I have set myself certain challenges for my trip. One is to deal with my nervousness about staying in hostels. It's really a fear of the unknown. I have booked in for 3 nights in a 6-bed dorm room in Motueka, knowing that one night wouldn't really overcome the fear. I was really very nervous about it and also very tired when I arrived and so sleep came both easily and tentatively in equal measure. The people in the hostel were primarily young French and German couples who kept to themselves and their phones/tablets. I had backup plans though and I had found some couch surfing people to show me around :)
Make no mistakes about couch surfing and such social websites, this is not a 100% guarantee of great new local mates. The people I have met have been a mix. :) The women so far have all been great, the guys are a mix of those wanting to make new friends and travelling companions around the world which is great, and those using it as a dating opportunity and the later ones can be the most variable. Therefore some selectivity is needed to make sure you have a good and safe time.
I wake up and head to the shower, there are two showers for more than 18 people, but such is the life in a hostel it seems :) I can wait. In the meantime I answer messages on my phone. There is one I wasn't expecting and it carries some less than ideal news that hits me pretty hard. A hostel is not the ideal place to get upsetting news and no one wants to get emotional in front of strangers. I therefore end up hiding in the car in my PJs. It's really hot in there and I have taken chocolate with me for breakfast - don't judge me I'm on holiday ;) - it melts very quickly.
If I have learnt one thing on this trip, it's that stuff happens and you can't always plan for it... but breath deeply, keep your head and the chances are you'll deal with whatever happens ok :) It is times like these that technology is an utter blessing! I turn to my friends :)
Something I have really been reminded of while travelling solo is the quality of my friends! The daily messages, the comments on my posts and the questions about how it's going are all like amazing little hugs from home that remind me of my roots while I spread my wings.
In this moment, hiding in my car, I saw my best friend online. I message her and she replies immediately saying I can call her and she kindly delivers to me the caring, support, comfort and understanding I crave in that moment of feeling lonely and downhearted. She was amazing and what's more I know I have a few other amazing friends I could also have called knowing they would be equally as patient and wonderful. These are the real treasures in life; those that love you, not because they have to but because they chose to.
By midday things have been sorted and I am feeling much better. I get showered and ready to go exploring. This is the view from my shower room:
Despite the French and the Germans I am surrounded by kiwi's. This is due to this backpackers hostel being situated on a kiwi farm with rows and rows of delicious fruit. :) This region also grows grapes and apples, all sorts of berries, lemons, plums etc and everything I taste here is delicious!
I get my sunscreen on; I have now discovered spray-on sunscreen SPF 50 and it's sooooo good. I spray paint myself after showering, dry and then I am good to go!
I have also discovered a similar spray can of bug spray and I feel like my skin prep is akin to a car in for a respect at an autoshop. I feel like there should be a shower designed to do this:
1. Shower to wash.
2. Blowers come on.
You would now need to hold your breath.
3. Sprayed with sunscreen from the neck down as you turn around.
4. Blowers to dry the sunscreen.
5. Sprayed with bug spray. You turn again to get an even coating.
6. Blowers on again to dry it all off and your ready to rock.
You probably wouldn't get this in a £12 a night hostel though. ;)
The sky is beautiful and I adore the warmth on my body. It has the effect of wiping away any ache and pain I arrived with. :)
Motueka feels like a very normal little town to me. It doesn't feel special, but more of a place to stay cheaply in order to visit the Abel Tasman region. It's not unpleasant though. :)
Among the shops I discover this:
The area has one long street of shops and restaurants and I wonder how busy this 'gun shop' gets. I hadn't even thought about guns since I arrived and I chat to someone about it and find it that guns are reasonably popular for hunting but that people don't really have hand guns. I am relieved and the place feels sane again.
The parking here is really easy to understand as is the driving in general.
I find a little cafe and ask if they have anything gluten free:
New Zelanders are amazing....
"We can do most things gluten free, what would you like? We even can do the fish and chips gluten free because we have a separate fryer!"
I am impressed and although I would like to partake of this offer, I am roasting hot and so actually just want cold things. I get a cold drink and a gluten free quiche and head outside to sit and take in the vibe :)
I have arranged to meet a couch surfer called Matthew at 4pm in town. We meet up and he seems jovial and friendly and asks if i would like him to show me the area. This sounds good to me and he takes me beach hopping! The beaches here are beautiful, with a sky and a sunset to match. The sound of the ocean is the most relaxing sound in the world to me and I feel much more cheerful as I sit on a bunch of beaches and discuss fusion and the production of bio-fuel. :)
We come round a bend at the speed appropriate for the turn ~80kph and I have to screech the car to a halt in the road as another car does exactly the same in front of me! The mid fifties *age guess* gentleman driver looks at me suprised as he sits in his, now stationary, car directly in front and facing mine.
My windows are closed so my scream of "wtf???" is only heard by Matthew who motions in the window to the guy that he has been driving on the wrong side of the road!
"This happens more often than you'd think" Matthew says as I struggle to take in what just happened. "We were seriously lucky there is a small straight here otherwise that could have been really bad!"
I am genuinely shocked. I have driven in many countries in the world now and never had this happened! I have never had a problem swapping sides but clearly other people really do.
"The guy was probably on the wrong side for ages too as there isn't much traffic about to correct him."
I am still thinking about what I could have done differently. There was nothing. I just had a very near miss that I couldn't have done anything about. The roads are so twisty that you can't see what's coming. The speed signs are accurate for the turns in terms of what the turn can take but if someone is on your side you won't see them until...
What also annoyed me was the guys face in the other car. He didn't look apologetic or shocked. He looked blasé. The blasé look of someone that I fear will immediately try and forget that it happened and not burn it into the memory and learn from it.
Driving here has just become less fun.
At the final beach and I decide to swim. The water is cool but not cold and I edge my way in like the baby I am ;) Slow skin torture is my method, whether it be the sea or a swimming pool; I enter the water the way I take off a plaster, slow and steady and with anyone watching urging me to just get on with it. ;) I have bought my sarong with me for after swimming.
After watching the light change at the beach and discussing the politics of the U.K., New Zealand and the US the rest of the evening could be anywhere in the world as we grab a very normal curry in Motueka and chat more about life, politics, religion and drugs with all the differences of opinion that comes in this danergous conversational territory and then I leave Matthew and head back to the hostel ready to have a terrible nights sleep. I am not disappointed, I sleep shockingly badly ;)