Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Gallivanting: Nelson and Rocks Hut

After the Queen Charlotte track was finished I hitched to Picton. The ferry ride back to Picton was $45 and much too rich for my blood.  I asked around for a ride to town and was met with reluctance to help from the few who were actually heading that way.  One person said "good luck hitching, there are very few cars this time of day."  I greeted his negativity with a smile and said, "It's okay, I brought a tent and I have nowhere to be."  I shot him a smile and meandered down the road, sunscreening myself as I walked, preparing for a roadside sleep.
  It wasn't long before a DOC truck pulled over to give me a lift. Not a common occurrence, and the fellows who gave me a lift were still working, but it just so happened they were heading back to Picton for the end of their day. I asked if they often gave rides to hitching trampers and they said no. The only reason they were giving me one was because I had seen them working on the trail the last two days and actually stopped to talk to them, and they recognized me.  I took a photo of them, but have since lost my phone. Sadly I have no record of their helping faces.  All the same, much obliged gentlemen!
  I made it back to Picton by way of hitch faster than I would have even been picked up by the water taxi at the end of the track. Forward positive thinking, a stingy wallet, and stubbornness prevail!  The gentlemen let me out, in the heart of town, maybe 5 blocks from a hostel I was going to visit.  Now after walking as far as I have, and being as clumsy as I am, I have not at all been surprised from the trips, slides, falls, slips, etc. that come along with the territory of tramping.  I should, however, with a life-time of sidewalk practicing, be able to carry on down a well-paved street unscathed. Well, this is apparently too much to ask for!  Not one minute after I got out of their truck, the tread toward the toe of my left boot caught the loop of my right shoelace and I went down heavy and hard like a sack of potatoes (see how I slipped an Idaho expression in there?). Better yet, a sack of potatoes carrying a small house on it's back.  My walking sticks went flying and before I even realized what had happened, before I had a moment to register how embarrassing this could be in the off chance someone actually had the pleasure of witnessing such slap stick hilarity, a nearby woman asked if I was okay. I pushed my self up into a seated position, which is a feat in itself with a pack on, and assured her through her many concerns that i was absolutely fine and had just suffered a slightly bruised ego. Once she was convinced I was fine and had turned back down the street toward the rest of her day, I checked to see the damage.  
  Blood from knee to ankle. Well done Saratops!  It has been so many years since i have scraped up a knee like that. Not to mention the hands, which weren't bleeding, but felt like they may as well have been. How strange to feel the nostalgia of childhood by way of pain.  It took a couple weeks to heal, and has left a scar, but in a way I was thankful to have it.  It was like smelling that smell that reminds you of your grandmother. That scraped knee was a closet full of memories.
  So, one night at a hostel, clean, refreshed, and ready for the next adventure. This is where I had planned to part from the trail. A lost wanderer with nowhere to be and an island at her feet. let the journey begin! And we are off to Nelson!

Welcome to Nelson, where even the trees extend themselves to you. A proper cradling.

  I had arrived in Nelson on a Friday, where I found the universe providing for me once again. Nelson is known for its abundance of artists and from Nelson up through the Golden Bay is known widely as an "alternative" area, by which they mean it's full of hippies.  I cannot tell you how many people told me to go to this area because I would love it. The word alternative was used often when describing why I would like it.  Throw a lot of piercings and tattoos on a chic, let her tramp around for a few months, house on back, and hair a constant battleground for dreadlocks, and these people automatically think they know what I like! How dare they be so right!?  I had arrived just in time for Nelson's annual busking festival!  For those who don't know what busking is, it's live street performance, generally in exchange for gratuities.  The entire weekend was a frenzy of creativity and street markets.

I watched this woman play for about half an hour. She was one of my 3 favorites.

