The Quiet Traveller: Day 11 – Picton

As first days go, the first day on the Stray bus had been a success. But the night was a different story.

My bed was reasonably comfy. The wifi was terrible but just about usable. My roommates were friendly. But then in the middle of night, a Dutch guy returned from the ‘fishing trip’. It seemed he had spent the night drinking like a fish rather than catching aforementioned fish. Overly merry on the vino, he clambered into bed, only to begin spewing loudly onto the floor moments later. I felt so sorry for Virginia, the Canadian girl directly next to this drunken Dutchie.

I eventually fell asleep, only to wake in the middle of the night to sounds of terror. Well it wasn’t terror, it was the Dutch language – this half-asleep drunk Dutch guy was shouting in his sleep, loudly. My eyes snapped open, my brain frantically trying to figure out what was happening. I could not understand the strange sounds. As the penny began to drop that it was just Dutch and not an alien invasion, I shut my eyes again in the hope of getting at least some sleep.

Today we we venturing onwards to Picton, where some travellers would be heading to the North Island on the ferry, whilst I continued on my anti-clockwise route of the South Island. Picton is quite a picturesque town, nestled deep inside a fjord- like bay, but the main reason for its continued existence is that is provides the inter-island ferries a convieniently sheltered berthing point.

A brooding Picton sky, much like me in the biscuit aisle.

On the bus journey to Picton, I overheard a fascinating conversation about North Korea, and how one ambitious traveller was heading to the authoritarian state in time for Kim-Jong-Un’s birthday. I would be sure to bring a present to that shindig, or else you’d end up not in the bouncy castle but in the significantly less fun and non-bouncy gulag. Nevertheless, North Korea travel is a slightly controversial travel destination in my opinion. Yes, there’s no country in the world like it and it’s almost a privilege to be allowed in, but at the same time tourism is funding the regime.

Because there was not a huge amount to do in Picton, Me, Veronika, and a Taiwanese girl and her mother decided to go for a walk into the hills. Yes that’s right, she was travelling with her mother. I was so surprised when this was revealed to me; I was convinced they were sisters as they both looked very young. Imagine travelling with your mum though. Two months of constantly answering to ‘Have you got your coat?’ with ‘Yes mum’.

It was a scorcher of a day, and first the Taiwanese contingent dropped out, and then I dropped out, and then Veronika marched on in an efficient Austrian manner. Veronika was also efficient at taking photographs, making Amy’s efforts at the Twelve Apostles seem like they were taken by someone with no hands.

I came. I saw. I conquered. I stood awkwardly for a photo.

Upon my welcome return to the hostel, I took a shower (although I could have had a jacuzzi soak, this place actually had one for some reason) and decided to go and socialise as I felt like I had some energy left. However, there was an old Kiwi dude chilling in the outside area which led to the lounge. Not that there was anything wrong with being an old Kiwi dude, but he sat there smoking with a can in hand, attempting to lure people into awkward conversation as they walked past. This would require some light-footed movements to escape the guardian’s watchful gaze. I strode out into the yard with purpose, to send a message that I, Simon, was on a mission, and that mission was to socialise with people who did not smell like a 1950s pub. Alas, my mission was interrupted.

‘German?’ he called out to me. I looked round to see if it was me he was talking to. He was. ‘Uh no, English actually.’ I replied. ‘Oh, you just look German that’s all’. I laughed and commented that it was my glasses that did it. Luckily it was a brief exchange, and he let me continue on my way. Not sure how I feel about looking German though.

I entered the lounge, which was strangely silent. I took a seat next to the bookshelf and began browsing the titles. I looked up, and realised that everyone was on their phones. As useful as they are when travelling alone, I can’t help but feel they have ruined travelling. Whenever you go to a new hostel, there’s a mad scramble to get that wifi fix and connect to the world. I’m not saying I was above this; I too was keen to get online. But after a few weeks, I realised that a) you don’t miss much when offline, and the updates aren’t going to go away and b) being offline is great for the mind.

It was sad, because I had enough energy to chat away with strangers, but it was wasted energy. I instead retired to my room to read and write.

Track of Day 11 – Heartbeats // Jose Gonzalez


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