Well, if you're reading this, that means I survived my time in that overcrowded hostel. Well, I survived even if you're not reading it. So that's good, although it wasn't guaranteed, especially with how weak the walls were to prevailing winds (more on that later). But now I can't dwell in that past, because I'm now in a new hostel, in a new town. I've been in both for less than two hours, so I don't have too much to say about them, but there are some interesting aspects so far. So let's get started!
When I woke up on Friday, the first thing that I noticed was that I had a horribly stuffy and runny nose, courtesy of this whole allergies setup. Not only that, but a combination of the dryness and me blowing my nose caused it to bleed. And then I sneezed, which caused my eyes to start watering. Really, this is horrible; I'd never be able to live like this, feeling powerless to whatever allergens are doing this to me. I would go absolutely insane. In any case, one of the girls (the Scottish girl who, for some reason, decides to live here full-time) left for her work, the German guy was getting ready to leave for whatever his activities were, and the third girl, Tamara, was just sleeping like a lump. I went downstairs and had breakfast (I specifically didn't want toast, so I had purchased some milk to eat my muesli/cereal, which reminded me how much I enjoy the simple pleasure of eating cereal). I then unpacked all my groceries into more convenient containers (e.g. Ziploc bags) and tried to put everything away cleanly. Now, I didn't mention this earlier, but this place has eight floors (in the Commonwealth sense, where the ground floor counts as zero). Seven of those floors have eight rooms, each containing six beds. That's as many as 336 people staying here, serviced by a single kitchen and two fridges. And these fridges are packed to what I'd consider a near-unsanitary level. Additionally, there's no compartmentalized freezer section. So if you have frozen foods (like, say, a bag of frozen veggies), it won't stay frozen. Anyway, it's a terrible setup, and makes one really appreciate the small joints.
After packing myself a lunch, I left the hostel and headed down to the lengthily named Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, or just "Te Papa" for short. It's the national museum and art gallery, somewhat like their version of the Smithsonian, I guess (I've actually never been to the Smithsonian, so don't quote me there). It was highly recommended, and entry to the majority of the exhibits is free. I went in, and asked if I could get an audio guide, because I figured it could be good for a place like this. But the lady at the desk basically encouraged me not to, even though it was giving up potential income. You gotta appreciate honesty like that. Anyway, I spent a number of hours in the museum (that number being five) looking at the variety of exhibits. And there were some interesting ones, covering a variety of topics, including art, natural history, New Zealand history (both political and ecological), etc. The had the largest colossal squid (that one that they caught in Antarctica back in 2007) on display, which seemed a bit random, but was cool nonetheless. Of all the things, though, I found myself most interested in their exhibition about the 25th anniversary of the World of WearableArt fashion show. I'm no fashion guy myself, but some of the designs that were made for this were awesome, and made me genuinely upset that I didn't get the chance to visit the proper gallery when I was back in Nelson. If you have a chance to check out some of these pieces, do so, it's surprising how intriguing it is.
I did take a break to go outside to eat my lunch, and while I was out there, there was some guy doing some kind of performance. It involved him, a volunteer, and a giant hula hoop of sorts. I'm not sure if it was supposed to be magic or just an impressive feat, because he spent literally five minutes setting it up and making jokes about how the volunteer had to get into intimate positions with him. It actually was a good demonstration on how to not do this kind of thing; jokes and tangents are fine, but you really just have to get on with your actual trick, or people are going to get bored and leave before the payoff. Case in point, myself. I walked back to the museum, watching some girls jump from a tall platform into the sea (which I would have considered doing if I had the right clothes), and then checked out some of the art exhibits until about 3pm, when I decided to go.
As my allergies were continuing to make me feel miserable, I went to a local pharmacy to get some medicine. The lady there actually said that it's not uncommon for people who's never had allergies before to get them when they come to New Zealand. (One thing I've noticed is that it seems to be at its worst when I'm near the sea, as this and Kaikoura have been the worst times. Still, I can't find a silver bullet explanation. Anyway, I considered taking some of the medicine immediately, but since there were only ten pills available, I thought to be frugal and take them sparingly, starting the next day. I then wandered around town for a bit, going up and down the many streets, filled with shops and food stands and the like. After a while, I decided to walk up to the local botanical gardens. It was about a half-hour walk uphill, and when I finally got there, it started to rain. It wasn't a downpour by any means, but I didn't even have a jacket with me, and I had no guarantee that it was going to get better. Rather than push my luck, I decided to walk back to the hostel. This should have taken, like, 45 minutes or an hour, but thanks to my uncanny sense of direction, I made a wrong turn thrice, thus doubling the time my trip took.
