Entry #052: Saturday, January 11, 2014 (Fox Glacier Village, New Zealand)

So, I'm just a little under halfway through my time in New Zealand, and what do I have to show for it? Well, a lot of panorama photos, for one thing. It's really good for that. But also a lot of internal musings about the nature of adventure and how it applies to my own journeys. But we'll get into that later, because first we gotta talk about my traveling into Glacier Country, and before that, my inability to eat  burger. What a scoop!

Back in Te Anau, I woke up interestingly. I had a dream - I'm not even sure what it was now - but it ended, it clearly ended, and then I woke up, and when I checked my phone, I saw that it was 5:50, ten minutes before I was supposed to wake up. This allowed me to get up and out of the room before any alarms went off, thereby not disturbing any of my sleeping roommates. I am constantly amazed by the powers of circadian rhythm, and considering the fact that I am usually not getting up at that time (unless I am absolutely forced to, as in this position), it's doubly impressive. In any case, I slunk out and went to the kitchen, where I prepped myself a quick breakfast, and made sure that I got everything ready. I also made sure to sign the hostel's guestbook, as I like to do in any place I legitimately enjoy staying at. At 6:45, Bob walked in (along with his identity crisis-suffering cat, Mickey Mouse), and asked me if I was ready to go. I grabbed all my stuff, and walked outside into a horribly cold and windy environment. Nothing like the polar vortex that is currently running through the Midwest US, mind you; it's only annoying, not life-threatening. Even so, I was happy to jump into Bob's pre-warmed car to drive over to the pick-up point. He wished me well, and I did the same, and then gritted my teeth as I headed back out in the wind to wait for another fifteen minutes.

Again, the bus was more of a shuttle than a traditional school-sized one, which I'm pretty darn okay with. In fact, the only downside is that you can't recline the seats in order to sleep. Not that I let that stop me; I was dozing in and out of slumber quite a bit for the two-point-five hour drive. During one of my waking periods, I did speak a little bit to an older lady, who brought up the same point I'd been making about LOTR tours just taking you to empty fields, and that you could just lie about it and save money. A granny after my own heart, lemme tell ya. When we arrived in Queenstown, I was happy to see that the bus stop was only a couple minute walk from my new hostel, the Base Backpackers (a place I booked because I'd only be here a single night, and I think all the good places were booked). Considering I had yet another 7am pick-up (thankfully, this is the second-to-last one of those, and the next one isn't until the end of the month), I didn't want to have any wasted time. So, I went over, and went to the reception, well aware that I was not going to be able to check in until later in the day. 2pm, they informed me. Still, they let me drop off my stuff in a luggage room, drop off my food in the kitchen, and sit in their lounge, and buy some WiFi.

Quick tangent, again with regards to my adventures in WiFi (I think I should have a separate tag for that). Their setup here was that you could pay $4 for 24 hours of access (or $12 for a week, but that's irrelevant here). Much cheaper than some of the schemes I've seen in other places, but also quite a bit slower. At Bob and Maxine's, WiFi was free, and it was significantly faster. And yet, I had saved pretty much all my heavy downloading (which, in case you're wondering, involves downloading things, like videos, travel guides, etc, I'd like access to offline) for when I got here. Why? Because, the request at Bob and Maxine's was that you use the WiFi reasonably, which probably means just a few hundred megs or so. Now, I may never be there again. They would have never been able to prove it was me specifically. I could have basically gone download-crazy on my last night there with no repercussions coming my way. But I didn't, because I - a man who is such a WiFi leech that I might as well be covered in annuli - liked the place and their policies enough to respect their requests. I know I praised them until the cows came home last time, but really that a sign unto itself.

Okay, that tangent wasn't as quick as I thought it'd be.