It has been discovered that Nelson is where the overly-endowed mannequins are employed.  Um...
   So I spent a few days gallivanting the streets of a city which reminded me a lot of home.  Being surrounded by such creativity left my cheeks strained from all the smiling :)
  My friend Manu (French), who I had been trekking with since day one on Twilight Beach, did not have the amount of time available to finish the trek, and was heading out of the Richmond Mountains, back to Nelson.
  It's a strange thing leaving the trail.  It's, in all truth and actuality, an extremely depressing separation.  You hear people talk about being sad to leave a trail and have to go back to their home and jobs, and you think, well ya sure, of course you're sad, who wants to go back to work?  It's so much more encompassing than that.  Out in the bush everything is different.  Social norms are different or better yet, completely thrown out the window.
  When you travel with a group, at the end of the day when you get to camp and have set everything up this beautiful dance occurs.  This collection of people scatter, without having to say a word, and do whatever it is they need to do to feel comfortable.  And you think, well ya, so?  The key lies within the silence of the communication.  There are no questions or expectations, other than the fact that you all happen to be traveling the same route. Don't get me wrong, you are certainly friends and comrades of the trail, but at the end of the day everyone understands that there are innumerable avenues with which to process experiences.  So, after tents are erected, food is prepared. Some eat in a group. Some eat in the vestibule of their tent. Some go to bed immediately. Some find a vantage point to watch the setting sun. Some listen to music in their tent and you can hear them singing bits out loud, giving you a game of finding out which song they are singing to. Some retire to their tent, lights on, and write.  The point is, all these movements go unquestioned. No one is upset if you don't stay up and talk. Solitude is greatly respected, nothing is expected and all are left to their own accord.  This group is a collection of individuals, and space is always given, and very seldom are things taken personally out here.
  The social norms are just different. Everything has become survival, and I say that without the pressure of dramatics, it's just a fact. When tramping or backpacking you are giving way to the earth and all the possibilities of her great power, form the beautiful nature of the sunset, to the terrifying magnitude of her winds and earthquakes.  So as one might imagine, the frivolities of many social norms take too much time, and let's face it, are just stupid. When you have to pee, you pee. When you have to fart, you politely position yourself downwind.  When you hike for hours, and days on end, it's understood that you smell like you have been hiking for days on end. You get rashes. You get acne in places you may never have had it before. You are covered in sand fly bites, and mosquito bites. You are covered in bruises. Your body has been transformed into a shape it has never been before. You get use to cutting through thick accents during conversation. The topics of which span, music to poetry to the deepest matters of the heart. Even the conversations seem more raw out here. There is nothing to hide so it all comes out.
  In meeting all these wonderful people, and listening to their stories in between the questioning and telling of my own, I would say it is safe to say the vast majority of people I have met on the trail are searching for answers within themselves, spurred by a hugely life altering event.  Most of these people have wounds so deep it takes giving up everything, even if just for a short while, to find the truths they hold within.  To find the constants within their character which may have dimmed, or been pushed aside long ago.  To erase all distraction, save for the beautiful distraction of sweet sweet nature, and ask themselves who am I, why am I this, who do I want to be, and how do I become that person?
  So, you can understand, why leaving the trail is so overwhelmingly sad.  It's like meeting a person you feel like you have known your whole life (yourself), then knowing you have to part ways. And the promises of keeping in touch are well and truly intended, but you fear time will play her nasty tricks, and the closeness will begin to fade again.  And you find yourself grasping at every moment, begging to hold on to the memory and feelings. Knowing right now it is all so real and soon it will just be a story and a collection of photos that do it no justice.
  I was relieved to have my friend Manu back at my side to be there while I was going through this transition. He was going through the same.  So we decided to hike back into the Richmond Mountain Range up to Rock's Hut and spend a few beautiful days saying our long goodbye.
  Here are photos of the hike. 3 days, 2 nights.

Slayer! Even metal heads like tramping.

My five legged stick bug friend.

I found this dried out caterpillar. Manu thought I was playing with bird poop! 

You haven't seen much of him, but this is Pestion. He is my one armed traveling companion and confidante.

The water tank and sink outside the hut. 

The dining area. This was actually a very large hut. It sleeps 16.

4 bunks, per quadrant.

Trail Slayer

 After having to explain the English word slayer to Manu I thought it appropriate to call him that for the day. Especially after we hiked up to a lookout and he brought a saw to cut firewood.  Truthfully though, his trail name is The White rabbit, because of his fascination with time.

I call this "The Saddest Fence"

This section of the trail was very thoroughly marked.

Still a dork. Some things never change.

Manu and I decided to hike to the top of the lookout and prepare dinner to watch our last trail sunset.

It's in our souls

Looking back toward Nelson.

The pile of wood Manu left for the next hut users.

And back down through the haze


  1. This post is amazing. I love the compass mirror photo.

  2. "And the promises of keeping in touch are well and truly intended, but you fear time will play her nasty tricks, and the closeness will begin to fade again. And you find yourself grasping at every moment, begging to hold on to the memory and feelings. Knowing right now it is all so real and soon it will just be a story and a collection of photos that do it no justice."

    Nailed it.

    Love love love.

  3. Thank you Amber. The compass photos became a small series and I think I will continue the series throughout my future travels as well.

  4. Hey Sarah. Fell behind and haven't read many recent posts, but damn, what a timely fashion to reintroduce myself. Just a quick note to say I whole heartedly agree with Amber and Sam. Mirror photos and that quote - superb. Glad you're you. Keep slayin it.
    -Brandon P.