While making that walk, I was beginning to think that, after having spent a month here, I am over New Zealand. While I can't say I haven't enjoyed my time here, I can say that, when comparing hopes/expectations to reality, New Zealand has been the most...yeah, I guess you could say the most disappointing part of this trip. Not the least enjoyable, mind you. I'd save that for Nairobi or some parts of China. But then, I never really expected to enjoy China. Why is this the case for NZ, though? A few factors, I'd say. One, the allergy thing. While it's only been really strong in a couple places, it has reared it's head all over, and it does make me legit miserable, and takes a lot of enjoyment out of the things I do. Second, the prices make it really difficult to enjoy yourself without going broke. Third, the weather has been pretty sub-par. I'd take the almost-dangerous heat of the Australian outback to the grey, wet, windy weather you see a lot of places here. Finally, and perhaps this is the weirdest one, I'm really tired of all the people I'm meeting. All these travelers, all these backpackers, they're all so boring. They're all the same. "Oh, really, you're a German who just graduated from university? You have a working visa in New Zealand and have been here for a few months? Fascinating!" It sounds trite, and it is, but man, it's hard to get excited about people when nobody has anything new to add to the story. So that, combined with everything, has really made me grow weary of this place. So maybe I should have spent only one month here. But hey, how was I to know? And while I theoretically could change plans and say, head to South America early, that seems like it would be more money and, more importantly, hassle than it's worth. And who knows, maybe I'll be reinvigorated for my last couple weeks here by allergy medicine, interesting people, and good weather. Again, who's to say until it happens?
After all that introspection, I got back to the hostel and just relaxed for a bit. And I do just mean "a bit", because within a few minutes of me coming in and lying down, the Scottish girl in the bed below me came in, as did the German guy. I made the most basic of pleasantries with them, but I've found that I have almost no rapport with them; I didn't even care enough to ask them their names. (Compare this with the folks that I met back at Bob & Maxine's, where I got along with a lot of people.) I tried just ignoring them, but being on the top bunk of an incredibly noisy and partway-broken bed made me feel unavoidably intrusive, so I just went downstairs to the lounge just outside the kitchen area and milled about for a bit. I considered cooking dinner, but the place was jam-packed, and I didn't want to step foot inside. So, I eventually went back to my room, where I saw the third roommate, Tamara. I tried getting some work done, but she basically kept starting conversations with me. I actually found this very tiring, because a) she wouldn't stop (it became clear when she kept trying to converse with the other roommates that it wasn't just me), and b) the things she wanted to discuss were so banal that I couldn't really even feign interest.
After some time of talking (and being told, "You have to visit this place," again and again for all these towns I had no intention of visiting), I decided to try my luck in the kitchen again with cooking. I went downstairs and, even though it was still crowded, there was a clean pan and an empty stove-top for me to use. Unfortunately, there was no oven to cook some of the meat pies I had bought, so those would have to be microwaved (which really does create a surprisingly huge drop in quality). Meanwhile, I cooked up my non-frozen veggies on what seemed like the world's weakest stove-top (though I realized the next day that the mechanics on the knob were flipped, meaning turning the heat up turned it down). I then ate (while Tamara had followed me down to continue whatever conversations we were having before). When she mentioned that a friend texted her that there was a night market going on, I thought that might be an interesting diversion. I got my stuff together, and then asked her if she was going, but she seemed to have no interest. Whatever.
I went down, past the numerous bars just starting to fill up for the night, and down to the street where it was going on. It was...acceptable, I guess. There were plenty of interesting food stands (which I would have tried if I hadn't already eaten), and along the market route was a pretty nifty used book store (which are always one of my favorite kinds of stores to browse through), but that was about it. Aside from some musical acts and a pretty tame fire-breather, there wasn't any of the kind of wacky stuff one would hope for from a night market. Specifically, I was hoping that, as it mentioned on the night market's website, there would be fortune telling. And I was ready as hell to spend some money on fortune telling, but alas, nothing of the sort was available. So, I went back to the hostel and tried to just do chill out on my computer for the rest of the night. As for my other roommates, Tamara had to wake up early to catch a bus the next day, but she said she couldn't sleep, so instead she just kept making really irritating noises that forced me to turn my music up, while the German guy brought in some lady friend to sleep with him (and talk on her phone in the meantime), which I just found obnoxious.