The point is, I basically was going to be doing computer and/or administrative stuff while I was here. And while I felt like I had the moral...well, not the high ground, but the mid ground, at least...the problem with using the slow WiFi was that it was, well, slow, which made it so I was likely just wasting a bunch of time. And so I did for a number of hours. (I also, out of the corner of my senses, was able to eavesdrop on three different folks calling their parents back home, each of them explaining how they're looking to find some manner of job while in New Zealand, as they've run out of money. The best part of Skype video calls - and I mean for others, because I rarely use them - is being able to see the worried expression on the parents' faces as their kid describes how wasteful they've been with their savings.) Now, I did have a few considerations for doing more activities while I was here. Maybe do a giant canyon swing or maybe even a bungee jump (though bungees don't interest me all that much). It could be a nice little thrill that would take up a couple hours. But then I remembered: these things all cost money. And not insignificant amounts of money, either. 4-5 days worth of accommodation and/or a week's worth of groceries, it not more. It was one of those things where all the marketing materials try to make you feel like you're too scared if you don't participate, but me, I'm just too cheap.

Once lunchtime came around, I took a quick walk around, stopping to have a a small sandwich at the Subway. To my genuine surprise, their soda fountain was self-serve, meaning it could hypothetically be free refills. I wasn't able to test this theory out, since I didn't feel the need to get a refill, but the concept that it could be there was oddly comforting. I then walked around a little bit to kill time before I could check in. I then realized that, if I could get into a free WiFi zone, I could also try to use this opportunity to make some Skype calls, primarily to the health insurance company that I signed up for in accordance with Obamacare, but couldn't create an online account to pay my initial principle! Really, I haven't been writing too much about it, but this whole thing has been a headache, and one I'm not even sure I need to deal with, given my circumstances, but I can't get in touch with anyone who'll give me a solid enough answer for me to not deal with it. After being on the phone for close to an hour, I found that their back-end system was down, and I'd just need a family member to physically mail in a check. Still a hassle, but at least I had something to go on.

I then realized that it was pretty much exactly 2pm, so I went back to the hostel, and to my horror saw a huuuuuge group of people coming in. Like, dozens and dozens. I got in line as quick as possible, with the express goal of getting to my room soon enough to claim a bottom bunk. When I asked about it, I found that these people were all on the Stray Bus, a more organized touring bus (in that it had a general itinerary around the country, unlike the stripped-down "Point-A-to-Point-B" service that NakedBus provides). The thing is, when doing my research, Stray had been one of my main contenders for getting around the country, but I think the lower prices of the NakedBus pass swayed me away. Well, lemme say, thank God. Looking at the group that was on there, just bursting with hormones and naive energy, I would have been in constant state of eye rolling and groans. So, bullet dodged there. And thankfully, it seemed like most of them were on the top floor, whilst I was on the first. I got in, made a very quick and muted "hello" to a roommate, and found an empty bottom bunk...as well as a hell of a lot of garbage, including a half-drunken mug of cold tea. This was definitely not going to be very high on my hostel list. I made up the bed and left my jacket to show it was being used, and then left.

I did more computer work for a while, and then went up the hill to the Fresh Choice to do some grocery shopping for the next few days. This was actually much shorter than the past couple of trips, mainly because I had memorized what most of the cheapest items were, so it was just a matter of doing a quick scan for special deals to compare. Also, when I saw that regular Mentos were on "sale" for a dollar, I gulped and bought ten. I never thought I'd stock up when they're a dollar a roll, but at some point, I have to come to grips that that's gonna be the cheapest price I'll see here, so I should make the most of it. I went back to the hostel, put all the food away, and then did more computer work. (Hell of an exciting day, amirite?!)

