met. I knew that he was just 1000 miles away from Whangarei, so meeting up with Johnny was my main goal for my current little expedition. Johnny was up on the glacier guiding a tour when I hit town, but he instantly recognized my guitar playing fuzzy self across the street in the little park when he got back.

The bustling metropolis of Franz Josef, that’s pretty much the whole town:
The bustling metropolis of Franz Josef

So Johnny and his roommate Greg take me back to the house to get situated then its off to one of the guides going away party and I get to meet just about everyone in town right off the bat. It was a great time, pickin and eating cheese steaks cooked on an old cast iron sawblade laid over the fire. The next day Johnny got me on his glacier tour, so we spent 6 hours out on the ice. It was a great tour, with Johnny leading a group of 11 of us swinging his ice axe almost the entire time cutting steps and ensuring a secure route. It was amazing just being out on the glacier, but we got to also hike through a crevasse for a while and go through 2 ice caves….absolutely spectacular!

Johnny cooking up some amazing cheese steaks on an old cast iron saw blade grill
Me about ready to climb out of an ice cave

Me about ready to climb out of an ice cave
Me about ready to climb out of an ice cave

Hiking through a crevasse:
Hiking through a crevasse

Delaware Johnny and myself at the high point on the glacier walk:
Delware Johnny and myself at the high point on the glacier walk

Fortunately both Greg and Johnny have the same two days off, so along with Alex the banjo player and a couple other guides we took off the other day and drove the 3.5 hours down to Wanaka to do some climbing. Unfortunately my camera battery was dead and my charger is on Bodhran, so I didn’t get any pics on the way down, but the scenery was amazing. We spent two days down there pickin, climbing and then pickin some more. I got my first two rock climbs in since I was in the army in Korea 14 years ago. Just a 12 and a 13 on the NZ rating scale, but it was a lot of fun. Most of the time I sat down below and played guitar while everyone else was climbing. And speaking of playing music, we were waiting for the 8:30 showing of Burn After Reading at this great little theater/pizza place that has a bunch of old couches and arm chairs for seating. We had 30 minutes to kill before the movie started, so Alex, Johnny and I were playing on the grass outside when up walks Bob from Kelowna BC who just happens be a flatpicker in a bluegrass band. Well there wasn’t enough time before the movie, but we agreed to meet up at a cafe after the days climbing and play some music. Turns out to be one of those fantastic nights where we end up playing for 4 hours with round after round of beer showing up and a big crowd of people hanging around while we’re just having a great time playing music. We didn’t make it out of Wanaka until almost 11 and thank God Ned wasn’t playing music (wasn’t drinking free beer) so that he could drive us home.

Hiking across Hospital Flats to get to the climbing wall:
Hospital Flats

Johnny in the foregound with Rob behind him and Greg up the wall:
Climbing at Hospital Flats

Pickin in Wanaka: (Ned, Johnny, Alex, Bob and myself)
Pickin in Wanaka

I’m back in Franz Josef again now. This is just too good of a scene here to move on too soon. I’ll probably stick around for at least another week before continuing on again. The next question will be, do I continue south? or is it time to get back to Bodhran?

 Posted by at 1:51 pm
Feb 062009
 

Coming out of Cook’s Strait to the south island on the ferry:
Coming out of Cook's Strait to the south island on the ferry

A few people along the way said that I’d have a problem hitch hiking on the south island. Well nuts to that. I just had a great day on the road. I took the ferry across from Wellington to Picton yesterday and caught a bus into Nelson. This morning, I took off from my hotel and walked to the edge of town and stuck out my thumb. My first ride came from a horticulturist/web designer. Strange combo huh? Well he figured that I’d have better luck if he took me 10km down the road to the other side of the next town. Not a long ride, but he dropped me off in a good spot. From there I got picked up by a woman driving from Nelson down to Christchurch for her daughter’s birthday. I certainly could have gotten a ride all the way to Christchurch with her and probably even a date with her daughter, yeah she loved me. Funny how many people always wanted to go sailing and can’t get enough stories while giving me a ride. She dropped me off at the junction with the road to the west coast where I got a ride with an Israeli couple, who just happen to be programmers who quit their jobs and are traveling for six months. They were heading to Westport and it was only 1pm, so I had them let me off at the turnoff into town where I got a short ride from one of the local radio djs who dropped me off at a good spot in front of his house .

Come on, who wouldn’t give that guy a ride?:
JasonHitchin

I turned down one short ride, then Greg from Graymouth happened along and picked me up. Greg had just been snorkeling for crayfish and paua (abalone). He’d gotten a few of each. Turns out he loves the water and intends to go cruising when his son gets out of school in a few years. So we’re just minding our own business chatting about cruising when he sees a buddies ride parked on the side of the road. We had to investigate. So we climbed down a steep hillside through some treacherous blackberries to find Phil diving for crays himself. Greg suits up and I play bucket boy while we get 3 more crayfish and a few more paua. Phil took off while Greg was snorkeling, but when we drove away we cruised by his place for beers and crayfish. Finally Greg dropped me off in Graymouth, halfway between Nelson and my destination in Franz Josef, with a crayfish and two pauas at a great little hostel that he knew. I then proceeded to cook up an amazing seafood dinner, with plenty to go around in for a beverage or two. So five rides, a nice sidetrip and an awesome meal. Yeah hitchin on the south island sucks.

Greg hiking down to the beach:
Trail

Greg coming up with another crayfish:
Greg

I know it’s lame to pose with someone elses catch, but I held the bucket dammit:
JasonCrayfish

How’s that for some free seafood?:
Dinner

 Posted by at 8:58 pm