I woke up the next morning as Tamara was noisily packing up her bags (I would think that, if you couldn't sleep the night before, that would have been a productive use of time). I managed to fall asleep again for a couple hours before waking up and having breakfast. I then made myself some sandwiches and filled my backpack for a day out and about, which wold include hill hikes, cemetery visits, etc. When I was about to leave, I overheard the Scottish girl talking on her phone, mentioning that she would be going to the zoo because it was her birthday because she had nobody to do anything with until night. I considered inviting her with me on my activities, but...nah. Also, I don't think most people would want to visit a cemetery on their birthday (I would, mind you, but I'm not most people).
I first started out by heading to Mount Victoria (or Mount Vic, in case you're short on time). It was a fairly short distance from the hostel, so it was as good a place as any to begin. I knew it was a fairly small hill (in fact, I'd hesitate to call it a mountain at all), so I wasn't expecting a full day hike, but really, I got to the top within a half-hour. Very short, very easy. In fact, the only element of difficulty came with my allergies, which made me feel a bit more lethargic than I would otherwise feel. I was taking the medicine, and I did notice that it was helping a bit, but its potency was well less than total. But hey, at least I wasn't sneezing constantly. Anyway, once I reached the top and looked around, I stopped, had a quick bite to eat, and then called my mom. It was a little bit of a kvetching session regarding some of the topics I've already covered, and truth be told, I think it actually made me feel a lot better. I think I've been so concerned with saying anything remotely negative to the folks I meet in hostels (because then I just look like a jerkass), that saying something out loud was very therapeutic. Almost immediately, I felt a bit more at ease with where I was, sniffling and cold wind aside.
Also, while I was on the top, I saw a large crowd gathered down in a park. So, I decided to walk down to that area to see what the hubbub was about. As it turns out, it was a Pacific Island festival, and it was a neat little surprise. There were traditional dances and songs being performed, and booths representing all the different Pacific Islands, selling foods and crafts and all sorts of things. I stuck around for a while, watching the performances and taking in the good smells. (I also found it cute how some of the dances included little kids who looked very similar to my nephews.) I considered buying some Tongan food (since there's Tongan influence in my family now), but decided against it, mainly because I didn't need any more food at the moment. I eventually left there and got to a bus stop, where I got a day pass and headed up to the Karori part of town (which would have been a 1.5 hour walk).
When I got up there, I went into the cemetery, which claimed to be active from 1891 until 1991, although the earliest plot I could find was 1892, and the most recent 2007. I walked around for a good long while, taking photos and appreciating the history that was there. It was actually one of the livelier cemeteries I've been to. Not in the sense of living people being there; there were very few of those. But on numerous occasions, I could hear whispers when there was nobody around, and at one point, I very clearly felt the sensation of someone tapping me on the shoulder. It could have been the hose of my CamelBak, but the distinctness of the three taps gave me pause. But despite all that - or maybe because of it - I felt very at peace here, as I do in many old cemeteries. It actually made me think that it would be a good place to die. Like, just walk into one when I'm an old man, wander around a bit, sit on a bench, play some harmonica, and then just pass on. I stayed in there for quite some time, but it just kept going and going, with more and more hills, interestingly separated (like, there was a hill specially for Greek graves). I figured I could be here all day if I did the full thing, so I decided to go. Before heading back to town, though, I stopped by a nature preserve called Zealandia (named after the prehistoric landmass the country used to be part of), which aims to, over 500 years, reclaim it back to the way it was before mankind came. It only had an hour left before closing for the day, but I had heard there was a night tour, so I managed to get myself the last seat in that day's tour. I then was lucky enough to get on their free shuttle back to town. (Since I had the bus pass, that too would have been free, but hey, this took me straight to my door!)
