Eelco the Elegant

I slept well. Finally. (Georges always sleeps well) In the morning we rushed to get ready so Eelco could get his early start to the trail–only to find out Eelco had set the same hiking goal as we had and so was in no rush to hike our measly number of easy kilometers–we could leave a bit later. So I calmed down and had another cup of coffee. We all chatted around the breakfast table and it looked like Eelco might choose to hike with us for the day (a rest day to him). I made some peanut butter and poured some cobweb-free corn flakes into it for breakfast. Jim took us back to town and dropped us at the trail.

Thus began an awesome day of hiking with Eelco. The trails that day were all easy and mostly enjoyable. Things were pretty wet in the morning as we wound through pasture up and over several huge hills until we rejoined the river and the highway. The sun came out eventually, though, and we enjoyed the stop banks and fields. My bruised feet were peaking with pain and I was really struggling with one of them starting to hurt quite a bit, but the trail and company was good distraction. Today we were far from houses and roads. Just us down in the fields by the river. The ground and track changed with each fence we climbed. There were some astounding trees and picturesque views. 🙂 It was a good day in the trail.

But the best part was Eelco. It was so good to spend time chatting with him. He made awesome company and added great value to our day. It was also nice just to have someone besides me and Georges to talk to for a whole day. Eelco turned out to be one of the coolest people I’ve met. He’s kind of hiking through his midlife crisis–midlife adjustment he calls it. He owns a pub in Nelson (town in the northern part of the South Island). His pub serves New Zealand craft brews only and his goal is to encourage social change. His wife is a key player in Wearable Art and gets to travel all over with the exhibit. They have grown kids, and I think some grand kids? The three of us talked about tons of different topics; easy conversation flowed for hours on end.

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The end of the day’s section was over blacktop. We arrived in Rangeriri around four. Eelco was planning to stay in the local pub, but G and I wanted to sleep in our neglected tent. We wanted to have dinner with Eelco, though, so we figured we’d ask to garden camp in town. We all headed into the town (the trail turned and crossed a bridge over the river immediately prior to the actual town, so we went on to the town). They were in the process of building an interchange and new bridge access, which we couldn’t tell how to navigate very easily, so we cut through the construction site and found the state highway that stood between us and the town. It didn’t look like there was a road anywhere nearby that could get us across the highway.

We decided to carefully, carefully jump the concrete wall into the first lane of traffic, jump over the iron wire median fence, run across the second lane of traffic and jump over the far guardrail to get to the town. Carefully timed, it worked just fine. We strolled up the town road and found the pub–one of three buildings. Eelco inquired about the cost of a room and the time dinner is served. I asked if G and I could set up our tent on their land, but they said no. We said we’d be back for dinner and they recommended we ask the cafe next door for a place to camp. Eelco decided the room was too expensive, so he came with us to find a camp spot. There were public toilets by these three buildings, so we knew we would likely be able to camp somewhere nearby. The gal at the cafe was just closing up. Eelco said I should ask to camp because I’m I foreigner. The gal was more than happy to let us camp and apologized that she couldn’t give us more than a patch of grass. She lead us around back where we found a fenced stone patio with tables and the a small yard of perfectly manicured grass.

We thanked her extensively and picked spots for our tents as she left. After setting up camp and changing shoes–hopping they might dry some in the last bits of sunshine–we all set out for the pub.

We enjoyed a delicious dinner together. Eelco recommended a beer which I liked a lot and bought a small bag of potato chips for us to share. Georges had steak, Eelco (a vegetarian) had fettuccini, and I had a smoked chicken salad. G and I also shared a chocolate cake and ice cream dessert.

Having stuffed ourselves with satisfaction and continued good company, we headed back to camp. The public toilets were another of the completely electric, singing variety–always pleasant to pee to music. 🙂

We all wished each other good night and tucked in. A possum visited–with its raspy, screeching breathing and crying–but it left us alone after a while. Then things were peaceful and sleep came easily.

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