Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 9 - Picton

July 9 - Picton

I got up this morning around 7 AM. We had about a 3 hour drive to Picton on the northeast corner of the south island of New Zealand. We wanted to leave early so we would have time to do some hiking when we got there. We didn’t really know what we wanted to do, but we knew the area was supposed to have some really good scenery of the Queen Charlotte and Marlborough Sounds.

I had everything packed except for my sleeping bag that I had used during the night. We got our things together and then went to the kitchen to have breakfast. We had some bread so we made peanut butter and jelly toast. We also had a banana, pear, and kiwi fruit. I wasn’t planning on having tea, but I ended up making some anyway.

We turned in our key to the cabin just before 8 AM. There was nobody at the reception desk so I had to leave it in a drop box outside. We didn’t have any planned stops along the way to Picton and I didn’t really want to make too many anyway. I wanted to get to Picton as soon as possible.

The drive was relatively flat compared to what we had been experiencing since most of it was along the coast and through wineries. The Marlborough and Nelson areas are known for wine. We had considered doing a wine tour, but they were expensive and I didn’t really want to do another since I had done one before in South Africa.

We were planning to do a scenic drive that went from Havelock to Picton, but some how in Havelock we turned south rather than continuing to go east. The route we took was probably twice as long and took us in a horseshoe shape from Havelock to Blenheim, and then up to Picton. We still ended up making it in around 2 ½ hours. The Havelock route was probably cool, but it was really foggy the majority of the drive since we left in the morning so we weren’t going to see much anyway. We got to Picton around 10:30 AM.

In Picton we were looking for the I-Site, but ended up turning to the right when we should have gone straight. I told Andy the sign said it was forward, but he thought it was pointing to the right. He was driving so that’s the way we went. We ended up driving on the outer edge of town and then to the next city. Picton wasn’t very big so it only took about 2 minutes to get out of town.

The road took us into the surrounding hills and to an overlook. We stopped the car to look at what there was to see. There was a short hike that started down a steep hill to a parking lot below where we were. Andy walked around and down the street, but I just ran down the hill. It was pretty steep.

At the bottom of the hill Andy said he didn’t lock the car. Rather than walk back up we just decided to do the hike quickly. There was a historic hike that was 10 minutes and a lookout that was 5 minutes. I didn’t care to do the historic hike. Andy was taking pictures so I went ahead. I was walking really quickly and even running part of it. The trail was flat and went through a forest with a steep drop off to my left. There were trees and bushes along the cliff and down to the water below. I passed a turn off to my left, but decided to keep walking straight.

I stopped a few times to take pictures when there was an opening in the trees. Andy eventually caught up to me and we started jogging. The trail gets to the end of a small peninsula and then there are steps that lead down to the water. As we walked down a family passed us on the way up. There was a lady sitting on some rocks fishing and then a boy and his dad sitting on some other rocks looking at the water.

My camera had been messing up all morning and was still giving me trouble at the water. It had been getting messed up at the beginning of the trip and before it began, but for the past month it was working perfectly fine. I don’t know why it decided to not turn on. I thought it was my battery so I changed it, but that didn’t work. I tried one of Andy’s, but that didn’t work either.

It finally came on and I was able to get it working again. I think it might have gotten jostled from running with it the day before along the beach at Farewell Spit. Regardless I figured out if I held the power button down really hard that it would come on. I sometimes had to scroll the ISO button or the different camera settings. That worked to a certain extent. Hopefully it starts working like normal again.

After getting the pictures we wanted we went back up the trail. On the way back we saw that there were sign posts that marked important things. I guess I had taken the historic trail after all. We stopped a few times to take pictures of the Maori artifacts. There were a few areas that were dug out with mounds that were places that Maori stored their food in the past. The sign said that the area had never been excavated fully, but based on similar places found in other parts of the country that it was most likely the same types of things.

A little further down there was a mound that was a fortified area for the Maori. It was the weakest part of the surrounding area so they had to build their own defenses rather than use natural barriers. It was also a good lookout spot to see approaching enemies. If they tried to come up the cliffs they were easy targets from above.