I spent a little time back at the hostel - I would have about two hours before I'd have to leave - so I did a little bit of work on my computer, tried to practice my Spanish (which proved annoying when the Internet started becoming petulant, and then decided to have dinner. I started at 6pm, but because of the crowd in there and all the hassles that come about because of that, I didn't finish until 6:45 (and we're just talking microwaving meat pies and pan-frying some veggies). After finishing that meal, I realized that I was 100% thoroughly sick of meat pies. After the last two that were in the package for the next dinner, I would not buy any more. I would either get some other bulk food, or maybe even bite the bullet and eat out. My eat-the-same-thing-everyday-like-a-dog mentality has its limits, it seems. When I got back to my room to put my coat on, the German guy (who I'll call German Guy 1, or GG1, because a second German guy came in whilst I was doing my Spanish lesson) asked me if he could bring in his friends to drink in the room, as it was his last weekend in New Zealand. He was damn lucky I was heading out, and thus didn't care, because I would have flat-out told him "no". For one thing, I feel if you want to use your room like that, you should have your own room. Second, there were numerous signs around saying that you couldn't have alcohol in the hostel, and would be kicked out if caught, and I would not want to be kicked out if I was found in the same place as the booze. But I told him, sure, he could do what he wanted so long as they were gone by the time I came back.
So I headed out, grabbed a bus to Zealandia, and got there with a few minutes to spare. After a short demonstration in their exhibition room (which actually had some impressive displays, including a animatronic moa and a big two-projector display to show a history how mammal introduction royally screwed up the ecosystem here [Interesting note: before the first Polynesian explorers came to New Zealand in the 1200s, the only land mammals that existed were three species of bats. As such, birds became top dog]), we went on the tour proper. It was basically a guided tour through the pathways and a little of the bush, with the guides pointing out different bird calls, helping us identify species we see, telling us about the ecosystem, etc. The tour cost $75 for about a 2.5 hour affair, so it was no chump change. However, considering that the money is going to a cause I can genuinely appreciate (conservation), I'm okay with it. I'm doubly okay with it because I accomplished my goal, which was to see a kiwi in the wild (or as wild as you can get). In fact, I saw two, the second one I spotted myself, and only three other guests and the guide saw. So that was pretty exciting, even if rest of the tour kinda maxed out at "good". We ended up finishing a hair after 11pm, and I grabbed a bus back to town, rolling my eyes when a bunch of drunken partiers with glow-stick glasses came on board and made a ruckus. I got off at my stop, and walked past bar after bar after short skirt after bar. Place was jumpin', I'll give it back. If the night scene is your thing, it was the place to be. I even considered going into one of the clubs and dancing a bit, but I really didn't have enough motivation to, so I just got back to the hostel. When I got to my room, I saw the lights were off, so I figured nobody was home, but then one of the upper beds shifted, so I figured I had another new roommate, and they were already tuckered out. So, I just relaxed and watched some videos for a bit before going to bed myself.
The next morning, I kept waking up and falling asleep, so I was having difficulty figuring out what time it was. I ended up waking up pretty late, and I was a little confused about the situation. I had heard that GG1 was going to be leaving that morning, but while he himself was gone, all his stuff remained. Meanwhile, the mysterious person in the upper bunk when I had come in the night before was completely gone. As for GG2, I had no knowledge of his plans, so his being here didn't surprise me whatsoever. And then, after I came back from breakfast, the Scottish girl, who hadn't been here all night, returned, made a quick phone call saying, "I don't even remember how much I drank last night," and then went to bed. What a charming individual. It was also pretty obvious, even at that hour, that it was a horrifically windy day. Like, I suppose I'm not used to being in really windy environments, and Wellington is known as "The Windy City," and earns its nickname better than Chicago by being the windiest city in the world, with a average annual wind speed of 18mph. However, on this day, the winds were going about 35mph (again, average) constantly. You could hear it like a storm outside the window, and it made the worryingly cheap walls in the hostel move back and forth.