Then, at dinnertime, I decided to finally go for it. I had been told by pretty much everyone and their grandma's dog to eat at a place called Fergburger, a "Queenstown institution" that is so well-known that it has its own Wikipedia page. It's also so well known that you have to wait twenty minutes to order, and another thirty to actually receive your food (I timed it). There was a variety of options to order, but since I may never be here again, I decided to splurge, both price and calorie-wise. So I got the "Big Al", which is described on the menu as the following:
Al delivers a double serving of prime New Zealand beef (1/2lb), lashings of bacon, a whole lotta cheese, 2 eggs, beetroot, lettuce, tomato, red onion, relish, and a big wad of aoili.
Lord Almighty. I also got fries (because you have to get fries), which came with, of all things, a wasabi mayonnaise. I waited there, watching the employees cranks out burger after burger, until they came to one that they needed to get an extra big sheet of wrapping paper for. I knew that was mine. I grabbed it and headed back to the hostel. Coincidentally enough, the two DC'ers from Milford Sound were also sitting in front of Fergburger, so I gave them a friendly hello before heading back. When I got in, I sat down and examined the monstrosity in front of me for a minute before strategically attacking it. And I'm not going to lie, it was damn tasty; I can see why this place is famous. However, I'm not sure if I should be proud or ashamed of this next statement: I didn't finish it. I...I couldn't. I got most of the way, but ended up with about a third of a patty, egg, and some cheese left before I just cried hold, enough! So that, plus a good potion of the fries, went victoriously into the trash, having beaten me. But hey, it was an important Queenstown/New Zealand experience (and, while definitely pricey, wasn't exorbitantly expensive), so I'm glad I got it.

I then continued doing computer stuff (including some writing) for the remainder of the night. I never even bothered to bring my bag into my room; I just left it in the storage room. That's how little I cared about this place. And I wasn't sure if I had to pay for a shower (it half-seemed like you needed to), but I didn't even bother with that, either. It's not like I got terribly dirty all day, anyway. I just went up, and went to bed.

The next morning, I again woke up before my alarm, but I was a bit off, since I still had about 45 minutes. So, I went back to sleep, only to be woken up by my alarm. However, I quickly turned it off, grabbed my backpack and shoes, and headed out. I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of my roommates never knew that I had been in the room at all. Pretty much the only sign of my existence before going to bed was my jacket on the bed, and the bunched-up sheets afterward. I went downstairs and gave the guy at reception my key. "Do you have your pillowcase?” he asked me, as though that was something I'd ever been informed about. "Wha? Sorry, no." I began to head back to get it, when he asks, "Is the door to your room open?" "Uh, no, I don't think so." He smirks in the most self-satisfied way possible. "How are you supposed to get into your room without the key, is what I'm asking," he says, finally offering the key to me. I was so tempted to just say "#$%& you; it's 6am," but even at that early hour, I know when to hold my tongue. I got him his damn pillowcase, got my big bag out of the storage room, and then went upstairs to the kitchen to have some breakfast (toast...again). I then took all of my groceries and packed them away for the trip, moving as much as I could into individual Ziploc bags. The reusable grocery bag I had got in Australia - something which had really proven its value - was pretty darn full, but it all seemed to fit. I was especially sure to pack up the frozen veggies that were hidden in the back of the fridge; after all, I didn't want the out-of-sight/out-of-mind dilemma to cost me a few bucks.

Almost immediately upon finishing getting everything packed, it was time to go. I grabbed all my stuff and headed out, walking the couple blocks until I got to the pickup point. To my amusement, I met up with a Czech couple who had been on the last three bus rides with me, since Milford Sound. We chatted a small bit until the bus came (this time it was an actual, proper bus), and we got on board. I took a seat in front and immediately tried to close my eyes and recoup as much sleep as I could. But I heard a small-yet-energetic "Hello!" next to me, and I looked and saw some girl sitting next to me. I looked behind me and, as I was expecting, the bus was empty. Everyone could have had their own row, much less seat pair. I suppose that, maybe, I should be flattered that she'd prefer sitting next to me than in her own space, but I threw my arms up in frustration (in my mind). But she later moved to a different seat, probably when she realized that there really wasn't anybody else coming aboard. Maybe that's the flattery: she'd rather have sat next to me than some other random stranger. In any case, my plan to sleep during the first portion of the ride was a complete bust, because it was a beautifully sunny day, but at 7am and 8am in the morning, we were driving directly in the path of said sun, which could burn through several pairs of eyelids. And, in my awakened state, and about an hour after I had the ability to do anything about it, I realized that I had left my six-pack of meat pies back in the hostel in Queenstown. Yes, I was so obsessed with remembering the veggies that I forgot the main course. Yet another valuable reason to buy cheap: it's not a big of a loss. Still, even though I wasn't terribly bothered by the issue, it did occasionally crop back in my head during the long (and I mean long; five-and-a-half hours) drive. But it wasn't a bad drive by any means. The scenery was nice, the driver actually went out of his way to get on the mic and tell us about the areas we were driving through, and we even stopped at a nice beach to stretch our legs and take pictures.