We got back to the lookout trail and I decided I would walk down it a little bit to see where it went. It just led down to the water. I didn’t think it was that much different of a view so we didn’t go down. We did stop to take a few pictures of some flowers with the ocean in the distance. I had Andy take a picture where the flowers were in focus and I was further down the trail and out of focus. He did the same with a video. It seemed like it turned out alright. I went pee on the trail.

We made it back to the start of the trail. I was ahead of Andy so I ran back up the steep hill in a spot that looked like it had footprints and some dirt areas to gain traction. The rest of it was grass that was slick. Andy went up the road. Back at the top I had Andy take a picture of me jumping with the Queen Charlotte Sound behind me. I was trying to find a better location, but there wasn’t much to choose from. We could go back down the steep hill or over behind the car.

We ended up doing both. We went behind the car first and got some pictures. I took some of Andy too. It was hard to get everything I wanted in the picture so we went back down the hill to see what there was.  I went on the steep part again and so did Andy since I told him about it. The bottom wasn’t much better. I ran back up the hill and Andy followed.

Back at the car we decided we would we would drive back to town and look for the I-Site to find out about what there was to do. The I-site was exactly where I thought. Andy thought the sign was still pointing the wrong direction, but I didn’t think so. It was slightly turned diagonally, but it was still clear to me where it was.

The town seemed really crowded and lots of people were out walking around. It was the school holiday break, so lots of families were out doing things. There was a little carnival thing going on behind the I-site. I don’t know what they were doing, but there were lots of little kids doing whatever it was. We went inside the I-site and looked for brochures.

I heard one of the guys working there tell someone about a hike called “The Snout.” I had read about it and seen it on my map and thought it sounded neat. Since he recommended it I figured that would be something I would want to do too. We got a few brochures from Picton and some maps of the area. We thought we had gotten enough and then got back in the car to find the hike we wanted to do, The Snout.

The hike started back in the same direction we had just come from. The trail started at the top of a hill across from the overlook. The road was a one way gravel road and somewhat steep. It comes to an end in a parking lot blocked by a metal gate. The other side of the gate was more gravel road, but this part had to be walked.

It was about 12 PM and we were ready for lunch. We made ham sandwiches with chips and a granola bar on the back of the car. As we started the trail we were both eating an apple. It was really pretty warm out and sunny. I would guess around mid-50s at least. I kept on my fleece and rain jacket, but I didn’t really need them.

The entire hike was 3 hours return. We had to walk to the end of a peninsula and then back. We started around 12:30 PM. The Snout received it’s name from a Maori legend. They believed the Queen Charlotte Sound was created by a large lizard of some kind. He was walking and then sank. As it did it’s snout was still sticking out. It made no sense, but that’s how mythical legends usually are.

The first ½ mile of the trail follows the gravel road. It seemed really flat and an easy stroll. Lining the road were huge plants with yellow flowers and thorns. They were the best smelling flowers I have ever smelled. I don’t know what they are called, but I want to find out. Because there were so many of them the smell was really strong. Usually I don’t like the way flowers smell, but these were like a perfume or soap.

I wanted to get pictures of them, but my camera wasn’t working at all. I couldn’t get it to turn on or anything. I had to pee again so I went in the bushes on the side of the trail. Nobody was around anyway.

There was a small trail below us on the right so I walked down to it. I thought maybe it was the actual trail we were supposed to be on. It looked more like a trail than the road. We walked down about 40 yards and thought it was wrong. Rather than get lost we just went back and got on the road again.

We walked along this trail for about 15 minutes of walking time, but in reality it took about 25 minutes since we stopped a few times. The trail that we thought might be the trail ended up being a mountain biking trail. There was a sign telling us that.

At this point the trail entered the forest. It was slightly uphill and a little muddy in parts. For the most part the trail was rocky and flat with a few uphill portions. To the left was the water, which was usually blocked by trees with occasional openings. We were climbing to the top of the first of three hills. The first one looked to be the tallest.