I looked up things I could do for the day, and realized that, more or less, there wasn't much that I really had a huge hankering to do. Even so, I packed myself a lunch and went out and about the town, down to the waterside (where it was especially windy) and up among the shops. I noticed a number of outdoors stores were having "clearance" sales, so I went in to look at shoes, because as I've mentioned before, I've been doing enough hiking that I don't even think my new pair of shoes may last me the rest of the trip. There were some deals that seemed good enough when compared against their normal prices, but not when you considered how ridiculous the normal prices were to start. I just decided to hold off. Worse comes to worst, maybe I'll be able to find a serviceable pair of hiking shoes in South America, and maybe they'll even fit my feet! I also stopped in a grocery store to buy an apple. It cost me a $1.25. For one apple. (This is why I was reduced to eating cheapo meat pies, people!) I soon came to regret this decision when I passed by a farmer's market, and saw all sorts of produce available for much more reasonable prices than at any store. So, I decided to make the most of it. I got a few plums, a bunch of bananas, three avocados, and five cherries. All in all, that cost me about $5.50 (US$4.54). Had I bought those same items in the store, it would have cost somewhere around $9 or $10. After doing a little bit more exploration around town, I took my newly purchased goods back to the hostel. I then got back to the room, where I found the Scottish girl in her underwear sitting around and not doing much. She brings in some random dude and then goes to shower, leaving him inside. (See, this just seems like bad hostel etiquette to me. It's room shared with other paying individuals. If you have a guest who has not paid to be here, socialize with them in the common area. If you're not going to be in the room, neither should they. If you feel like you should be entitled to have a guest with you whenever, get your own goddamn room. Seriously, I don't think this has been an issue elsewhere.) Thankfully, I had my towel drying in such a position to give me some privacy, and when she came back and got dressed, they both left. Then, considering the heavy wind outside and my own disinterest in going out again, I ended up just writing for a couple hours.
Along the way, the Scottish girl came back and went to sleep again, and then I silently met two new roommates who came in. (It was a couple...a German couple; bet you weren't expecting that, huh?) I went down to make dinner, and despite being the prime cooking time, the kitchen was relatively clear (in that there was a full set of four stove-top hobs to use). I put a little canola oil on a pan and started to get it heating up, and then went to the fridge. I grabbed the last two meat pies, and the veggies...well, the veggies had, for some reason, been moved from the original spot and on to the bottom of the fridge. I gingerly picked up the bag and smelled the insides. I wouldn't bet my life on it, but I thought I could smell a kind of sour odor to it. These frozen veggies were no longer frozen and were sitting in their own thaw-water for the last three days in a fridge filled with stuff of unknown age or constitution. I just didn't feel it was worth it, so I chucked it out. I then went back to the kitchen, took my pan off the stove and cleaned it, and then waited for the microwaves to open up. As I stared at the pies, I just thought to myself, Do I really want this? Two cheaply-processed meat pies, with no veggies (or anything else for that matter), to go with them. And I decided that, no, I didn't want it. So, I just left. I was rebelling against the meat pies. I didn't care if it was going to cost more, I was going to take my mom's advice and have some real food. So I left the hostel and walked down the street. I eventually got to a Nando's, and decided to have quarter chicken and a salad. And while there were a few cheaper options available along the road (by a couple dollars, to be fair), just having some spicy grilled chicken and salad was very satisfying, much more so than two microwaved meat pies with no side would have been.
I got back to the room, did a boatload of Spanish practicing (realizing that it would only be a few weeks before I'd need to start utilizing it [or at the very least, attempting to utilize it for a period before realizing I'm in over my head and resorting to English with some gratuitous Spanish mixed in]), and then chilled out a bit as I went through more photo filtering. GG1 and GG2 came back into the room and turned on the light, completely bothering the German couple who were sleeping until 10:30 (I swear, I'm the only person here with a normal sleeping pattern). And the wind didn't sleep at all. It just continued blowing and blowing and bending the walls of the room for the rest of the night.
In the end, the wind died down by the next morning when everyone was getting up this morning. As it turns out, I was the second-to-last of the six people in the room to wake up. The Scottish girl had to get up to go to whatever her work was, GG2 left to go onwards in his travels, and others were just getting up. I was actually a little confused by my alarm, which had, for some reason I can't fathom, changed the noise that played. I actually feel like, in a group environment like this, such a thing could be a real issue, because if I don't recognize an alarm going off as my own, I might miss an important engagement. In any case, after waking up, I packed my bags, double-checked everything, and then headed out of the room. I checked out and then dropped my big bag off. I then went up to the kitchen, and had breakfast. I then just went to a couch in the lounge, sat down, plugged in my stuff, and just hung out for a few hours. I had no real desire to do more exploring of the city, especially if it would involve me lugging around all my, uh, luggage. I watched people come in and out, in and out, in and out. Sometime afternoon, I decided I was tired of being at the hostel, so I went to the kitchen, made myself a sandwich for lunch (and, since we're in my new PB&J jars, I was able to use boysenberry jam instead of strawberry jam; it's sad how that's an exciting development), made sure I had everything, and then left. (And I should note, I just left the two remaining meat pies in the kitchen, uneaten, unwanted, unloved.)