We also went across a number of one-lane bridges, which reminded me that I've always thought "One Lane Bridge" would be an excellent name for a band.

When we finally arrived in Fox Glacier Village, I grabbed my stuff and walked the short distance to the creatively named "Fox Glacier Inn". But, as I half-expected, I wasn't able to check in until 2pm (and oddly, I couldn't even put my food away in the kitchen, as they were cleaning it. They were cleaning it at 12:30, smack-dab in the middle of the lunch hour). So, I set my stuff down in a room, along with pretty much everyone else on the bus who had gotten off here (which was, like, six; the rest went on to Franz Josef glacier). Since I had some time to kill, I walked around the village, and...there really wasn't much to see. The whole place is really just a one-road town, with a couple side streets. The majority of places are cafes, accommodations, or tour booking offices. And I really had no intention of booking any of these tours (again, mainly because I don't want to end up like those kids Skyping home to their parents to tell them the bad news). So a grand tour of the place takes, maybe, ten minutes? What was pleasantly surprising is that they had some full-fledged public WiFi available, and also that the phone service seemed pretty decent. Anyway, to waste some time, I stopped at one of the cafes and got a spearmint milkshake, and I've come to realize that milkshakes here are really just about shook-up milk; they don't use ice cream or any other manner of thickening agent that we're used to in the States. Also, like everything else, expensive.

Anyway, when it got close to 2pm, I went back to the hostel, where I got my key, went to my room, and claimed one of the lower bunks (thankfully, the upper bunks here seem high enough that I won't bang my head on it when getting up, which has happened to me several times on this trip). I then looked around for an electrical outlet, and found a single one... seven feet up. I'm not joking; the outlet was well higher than I am tall, thus making it of little use to anyone in the room. I don't know who ever could have thought that was a good idea, but I hope they've been fired since. I then put my groceries away (including a set of replacement pies I purchased at the one and only grocery store, the Fox Glacier General Store...you see a theme with the names here?), which involved a lot of mopping up, since the frozen veggies I had worked so hard to remember had thawed and made a mess. Lesson learned: as nice as frozen items can be, they are not worth the hassle of transporting for multiple hours. I then decided to go on a short walk, but first did some writing in the lounge to allow my phone time to recharge its battery (when a phone can be a light, a source of aural diversion, and a means of contacting help, it's best if it doesn't die on you).

Anyway, I went out and walked a short distance down the road until I got to the Te Weheka walkway/cycleway, which was an eight or nine kilometer walk, primarily through a rainforest. There were a few cool aspects about the forest, but for the most part, it seemed really...I dunno, derivative? A rainforest is cool thing, for sure, but if you don't enjoy the walking aspects of going through them - which I do, it must be said - they really start to run together. Also, I love to give every forest an opportunity for me to walk through and listen to the sounds of nature, but I'll be perfectly honest, if those sounds don't keep my interest over time, or if (especially if) half the sounds are just cars on the nearby highway anyway, I have no qualms with listening to music. Some see that as some sort of obscene offence, but nuts to that, music helps me walk. Anyway, I got to the main parking lot for the glacier park, but decided not to go up to the glacier itself, as that could have added an extra hour on to my trip, and I was already hungry for dinner. So, I headed back, making a bit of a detour on the short Minnehaha Track, whose name is cooler than its actuality. It was just more rainforest, nothing special. But really, I had the burning desire just to leave the track and go into the forest itself. Maybe that wandering in the unmarked forest near Lake Gunn sparked a sort of curiosity in me that can't be satisfied with normal trails now.

