8:00 = Notified of a 7.2 earthquake outside of Christchurch. Told people died and to calm loved ones back in civilization once we had service.
8:17 = The windows have fogged over, making the snowcapped distant peaks and encompassing bush seem even more like a dream.
8:20 = Nature walk through the wet bush (the Key Summit Walk). Up and up through a stone strewn path as it zig-zagged through the forest. A waterfall here, fallen moss-covered tress there. A conversation with a Londoner. Soon the trees fade out and shrubs fade in and we see the others. Mountains views, snowcapped peaks, and a conversation with our driver. We linger in the chill at the top. Then the long, long, long walk down.
10:25 = After the hike, fingers so cold can barely write. Legs not aching…yet.
10:38 = Rushing around the bends and through the heights with pop music beat matching the rhythm of the bus.
10:48 = Sun and chilled sweat.
10:55 = The Londoner with a banana and Downtown Abby as peaks and trees fly by.
10:58 = Reggae and tour buses.
11:01 = It’s funny how the wow-factor wears off after first viewing. I can still appreciate the beauty though.
11:07 = Through the forest and National Park, now farms and sheep, highlighted by distant hills and though bright yellow flowering bushes (gorse).
11:39 = Back in civilization. Phones blowing up with worried messages from friends and family. At the café everyone glued to their phones, reassuring and searching for info.
12:26 = Back on the road. Nominating DJs.
12:42 = Stop at NZ’s second deepest lake. Calm clear waters and beclouded distant blue peaks. Photos and an earthquake update.
12:50 = On the road.
1:11 = Interrupted by baby and earthquake talk.
2:13 = Toilet break and Invercargill fact time.
2:50 = Invercargill…almost. Water spotted at least. I’m not actually sure what town that was.
3:25 = Now in Invercargill.
I took one look at that empty, drab town (sorry NZ standards have labeled it a city) and knew I was not going to spend two days in Invercargill as planned. I’ve never done this before, change my plans at the last moment. But I got on the phone as the bus bumped along to the Steward Island ferry port and changed my ticket and then I was set. It was thrilling and not as hard as I thought it would be. I wasn’t the only one to be hopping off the bus on Steward Island. So I had company and there was always the birds.
The ferry was…rough. This tiny little boat packed with people crashing through the waves. Bump. Splash. Rattle. (It was worse than Calais to Dover.) It took all my will power to continue talking about Thanksgiving with my fellow passengers and not throw up like this poor man in the front who filled two sick bags.
Legs shaking back on land, we made our way through the small 300+ people town to the hostel. Dinner was at the only pub in town and consisted with fresh seafood chowder, a pint, and wonderful conversation. As other went out in the rain to hunt for a kiwi, I settled into bed and knew I had made the right choice.