Or “The hairy hobo that is me”
When we first started to contemplate the idea of travelling around the world for a year, everything we looked at, every tiny bit of information, picture, blog, or just figment of someone’s imagination seemed to be filled with adventure and novelty. I could see myself as a wild combination of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft (with less skin showing of course!), travelling through jungles, climbing steep mountains and making my way effortlessly through the chaotic puzzles the Asians call traffic. Smog was seen not as a problem but part of the adventure, slumming it with the locals an enjoyable necessity and dingy bus rides seen as perfect opportunities to catch up on some reading. Toilets were always spotless and places to sleep were just that, a place to crash after a long day’s adventure. Whilst I possessed the knowledge of bedbugs there was a somewhat eerie assurance that they were someone else’s problem and not ours.
Almost seven months later my perspective has somewhat changed to that lad seven months ago who stepped onto a plane with doe eyes and no idea of how the world looks like. My beard has been shaved several times until I just gave up on it and let it grow. Now it looks like the only survivor of a Yeti ancestry I never knew I had, hiding last week’s cereals under a thick layer of stubble. Although it deters thugs, quite frankly stating that they have more than I do, it becomes a hindrance in warm weather when mosquitoes build a nest in it. So every now and again (normally when people look at me funny or I can’t feel Ronni’s lips when we kiss) I resort to trimming that wild beast and creating some sort of socially acceptable hobo look.
My hair is another story though. Having set out with shortly cut hair that enhanced my exquisite ears, over time it has grown into what can only be called the nesting ground for the Kiwi bird. When we set out seven months ago I thought that I would just let it grow and see what happens. Well folks, if you let something grow, it will. And with no cutting, trimming or just plain brushing going on, my hair has become disarray that wildly disobeys any orders as I try to tame it. So I went out and got a hat, for one to make me look more fashionable, and two, to put a lid on it!
But travels are not only about growing hair, or tired legs. Nope, over time travelling becomes harder, mostly because it isn’t a vacation. This ain’t no 9-5 lying on the beach job, no sir! You travel on uncomfortable buses, sleazy taxi drivers look at you like wads of dollar bills, airports become your second home and you plan your day’s activities by the toilet options you have on the way :-)
Hostels, motels, hospedajes or whatever else they call themselves become a harbouring ground for all the different animals that the guy before you introduced to the bed, whilst toilets have a 50/50 chance of being clean and comfortable. Hot water becomes a luxury, whilst in some countries all you need is a cold gush of water to cool you off.
Is it all worth it you may ask? Absolutely yes! It is hard and it is not always fun, but looking back on the last seven months, frankly, I can hardly believe where we’ve been and what we’ve seen so far. And I can’t wait to see more, to touch more, to be more. A whole new culture awaits us after New Zealand, something that is so alien to us, I can’t even imagine how we will manage to get along – for one, the need of normal toilets might be a deal breaker! But just the thought of what lies out there puts a smile on my face and energy in my legs as we tempt yet another hike up the mountains (why do these hikes always go UP?).
What you got to learn is that you need to pace yourself. Whereas in the beginning we hardly needed any breaks, now we need one every so often, just relaxing, doing nothing. We learned that it’s important sometimes to just sit back and read a book, and let everyone else travel in what seems like a killer pace, jumping from one attraction to the next. We learned that it is okay to “waste” a day watching TV, googeling stuff or just going to the movies. We are creatures of habit after all!
So we hauled our asses back into the car and left Westport and its adorable seals behind us and made our way further south. Whilst Tintin was no car to relax in, at least the seat had begun to shape into the form of my butt! The highway made its way along the coast, giving us plenty of opportunities to pull aside and take in the view.
Again we were struck with the similarities we found between New Zealand and Ireland, especially when it came to its coasts and inland. Whilst driving I had to ask myself though, why the heck all English territories had to drive on the left side? Did they ride their horses on the left as well or what happened? With this somewhat important question unanswered we continued, the radio silenced by the hills. As we neared Punakaiki and its pancakes (ah sorry, pancake rocks as they call it!) we wondered if this little fella was the last living descendant of the dinosaurs. I mean, look at his talons!
Punakaiki is a ‘must stop’ when driving on the west coast. For one, it’s for free! Secondly, my butt needed the workout, and frankly, Tintin was getting on my nerves. It was also a great opportunity to use the bathroom. Oh, and yes, there was also something to see!
Why pancake rocks you ask? Well, I guess whoever discovered these rock formations first was in desperate need of some American style IHOP, and could not get rid of that delicious smell of freshly made pancakes. Off he went in search of the nearest breakfast joint, leaving his befuddled partner with the slogan, “Darn pancakes! Rocks I see, pancakes I want!” His partner being a little on the slow side, mistakenly took this as ‘Pancake Rocks’ and scribbled the first graffiti of the place on one of the slates, forever naming this park for what it is called now.
Whilst I loaded this load of BS to Ronni, she non-comically just took command of the camera and took a picture of me!
Alas, it was time to get a move on and as we left the pancakes behind, I wondered if anyone would believe my take of the story or not. But there is no rest for the wicked (and the travelling) and soon we were lured into the beautiful village of Rapahoe where we would rest again, listen to the waves crash against the shore and watch the beautiful sunsets over the Tasman sea.