When I got back to the hostel, I was about to go in the kitchen, but found that it was full of people cooking and eating. I couldn't take it, so I just went to my room. This made me wonder: why does this bug me so damn much? Like, it's seriously on the level of a neurosis or phobia that I just don't want to have to deal with crowded kitchens. I have no problems with kitchens, nor do I have problems with crowded places, but that particular combination just presses all of the wrong buttons for me. It's really weird, and I've never noticed it before, but maybe that's because I haven't been in situations where there would be crowded kitchens until I started cooking in New Zealand hostels. Anyway, when I got in my room, I found a nice surprise, which was a second set of outlets close to my bed, obscured by the window shade. So that problem is solved. I then met all of my roommates in fairly short order: Sarai (I think?) from Japan, Max from Germany, and Alessandro from Italy. They all seem nice enough, though I didn't really find any major rapport with them, at least on initial impression. I tried to get some information about a hike I was thinking of doing the next day to the summit of Mount Fox, which was supposed to be a challenging-yet-rewarding trek, and maybe the best one you can do without shelling out $100+ to actually walk on the ice of the glacier with a group. Later, I saw the kitchen had calmed down enough that I could cook my dinner, so I did just that, preparing a nice meal of some pies and half-plate of veggies. Deciding I was not in the mood to interact with the rest of the people there - in particular the drunk old men - I ate in my room, in peace. I then milled around the hostel for the remainder of the night (as the village doesn't really boast much in the way of nightlife), doing some writing, watching videos, and getting my backpack ready for my big hike, so I could pretty much just grab it and go the next day.

I went to bed fairly early (which is to say, 11:30) with my alarm set for 7am. I don't know what it was, but I woke up several times before that. Like, at 1am, 4am, 5am, etc. I could see the others in the room stirring a bit during those brief interludes, so perhaps I wasn't the only one having issues. In any case, when 7am finally did roll around, I got up, got dressed, grabbed my stuff, and went into the kitchen to have a quick breakfast. The only thing I'll mention about this is that there was a middle-aged man who was eating two pieces of toast, each with two eggs and a rasher of bacon on top, while simultaneously cooking two more of the exact same thing. I then went to the front desk, and dropped off my key, telling them to hold on to it for me. The logic here was that all the websites listed the Mount Fox Track as one of the more "not-for-the-faint-of-heart" trails around, so I figured that, hell, maybe I should finally heed the recommendation to make sure someone is aware of your plans, who would notice if you didn't come back and (hopefully) call for help.

I went outside and onto the main road. It would be a 3km walk to get to the start of the trail, which I didn't mind from a physical standpoint, but didn't want to waste time, because almost all the literature said, "Start early to beat the clouds," and such. So, I tried my luck at hitchhiking. A couple of cars passed by, but after a reasonably short amount of time, a campervan came and picked me up. It was driven by a Swede who was happy to take me the short distance, and who was also looking for a good hiking trail. I told him about this one, but when we finally found it (which was more difficult than necessary, mainly because all the directions I could find online were incredibly vague), he looked at the description, and said it may be too difficult for him. So I thanked him for the ride and began my way up. And I really do mean "up". This was a very steep trek (going up about 1350m total), but in probably the best way possible. Remember how I said before that I don't like going up steep-but-steady inclines, like on Mount Fyffe in Kaikoura? Well, this was the most rough-and-tumble track I've been on. I thought all the talk in the literature about using your hands and not-faint-heated stuff was a bit exaggerated, but nope, they were serious. The majority of the trek was in a rainforest, and the path, while indisputably there, was not always the most well-defined track, and with a number of dried up streams intersecting, the only thing keeping you on the proper trail were a number of orange arrows nailed into various trees scattered throughout. Then there were the signs that were missing one of their nails, and were thus hanging limply and confusingly. But navigation was hardly the main issue. The thing was, this is not a manicured track. I've never needed to grab onto vines and tree branches as much as on this walk. Roots, rocks, moss, and mud - all present in great abundance. There were even a few sections where the path included a sheer wall, each probably ten feet tall, which required that you climbed on roots and used slippery makeshift footholds in order to scale. It was dirty, tiring, and probably occasionally dangerous.