My camera was starting to work better, but still not great. I was able to get a few pictures though. It kept us from stopping as much as we would have. I was just wanting it to be working by the time we got to the end of the trail and anything I missed on the way I could get pictures of on the way back.

When we started the trail I didn’t see any other people, but I could hear a girl and a guy behind us. They must have been walking pretty fast because we were going at a decent pace. They finally caught up to us when we stopped to take pictures. It was a mom, dad, and little girl. She was probably about 8 and walking the trail really well.

We ended up catching up to them and passing them by. We got to a really good look out after about 50 minutes. I tried to get some pictures, but my camera wasn’t having any of it. I was able to get it on for a second and get a few pictures, but the best would have to wait for later. I sat on some rocks trying to fix it while the family that had passed us was sitting on the picnic table having their lunch.

There was a sign that said the rest of the trail would take 40 minutes to complete. We had passed the two bigger hills so the last part should be mostly downhill to the water. We started running down the hill wanting to get to the end faster. It was pretty muddy and slippery along the way.

After a little bit of running it was getting too muddy. We had to criss-cross back and forth to avoid the mud the best we could. I was still getting muddy, but it wasn’t that bad. The trail began to be less muddy so we started to run again. I was doing pretty well until I came to a switch back. I started to turn and my feet went right out from under me.

I reacted really quickly and twisted my body and put my right hand down. I was basically in a crab position with my right hand on the ground as my feet were sliding forward. I was able to hold myself and keep from getting muddy. I had my camera wrapped around my shoulder and it didn’t hit the ground either. I had a few mud streaks on my palm, but that was all. I was like a ninja. I attribute that bit of strength and reflexes to yoga.

We walked the rest of the way down. It continued to be muddy for the next 10 minutes. This part of the forest was pretty dark and wet. We passed a few guys and two little pug dogs. They were coming up the trail passed us. The little dogs were panting really hard the whole way. It was funny to watch them.

The final 10 minutes was pretty flat and there was more light coming in through the trees. We could see water on both sides so we knew we were close to the end. I kept thinking it was the end, but the trail just kept going.

There was finally a clearing. We made it to the end. There was a grassy patch that was about 20 yards by 20 yards. There were more of the yellow flowers that lined the cliff that overlooked the flowers. To the left there was a small trail that I walked down a little bit, but not too far. I was mostly just looking for a place to pee again.

My camera wasn’t working at first when we got there, but after a few minutes I got it to come on. I kept it on so I wouldn’t have to worry about it not working if I tried to turn it on again. I was able to get some really good pictures. I took a few where I had the flowers in focus and the water and mountains behind out of focus.

I had Andy get my picture and I took some of him too. As we were waiting I went and set on the picnic table. It was really peaceful. We were the only ones there, but we could see boats in the area speeding around. Some of them were water taxis, but others were just people out on their personal boats for fun. There may have been a few tour boats as well.

We sat there alone for about 15 minutes. The family eventually showed up. They walked around for a little while and then sat down. There was a small fantail bird flying around us and she was talking to it. These birds are like larger versions of hummingbirds and they fly around our heads and legs all the time. One landed on my back the other day.

She was calling this particular bird Francesca. She kept calling it to come to her and follow her like a dog. It sometimes would go towards her and she would get excited. They finally left and she was calling for the bird. It didn’t follow her though.

As we were sitting there enjoying the silence Andy thought he could hear a dolphin in the water below. He was looking over the edge and could see one. It was about 100 yards away. We were able to watch it swim off, but never could get a clear picture since it was so far. It didn’t look like a normal dolphin though. It wasn’t jumping that high out of the water and the fin on top wasn’t that big. It looked like a Hector’s Dolphin, a rare dolphin that lives near Kaikoura, a town south of where we were.

We decided after about 30 minutes of being here that we should start walking back. The first part of the trail back was steep and muddy. We walked back pretty quickly, but it seemed like it was taking forever. It was hard to walk through the mud uphill, but it seemed like there was less of it. Maybe it had warmed up enough to dry some of it out.

We caught up to our little family again before getting to the lookout we had stopped at before. This time when we arrived the family had just gotten there. I heard the little girl get excited because they made it through the steeper part.