By the time I got to the train station, which was roughly the pick-up spot, my neck was none too happy with me for all the loads I was carrying in different places (it seems as though having the pack on front makes it less comfortable than if you were just to wear the whole thing as one backpack). In any case, as it was a 30-40 minute walk, I quiver at the thought of having carried all the stuff by hand. I got to the train station, and went in, looking for an outlet to plug into (this is mainly because I wanted to make sure my phone had maximum charge before leaving on the 5-hour bus ride, not simply because I'm an electricity leech...though that is the case as well). Not being able to find one, I just sat down and ate my lunch. I was amused to see a small gang of little birds - three pigeons (one hobbling around on a stump leg) and two especially courageous robins. They flew up super close to me before landing pretty much right next to me. I wanted to test their courage, so I took a seed out of my multigrain bread and placed it on my knee. Sure enough, once one of the robins realized it was there (it actually required me pointing to it), he flew onto my knee and stayed there for a good minute. I tried getting him to perch on my hand, but no dice there. After sitting for a bit and reading just a tad more of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which I have plenty more to go through), I got up and went outside to look for a WiFi hotspot. I found one right across the street, but...it didn't work. For whatever reason. They do that sometimes. I looked at the time. I still had an hour-point-five left. So, I walked the streets around the station, and then stopped at the McDonald's where the bus would be picking up. It was starting to sprinkle, and so the prospect of a dry place with electrical outlets was inviting. In fact, all the outlets were blocked, but it was a place to sit down. I felt like I was done with McDonald's in NZ, and in retrospect, I probably could have gotten away with loafing about, but I bought a hot drink from their cafe just to legitimize myself. And there I stayed until the bus picked me up.
Man, these transport days always make for the most gripping narratives, don't they?
The bus ride was of little interest; not much to talk about. I slept through a portion of it, watched some videos on a portion of it, and looked out to the scenery for the remaining portion. Only a couple of things I'll note about the five hour trip. First, it ended up being a six-hour trip, as a bus we were supposed to liaison with halfway through was terrifically late. But the thing was, we had no idea how late it was going to be, so we couldn't just go out and explore the town. So that meant I didn't get in until just before 9pm. Second, I was amazed by how many people were not wearing seatbelts. If there's anything nanny state America has done that's good, it's instill a sense of non-issue when it comes to seatbelts and bike helmets. But when I glanced around this bus, I could count the number of people wearing belts on one hand. And were driving on narrow roads next to cliffs. Sure, it's unlikely we'd crash, but jeez, wouldn't that be a gruesome entry if I had to report after that. Third, I saw another road sign that I thought would make a great band name, and now I'm punching myself because I can't remember exactly what it was. But it was something along the lines of "Milk Trucker's Turn" or similar. And finally, and somewhat regrettably, it started to rain on our way up to "Sun-Drenched Hastings".
And that rain was present in Hastings itself. It wasn't bad by any means, but it was most assuredly there. The bus dropped us off next to a Subway, so I decided to pick up a sandwich on the way there. I think the lady making my sandwich had a hearing issue, because when I asked for "a tiny bit of shredded cheese", she added double cheddar cheese. I get to the shredded-to-cheddar part, but not the quantities mix-up. They also said they were closing at 9pm. And apparently they weren't the only one. In fact, most of the stores and shops in the central business district were all empty, each with a couple token lights on. Nobody in the streets or anything. It was like a goddamn ghost town. I walked for about a kilometer before I reached the hostel (I was amused and bemused to see a Carl's Jr, apparently new here, and the first one I'd seen since leaving California) and...was immediately surprised by it. It was like none of the other hostels I'd been to so far. It seemed to house a bunch more older folks, and more New Zealanders. So, a lot more long-term residents. And a good number of them seemed to be the New Zealand equivalent of rednecks (I dunno if there's a specific term). Like, one of the first questions I was asked is if I like hunting. I checked in, and was brought into my room, where I'd been assigned an upper bunk - despite the fact that there was a lower bunk free - and I was with a few of the long-termers. One of them was an old, fat dude who seemed like the kind of person who was constantly sleepy-drunk. The second was a really crude old redneck type. And the third was a 19-year-old farmer/mechanic kid, easily the nicest of the three, although none too bright (in fact, none of them generated too much proverbial mental light.)
So, I wasn't sure if this was going to be the start of any beautiful friendships, and apparently the wet weather was supposed to continue for a couple days (basically, for my time here), but I'm sure it's going to be interesting.