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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

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NEW ZEALAND | Wednesday, 7 May 2014 | Views [577]

"If I were you I would have left earlier, rather than later, you don't want to get stuck in Twizel at 4 AM" advised Craig. It was pissing down rain all morning and I misinterpreted his text when he said "it's not due to clear up today." He offered me a lift to Frankton. It was after 1 PM and it's a 5 1/2 hour drive to Christchurch. I had five copies of my book with me and I made sure to wrap them in double plastic bags to keep them dry (although it really didn't work). A lovely young lady named Caitlin wanted to buy my book so we called in quickly at the petrol station where she worked, but forgot she didn't get paid until days later. However, I wanted to lighten my load so I gave it to her and told her to pay me in two weeks when I return. After getting a couple of sausage rolls at the petrol station I was out in the pissing rain with my thumb out. A local from Wanaka stopped to give me a lift but he was heading back via the Crown Range Road. Suddenly, there I was in the rain again. I had a bad feeling the weather was going to be foul all the way to Christchurch. At around this time five years ago I was in Clyde, Timaru, Queenstown, and Invercargill during the course of a week and the weather was foul everywhere! After standing (not singing and dancing, no Gene Kelleys here!) in the rain for about 40 minutes a German couple picked me up. Their back seat had no leg room but at least I wasn't standing in the rain. I reckon there's nothing like the feeling of being in a warm vehicle after standing in the cold and rain. They dropped me in Cromwell. It was still raining, and it only got worse. It was after 5 PM and getting very cold! Most of the traffic was headed toward Alexandra rather than Christchurch. Miserable and in the rain, I moved closer to the corner so people could see me better. A Chinese family asked where I was headed. At first they said "we're full" but I had to ask them nicely if I could squeeze in, which they allowed me to. Normally I would never ask if I could do that but today was an exception. It really didn't matter how far they were heading, I just wanted to get out of the rain. I couldn't even understand where they were heading but I was thinking the meant Twizel. The rain continued its fury though I was safely inside the van. Eventually the rain got lighter as we began the drive through Mackenzie Country. A few days ago I was thinking of camping a night out here with a view of a million stars, though with the weather as foul as this it would have been a view of more like a million rain drops filling my tent. The rain eventually subsided by the time we reached Twizel. By now it was dark and very cold, and I had the family drop me at the petrol station. I said "enjoy New Zealand, and I'll for sure make it to Hong Kong someday." The station attendent told me if it weren't for some hard fighting, Twizel would no longer exist. The town was built in 1968 for workers as part of the hydroelectric project, and was set to be bulldozed upon completion of the project but residents staged an uproar. Twizel makes a convenient stopping point for the drive between Queenstown and Christchurch. Convenient as it is, I just had to get to Christchurch tonight; there would be no margin for error. A ute drove down an embankment, busted a U-turn, and then came and got me. It was a dairy farmer named Rick headed to Geraldine. By now it was clear and I could see the stars. During the day this is an absolutely gorgeous drive and by night you have one of the most gorgeous skies! Lake Tekapo we drove past, and all along I texted Craig updating him on where I was. Rick is working on his dairy farming career but plans to backpack around the world within a few years. Upon reaching Geraldine it was cold and very dark but at least it was dry. Most traffic was during down a side road rather than heading to Christchurch, which I found surprising. Where was everyday going? A vehicle turned around, and it appeared my whole ordeal in the cold was going to be over but they kept on driving. Fog was creeping in and I put on my Ethiopia jersey to make myself more visible. Standing for more than an hour and a half a hunter named Andy picked me up. New Zealand produces enough food to feed 52 million people and most people involved in the dairy and food industry are foreigners. He said without the foreign population the entire NZ food industry would collapse. Andy's wife is from Scotland and he's going there in a few months. He said it'll be his first real holiday. By then it was very late and cold. It's foolish to wear steel-tipped boot whilst standing out in the cold. I have to invest in some real shoes. In Ashburton, a truckie named Tony picked me up. I was only waiting a few minutes and it felt great to be back in a warm vehicle. He asked me if I smoke pot and admitted he's dabbled in methamphetamine. I don't care if people smoke marijuana in front of me but using hard drugs will! It was past midnight when Tony dropped me at a petrol station only a few kilometres from the airport. After getting a long back and a muffin, a young man from Peru picked me up and dropped me at the airport. The departures area was shut and I was fearful of being stuck out in the cold all night, but the arrivals area was open. Christchurch Airport has to be one of the most disorganized airports around. The departures area opens at 3:30 AM but there's nobody at the check-in desk until 4:00 AM. Security doesn't open until 5:00 AM. When I went to print my boarding pass it wouldn't let me until three hours before departure, and when I inquired about jumping on an earlier flight to Auckland they said I couldn't because I had a Grab-a-seat fare. Beyond security I could crash out for a few hours and not have to worry about my stuff being stolen. I already had a lot of gear with me and I'd be lucky if they didn't make me check at least something, but that would mean spending extra money. I went to print my boarding pass about three hours before departure and they said I was a wee bit early but I complained. The attendant relented and gave me my boarding pass. Going through security they were intrigued by my book! Surprising! They weren't interested in buying one but one of them made a note of the title and another asked "this must be the first in a set of 20 volumes." Finally I got some shut-eye and I wasn't made to check any baggage, but this was a hell of a day! Standing out in the freezing cold whilst it was pissing down rain was misery. Some of my books got water damage and I didn't get to enjoy the incredible views of Mackenzie Country and Lake Tekapo. Furthermore I had a freezing thumb and even colder toes within my steel-tipped boots. My flight would be rather uneventful and amazingly I wasn't asked for ID at any point, even at security. Auckland would be a warm, welcome change after the cold of Queenstown and Christchurch; it's good to be away from the cold for a couple of weeks. After all, the ticket was only $4 more than the ferry across the Cook Strait and, even better, I'm in New Zealand, so I really don't have much to complain about. 

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