For those who don't know, the South Island of New Zealand is where they shot most of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It's a pretty cool place. You can imagine it being some far off fantasy land. And, indeed, within a second of stepping off the plane in Queenstown, I had the overwhelming urge to dress like an elf and run around the countryside hunting orcs with my mystical bow and arrows. I am serious. I was one wizard hair away from bailing on my plans to visit my friends and leaving the Cambodian on the tarmac so that I could go quest through "Midddle Earth", Lord of the Rings styles.
Lucky for my relantionship(s), my urge to nerd-out abated after a few hours, and I was able to appreciate the landscape solely for its stunning, rugged beauty.
Queenstown is nice, but it's small and filled with tourists. One day we had an impromptu karaoke session with the drunken stragglers from a Korean tour bus. On another day, we walked around the entire town about 79 times. It was sometime in between those two events that we decided that, maybe, we ought to set out from Queenstown if we were to find more enriching forms of entertainment.
My friend Michelle took us on a 9 hour hike up a mountain. She is an experienced hiker and rock climber. The Cambodian and I have just spent the last year and a half in Denmark, hunched over stoves, slowly wilting away into droopy, muscularly deficient gimps. Michelle's idea of a beginner hike was having us free climb a rock face for 200m to get to the top of a mountain. I guess, for her, since she is part god damn mountain goat, it was a beginner hike. For us, though, we spent a good part of an hour trying to reach the summit whimpering and muttering quiet, fear-fueled curses while we did our best not to fall to our deaths.
In the end, we didn't quite make it to the top. But the experience did teach me two valuable things. First, my friends are liars. Second, I am incredibly lucky to have the Cambodian by my side during these adventures. There are few other people I know that approach new activities and experiences with so little prejudice or judgment. Whether it is living in another country or slogging up a mountain for 9 hours, I never have to worry if she is game for trying something new.
A few days later, the Cambodian and I hitchhiked to Edievale, two and a half hours south of Queenstown. We stayed with two small holders, Michelle and Paul, to see if we could learn a little more about organic farming. As is generally the case with people that give gratis room and board to free-loading hitch hikers like us, they were an amazingly kind and generous couple.
For us, their little farm was quite idyllic. There was plenty of fresh vegetables, chickens, a pig and a whole lot of beehives. We learned how to felt, which is a cool skill to have. Though the experience did convince me that even if you are the greatest felter on the planet, your clothing is still going to look like it was made by an acid-tripping blind six year old (Though, as of yet, I am not sure if that is entirely bad).
We also harvested honey. This was educational and, at times, extremely painful. After about my third sting, I made an oath to myself that I will never again be wasteful of honey. Artisan bee keepers earn their money, trust me.
Michelle and Paul only had a wood fired stove. After getting used to it, using a stove like that proved to be extremely rewarding. There is something about cooking over burning wood, that is so old school, your food can't help but taste good.
Besides having a very uncongenial one night relationship with some of Paul's homemade rhubarb wine, our time on the farm was amazing.Time at Edievale went by too fast. We were very sorry to leave.
So, that has been the last two weeks summed up. And, just like that, we are back in Auckland, where the smell of rice porridge and the sound of Chinese soap operas reminds us that we are, once again, back with the Cambodians.