At the top they stopped to rest and have some kiwi fruit. I was able to get my camera to work and got the pictures I couldn’t before. I took more than enough. The girl went down into the woods a little ways and said there was a wild pig. There are some in the area, but I wasn’t thinking there was one here.

A few seconds later the bushes started moving. A small bird called a Weka came walking out. They started feeding it orange peels and part of their kiwi. I asked if that was the wild pig she saw. A Weka looks like a chicken, but brown and it doesn’t flap it’s wings ever. I’m not even sure it had any. The few we had seen before didn’t fly ever. They kind of look like the raptors in Jurassic Park. We talked to the family a little bit about our trip. They were from Picton and only did the hike once a year. I think if I lived there it would be something worth doing all the time. It was really nice and I liked it a lot.

They left, but we stayed to get pictures. We wanted to stand on the picnic table to get better views from slightly higher and couldn’t do that when they were there sitting at the table. After getting the pictures we went back down the trail.

We started the last half of the trail around 3:30 PM. I was hoping to be done around 4 PM. We walked pretty fast and only stopped a few times for gopro videos since we didn’t get too many on the way up. The trail seemed much longer than I remembered on the way.

We finally made it back to the gravel road and thought it was just a little more to go. The gravel part seemed much longer than I remembered. There were even a few steep uphill parts. I had been eating an apple on the way down and messing with my camera so I guess I didn’t realize it. I was also mesmerized by the smell of the flowers.

We made it back to the car around 4:15 PM and needed to find a place to stay. We could stay at the Top 10 Holiday Park in town just across the street or drive a little bit out of town past the lookout we had seen earlier in the day at another place. It was slightly cheaper, but we weren’t sure where it was since the map didn’t show that far out of town.

We decided to look for the farther one first since it was less expensive. We found it after a few minutes. It looked like a dump and was small. I didn’t want to stay there. We ended up just going to the Top 10. They have always been nice and we were hoping they would have a deal like the last one.

At the Top 10 I asked if they had any sort of deals for multi-day stays, but they didn’t. It wasn’t too expensive anyway so we just stayed there. We had no other options in mind really. They had a nice camping area and the kitchen and TV room was perfect. It wasn’t very crowded at all.

We set up our tent and then went to watch TV around 5 PM. I wanted to write in my journal. I had gotten about a week behind and wanted to catch up. The TV lounge was a small room with a few couches. Nobody else was in there except for us. We watched NASCAR a little bit, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Transformers 2 was the movie of the week. It was Monday night and that’s when they have their movie night on New Zealand television on TV One. They seem to only have about 12 channels in most of the places we go and TV 1, 2, 3, and 4 are their top basic cable channels. I would say they are similar to ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX.

At about 6 PM we started making dinner. I wanted to have it done and eaten before Transformers came on at 8:30 PM. We made a package of Chicken Curry. The Macaroni flavor of this particular brand was gross, but the Fettuccini Alfredo was pretty good. We were wanting this kind to be good too. We thought about buying chicken to go with it, but I didn’t want to spend anymore money on food since we already had enough.

We made French fries and a salad with broccoli, cucumber, and carrots to go with it. For dessert we had chocolate since we were out of cookies. There was a box that had some free food in it like salt, sugar, coffee, and tea so we took some of that. We put the salt on the French fries and it made them taste a lot better. We had tea to drink with sugar in it. I can’t even tell the difference from the taste when I add sugar and milk or not at all. For cheap tea it’s pretty good to me.

We finished eating around 7:30 PM. We went back to the TV room and wrote more. When Transformers 2 came on I watched that until it ended around 11:15 PM. I had never seen it before, but I thought it was ok. It seemed to have more of a storyline than the first one. We filled up our water bottles with hot water and put our food in the fridge and went back to the tent to get ready for bed.

We had a long day and I was tired. It had been warm all day, but was much colder now. The radio said it would be about 0 degrees for the night, which is 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Not terribly cold, but there was a little frost on our tent when we got back because it had been wet and never fully dried out.

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