And yet, this was one of the most fun walks I've done here, most likely because of this very fact. I said in my last entry that being in an off-the-beaten-track area was extremely enjoyable, if only for the feeling of uncertainty it provided. This, while being an actual marked path, was probably as close to being off-road as I’ve been in New Zealand, and all the near-falls, muddy knees, and pulling myself up on branches and roots made it feel like an actual adventure. And it felt like it could be, ostensibly, more dangerous than skydiving, or bungee jumping, or any death-defying thrill rides, because there was no safety equipment in place. I was my own safety equipment. I was responsible for myself, and if I screwed up, I could get hurt or die. And such a prospect made it fun and exciting, perverse as that may sound.

Anyway, I kept going up and up and up, my hands getting nicked and cut along the way. (It's funny; I was once told I could be a hand model, as my hands were so aesthetically pleasing. Well, that dream's out the window, as my hands - as I look at them now while typing - are now world-worn, rough and spotted with scabs and scars.) I then found myself above the tree line, in the alpine section of the mountain, about 1000+ meters up. I had some amazing views of the Fox Glacier Village, the Abel Tasman Sea, and some fields and farmlands in the distance. I also noticed that without the trees to guard me, the sun was one cruel mistress. I quickly changed into more appropriate attire and slathered some sunscreen on, while noticing that a two-inch spider had crawled onto the apple that had fallen out of my backpack. Hoping it wasn't highly venomous (and I don't think New Zealand has any species that pose a threat to humans), I shooed him away and ate the apple, after having wiped it a bit. I then continued up to the summit. While the ups and downs weren't quite as dramatic here, there was a lot of moisture floating around, and a lot of mud on the ground. Sometimes I sunk a good four inches with each step. It really could be defined as a slog. But it was well-rewarded when I had a full view of the glacier from above. As a note, this was, more-or-less, the same view that some people paid multiple hundreds of dollars to see in a helicopter tour. So I was feeling pretty damn smug about the situation, until I looked slightly to the left, and saw...clouds! Oh, snap! I thought to myself, I don't have much time left to enjoy the view. So, I took some pictures while I could, and then continued my way to the summit, a relatively short distance away. When I got to the top, I was very fully surrounded by clouds. There were a few passing windows of emptiness, but for the most part, all the views were gone. Really, I was quite lucky, as if I had started even fifteen minutes later, I would have not seen the distant mountains or glacier. (So it's a damn good thing that Swede picked me up.)

I started making my way down, and passed by a guy who seemed a bit disappointed that he had only broken the tree line after the clouds had rolled in. He was the second, and last, person I had seen on the entirety of the trek. The first I'd seen was only a half-hour earlier. Considering the length of the trek, it became immediately clear to me that we were the only three people doing this walk today. That's a pretty exclusive club, there. Anyway, I soon came to realize that going down was not only as difficult as going up, it was harder. And I don't just mean in the ol' "harder-on-the-knees" way I've mentioned so many times before. It was that too, but with all the steep drops and slippery surfaces, it was positively perilous. Going up, if you lean forward too much, the worst that can happen is that you hit a wall. Going down, the worst that would happen is that you fall forward, down an eight-foot drop and hit your head on a rock or root. So every step was well deliberated, and anything that could be grabbed - tree trunks, vines, roots - was grabbed for some stability. Even so, I found myself slipping more times than I'd like to admit, occasionally in precarious locations. And yet, and yet, not once did I actually fall. I'm not going to claim to be as sure-footed as a mountain goat, so I'll chalk that up yet again to my hard-working and long-suffering guardian angel. Though in one case, my clumsiness had some benefit: when I slipped down one rock, I saw some foliage in the far distance shaking (imagine the velociraptors in Jurassic Park). I stopped and watched that area, and to my pleasant surprise, I saw a deer run out and down the hill, surely more sure-footed than I was.

