After all the exploring and hiking it's great to return to Albert town's campground with friendly and familiar faces. Friends from Takaka had migrated south. Evenings and long and lazy mornings were spend cooking, drinking coffee and hanging out. Great time to start figuring out what to do next. My visa to this country was running out.
The mountain was high enough for a day walk and only 10 minute drive from the camp. It was probably on private land considering all the barbwire I had to avoid. I quickly crossed the highway and started walking up aimlessly. Up up up... Approach was annoying. I ripped my clothes on endless thorny bushes and crawled through vegetation so thick I had to turn back on several occasions. The faintest paths left behind by deer helped me quite a bit. One finds those paths by crouching and pretending to be a deer. It was the only way forward. As I finally punched through the dusty bush the world opened up. A large stag less than 100 meters away saw me and started climbing up the mountain.
The walk through the meddows of the small mountain was enjoyable. The day was warm so I enjoyed the view at the peak for quite some time laying down on the grass. For the walk down I first looked around instead of just punching through aimlessly. Following animal tracks and ridges I found a path left behind by deer hunters.
Where else in the world can you choose a peak like this and just start walking? Put aside the fact that if it's private land the owner might start shooting at you... The endless straight lines of fences in NZ kind of irritate a Finn who is used to 'every man's rights' where private lands are playgrounds for everyone, to an extend. I know the cows need fences and 1 million tourists stomping through someones land is not cool. Still if there is a beautiful mountain on the other side of the fence I'll take my changes.
I had few days to kill before my visa was ending. My last trip to west coast did not go the way I planned. First multiday hike was cut short by the first river crossing. Half a dozen tries through different parts of the river left my feet shivering and mind slightly frustrated. It had been raining the day before and the flow of the river was too strong. I was no match to a 20 meters wide fast running river. When the water level rose to my belly button I felt nervous. Rocks started shifting under my feet. Luckily I didn't loose my footing. After realizing the river was too strong I still had to turn around. Change of direction required momentarily putting both legst sideways against the rushing water. A semi-strong cain was the only thing preventing me and my bag getting totally soaked. Eventually I made my way back to the car. It was getting late.
The famous Fox and what-ever-glaciers were boring from the distance. I kept driving north on the west coast until it got dark. The rain got very strong that night. Sleeping inside the car was hard due to the noise of the rain hitting the roof and a thunder storm that kept getting closer. The next morning I woke up early to continue the drive. As I pulled back to the highway the first thing I saw was a traffic sign saying "Road Closed". Man told me the highway had been swept away by a large landslide. Having worked with landslides the past winter and seeing the photos I knew I was stuck.
I didn't want to drive 350km back to Albert Town on one push so I stopped for a day hike up Mt Armstrong. Fun little 6h hike and scramble puzzle at the end over big loose boulders gave enough adrenaline to keep my eyes open until I reached Albert Town campsite one last time.
Drive towards a big city and the airport went by on autopilot. Nature was definitely the reason that made NZ so special in comparison to many other places I've visited. I sold or gave away the last of my excess gear and the reliable Toyota Corolla. During my stay in New Zealand I had accumulated more stuff. I could still carry everything but not for several kilometers on one go anymore.
15 months ago I had arrived to Christchurch airport in the middle of the night. Public transport had just stopped running. I had barely money for a bus ticket let alone a taxi. So I took my backbag and my bag and started walking. I knew I was going to do some hiking in this country so might as well start now and save some money.
I slept on a street bench outside the bus station until it opened. Few hours later I was on a bus on South Highway 1 heading towards Kaikoura. The first thing arriving there I walked to the beach just behind the small dune. The rocky shoreline faced east and the town was located next to a small peninsula full of marine life. I started talking to another foreigner that had arrived on the same bus. He was meeting an old friend who when meeting for the first time invited me to stay for the night. I took this welcoming gesture as a good sign of things to come. For the first time in my life I entered a country with a working visa. Next day I found my first job as hostel cleaner. Free accommodation and plenty of time to surf and explore the mountains.