We set off from Picton on a new bus (the old one had headed northbound) with a new driver called Cookie, who turned out to be the coolest bus driver around. Originally a chef from Ireland, he now worked for Stray, driving around New Zealand year round. I never did discover whether his name came from his previous profession or whether it was a nod to the Cookie monster – a stuffed version hung from the ceiling of his bus.
Today was not an action packed day as we were spending most of it on the bus travelling to Abel Tasman. Abel Tasman National Park is located in the North of the South Island, and is perhaps the most stunning destination in all of New Zealand. Named after a Dutch explorer, its landscape is coated in dense forests which slope down towards crystal clear waters – perfect conditions for sea kayaking. Most places we stayed in just the one night; it was clear why this place was two, although more would have been welcome.
Perhaps the most action of the day was of the social kind. A new bus meant a new group of people, and it turned out these would be the people I would spend most of my time in New Zealand with. A number of new and interesting people appeared, including Keith, a guy from Manchester who had the best accent and loudest snoring known to man, as I would find out in coming weeks. There was also Max, an incredibly reserved German who was in bed at 9pm (how efficient). But the most interesting was probably the guy who ran the accommodation.
The Barn was run by a man who used to be (from what I gathered) in the GSG (German Special Forces) and his partner. Now, I’m not sure what use such a specific skill is in running backpacker accommodation, but in my opinion, they did an excellent job. I also suppose if you know the competition are former spec ops, you’re not going to set up shop on their turf are you? One way to retain market share indeed.
Abel Tasman was also the only place where the accommodation management came on the bus and essentially told us: ‘Don’t mess our stuff up or we will end you’, in the nicest possible way.
Once rooms were sorted, we set about making our group meal; something which happened a few times whilst with Stray. Obviously Cookie was in charge, and he had sourced supplies to make a chicken dish with a dessert as well, which I think was some kind of tart or cheesecake. This was admittedly a bit of a challenge for me, as I’d had enough of people for one day, especially with the amount of new ones. Nevertheless, I was inspired to keep going just for a bit longer just because of the simple fact I would get fed if I participated, and this was something I wanted dearly. Introverts find it much easier to talk/do things they are genuinely passionate about – in this case my passion for food helped me greatly.
I was a bit apprehensive about how the meal preparation would go, but we soon had an all international team prepping and washing up as well. It was actually very life-affirming to see people of all countries coming together to achieve a common goal. What wasn’t life affirming was that I had landed myself the crap task of whipping cream in a bowl. And this cream was not complying with the movements of my whisk. Everyone else was getting on with their tasks, whilst I grew increasingly out of breath, limply swirling my whisk in a desperate attempt to froth the substance. To cut a long story short and before this turns into a Nigella Lawson fantasy, I gave up and let a Dutch girl who was a chef back home take over.
Whilst wolfing down my dinner later, I chatted to a few people around the table, and realised something. I was getting a tiny bit better at this. You can learn to talk to people and you can get better at it with practice. Looking back, it was bizarre how this had never occurred to me before. Everything improves with practice. Apart from a former housemate of mine on Fifa. I think he actually gets worse the more he plays.
So all in all, not a massively eventful day on the road. But tomorrow would see me take to the high seas and conquer the water. I would summon the Kraken and rule the waves without mercy. I would plunder and pillage merchant ships and take from the rich to give to the poor. I would get leg cramp in a plastic sea kayak.
Track of Day 12 – Flashed Junk Mind // Milky Chance