Eventually, I reached the bottom, and looked at my phone for the time. It had taken me three hours to get from bottom to the summit, and then three hours, fifty minutes to make the return trip. Now, I had taken a few small food breaks on the way down, and went off the path a couple of times (on purpose, to see a nearby river), but definitely not for long enough to account for that fifty minutes, so I think that proves my point that the downhill was actually the more difficult direction. In any case, I stretched out a bit, and then starting walking back to the village, hitchhiking all the way. Unfortunately, nobody stopped to pick me up. There were probably a number of reasons for this: relatively few cars were coming my way, they were all going fast, the road was narrow with an even narrower shoulder, and - let's face it - I'm not the most attractive potential hitchhiker to pick up. But I wasn't in a rush, so I didn't mind too much.

Also, I put on my hat while walking back, not because it was sunny (it wasn't; the clouds were out in full force), but because I've found I absolutely love tipping my hat when greeting people. So I wanted to continue this practice whenever a car was coming in the opposite direction, which always seemed to elicit a smile.

So, yeah, I walked the 3km back to town, including a tense half-minute running over a one-lane bridge with no pedestrian option. When I got back to the hostel, I asked for my key back, and it took a good amount of time for the owner to realize what I was talking about, as he still didn't recognize me (which, thinking back on it, should not have filled me with much confidence that he would have realized if I had not returned/died). I then got back to my room, followed almost immediately by my two new roommates, followed almost immediately by the hostel owner, chewing them out about, I dunno, trying to use multiple pillows when they were in a different room and demanding more money. I wasn't sure; I was too concerned with getting clean. So, I took what felt like the most refreshing shower ever, and then just relaxed a bit. After feeling well and dry, I decided to go into town to use some of the available WiFi. However, this time I was told that my one-week trial had expired, and I had to pay $10 for 30 days of one gig a day. Considering I'd been using the one-week trial for three weeks, I couldn't really complain. So, I signed up, and in what seemed like the biggest prank ever, the service just cut out, like, five minutes later. Maybe my purchase overloaded the systems; who knows? Anyway, I went back to the hostel, where I started transferring the day's photos onto my computer. Sarai, who had been on a glacier walk, came in, and we had a little bit of a show and tell. Her shots of the glacier were pretty good, but it was honestly pretty reminiscent of the glaciers at Everest Base Camp, so I didn't feel too bad about the fact that I wasn't willing to pony up for one. After relaxing a bit more, I cooked up some dinner, trying to beat the evening rush as best I can, and then did some writing.

This morning, I planned to sleep in quite a bit, because I didn't have to worry about going up any mountains and seeing views before clouds rolled in. However, my roommates didn't really see things that way, and as they were prepping to go, it seemed like they (specifically the two new folks who came in yesterday) were doing everything in their power to wake me up at 7am, including talking loudly, leaving the room door open, and even turning on the light. Pro tip, hostel dwellers: don't do that. Anyway, after putting my head under the sheets and stuffing my ear buds in my ears to mask the noise with pleasant music (I actually had this setup at hand overnight, as one of the new people was a serious snorer). I managed to get myself another couple hours of sleep, thankfully. And then, when I woke up, I saw that all the beds were empty, and all luggage gone; I was alone in the room, at least for the time being. I stretched my arms, milled around the room a bit, got dressed, and then had some breakfast. I went back to my room and did a little bit of gaming while deciding what I wanted to do for the day. Well, first of all, I wanted to get some laundry done; my pants from the Mount Fox climb were quite dirty, and the socks that stepped in primordial alpine mud smelled positively rancid. So, I go up to the front desk to ask what the payment setup for laundry is. "Oh, most of the laundry isn't working," the guy said, "And we're not letting anyone use it." ...Well, there I was. I asked him if there was anywhere else in town I could get laundry done, and after giving it a half-second's thought, he flat-out said, "No."

