I will always remember today as the morning full of the most misery and the most laughter. If you look up ’slap happy' in the dictionary, you will find a picture of us, laden down like camels and covered in grime, laughing till our sides hurt as much as our legs.
We woke up early in the morning with thoughts of Grumpy farmers' early schedules running through our heads and set off down the dusty road. By about 9 or so, we made it to the cross roads and celebrated our success. Shortly thereafter, we found a sign that told us we had 24 km to our next destination. Which we had to make because I had rented a canoe which was to meet us there.
Now, I realize that hardened Te Araroa Trail Hikers can do 24 km with their eyes closed. in fact, I was soon to learn that hardened TAT hikers can do 50 km if they put their minds to it. But by this point, Bethany had a blister the size of an American Half Dollar coin on one heel and an only slighly less terrifying one the size of a wuarter on the other.
'Why can't I be a normal person and have normal sized blisters?' She asked me. 'Because you're an incredible person, so you have incredible sized blisters' was my reply.
My blisters were nowhere near as monumental, but they were certainly making themselves known. We began to consider the option of hitchhiking and began imagining hilarious signs to stand with by the side of the road.
'Mr. Blister is headed to Whakahoro. Help him get there!' And other such nonsense. It passed the time and we laughed till our sides ached.
We took a break around mid morning and unpacked our snacks. At this point, Bethany discovered that the Nutella, our most precious and, indeed, only luxury, had exploded inside the pack.
So we ate it.
Some will see this as a low point, but we were honestly past caring. And I have to say, watching Bethany dejectedly lick Nutella off unused trash bags (kept for their water-proofing capabilities) was one of the funniest things I have ever, or will ever, see.
I was then forced to watch (and video) Bethany cutting off her massive blisters with a pair of nail sanitized scissors, which is one of the more disgusting things I hope ever to see.
While we were sitting by the road, 5 cars passed in the direction we were headed. All seemed friendly enough, with the possible exception of the dead-deer toting camouflage truck, but they were probably just your run-of-the-mill country lovin, God- (and mother) Fearing hunter boys. Anyway, we decided we couldn't possibly ask someone to wait for us, so I started packing up. As soon as I finished, a car appeared around the bend. I jumped up and stuck out my thumb, and it was like magic.
A somewhat gruff farmer pulled over and, when I explained the situation, he simply said, 'You,d better get in.' I know, Elle, that I promised not to hitchhike, but we were in dire straits and he seemed a trustworthy, if not terribly likable, fellow.
As he proceeded to drive us kilometers out of his way, he described the valley we passed through. I found it to be an odd meeting of minds, with us in the middle of traveling the world, and him showing us the only place he would ever call home. His entire world was rooted in that little river valley, and my only experience of it was dimished to a short drive in a stranger's car.
He asked us what we had brought to eat. 'Do you have a lot of nuts? Folk like you always seem to have a lot of nuts.' We started laughing because we do, indeed, have a lot of nuts. They're not terribly expensive or heavy, and they have a lot of protein. Standard backpacker fare. I was impressed that he had noticed. 'You people should eat more meat,' he continued. 'You don't eat enough lamb. Don't pay enough for it either.' It took me a minute to realize that by 'You people' he meant Americans and that he was commenting on international food markets rather than the scant amount of fresh meat in our diet.
He also described a few of his neighbors, including the 'Blue Duck People' at Whakahoro. Apparently they were a mean, arrogant bunch who upheld principles of conservation rather than holding with tradition farming values. He didn't seem too keen on environmentalists in general, destroying precious farmland. I asked him why he considered the Blue Duck People (whoever they might be) to be arrogant. 'Oh, you'll see,' he assured me.
When we arrived, well out of his way and I am eternally grateful for his generosity, he gestured expansively to indicate the arrogance that I was beholding. I didn't see. Well, I didn't see arrogance. I saw a campsite adjacent to a charming little cafe, called the Blue Duck cafe (which solved one mystery) among the hills of a spreading farm. I offered to buy him a coffee for his trouble, but he brushed it off, saying he really didn't get along with the Blue Duck People. So he dropped us by the campsite with all our belongings and left us, grateful and much less tired than we would have been, at our destination.