So, that plan was out the window, so I decided to leave the hostel for a little bit. I went into the kitchen to prep a little bit of food for lunch. Technically, I wasn't supposed to do this, as they close the kitchen from 10am to noon. But I figured that it was fine, as there was nobody in there to get upset with me and, really, do you need two hours to clean the kitchen. I then headed out, thinking that I could either head to either Lake Matheson, or the Glacier Terminus View walk. Either somewhat necessitated me hitchhiking, mainly because I didn't have enough interest in walking 5km each way on these narrow roads. So, I stood by the side of the road and put out my thumb. I noticed that it was a really cloudy day, much more so than yesterday, so my Mount Fox climb was quite fortuitously timed, because I probably wouldn't have had a good view at any hour. A good number of cars and vans and such passed by; perhaps some of them considered picking me up, but in the end, none did. I decided to just go down there a bit later, and so I went to the nearby cafe, sitting on the outskirts so as not to attract attention. I had brought my laptop with me, so I took that opportunity to use the WiFi available while eating my lunch. When a cafe employee did come out (she was bussing a table next to me), she asked if I had ordered anything. "No," I said in an affected English accent, "I've been waiting to be served for some time now." When she told me that you order inside, I acted embarrassed and thanked her. But, as I had finished up what I needed to do, I just slunk out of the area. I actually would be happy to patronize them, I should note, I just wasn't in the mood for anything.

So, I tried hitchhiking again, and again I had no luck. Then I had a bit of a revelation: I really don't care. I'm either going to see the edge of a glacier, which I've seen multiple times before, or I'm going to see a reflective lake, which I've seen multiple times before. I don't need this. So, I stopped. I basically gave up on seeing either, because in the end, it made little difference either way. I went back to the hostel, and got into my room once they were finished cleaning it. I then spent the next couple hours relaxing. Thinking about how I planned for New Zealand, I think I did so only marginally better than I did for my first destination, Morocco. At least in NZ, I didn't have specific activities or travel planned for every day. But sometimes I need to remind myself that I don't always need to be going and doing stuff. Even a good number of the people I meet in these hostels who are doing all manner of activities are usually working in some other town, and are just off for a couple days. So, yeah, I just decided to relax. I also decided to give a pre-wash to that one pair of socks, because I could smell them from across the room. And washing them in the bathroom sink was somethin' special, because every time I wrung them out, the water was completely dark and brackish. Lovely.

Even though I was relaxing, I decided to use the time in a somewhat productive (but still also fairly fun) manner, so I went through and filtered through my photos for the past couple weeks. Now, I have two special folders on my computer. One is for photos that need filtering (and in a few odd cases, editing for color balance, orientation, etc.), and one is for photos groups that have been filtered through, but need to be posted online. This one is backed up all the way to when I entered into Cambodia, more than two months ago. And that's mainly because of the limitations of WiFi here. If I really wanted to catch up, I need WiFi that is unlimited, and WiFi that is fast. And some time (maybe two days would allow me to get through...eh, a majority of it, if I worked pretty diligently). I want to get myself up to date, but I can just never get the right opportunities. But that's just a tangent. I continued filtering through until dinner, and cooked myself the same thing I had for the last couple days (I must have been a dog in a past life). To my pleasant surprise, there hadn't been any new roommates coming into my room up to that point, but I've been fooled before by latecomers, so I remained cautiously optimistic that I might have a night to myself (and, in fact, I did). What did I do with that time to myself? Why, sort through photos and write and pack to leave tomorrow; what else?

Also, I swear there is a kiwi squawking it up outside my bedroom window. So there you go.

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