Some Notes on Picton

Over the past several days, I’ve lacked the energy and inspiration for another large, comprehensive narrative on the transition from bumming around Dunedin to working and tramping here in Picton. So rather than overwhelming myself, I’ve decided to babble about various little things and simply hope that a larger picture miraculously emerges. Sound good? Good.

First of all, whereas Dunedin is a bustling metropolis, Picton features maybe twelve streets. Three of them are significant: the highway, the main street, and…

…okay, two of them are significant. My point stands. Despite its important role as the cargo transportation nexus between North and South Islands – not to mention its breathtaking terrain – Picton’s totally a three-horse town. The friendly neighborhood Supervalue runs a lucrative grocery racket, and I’ve learned the hard way that it pretty much runs out of everything on Thursday nights and doesn’t restock until Saturday morning. The public library is about half the size of its nearest (and much more popular) neighbor, a Scottish pub called the Flying Haggis. Yet there are at least six hostels! It appears that Picton serves as a junction. Nearly every traveler traipses through – wending his or her merry way to Nelson or the Marlborough Sounds or Blenheim or Kaikoura or Wellington or wherever – but few hang around longer than a day or two. I kinda understand why, but for my purposes (and cash-strapped situation) the sleepy nature of the place works out just fine.

Working at Jugglers’ has been akin to sploshing into an ordinary-looking puddle – and suddenly finding yourself confronted by Scylla, Charybdis, and maybe a bunch of sea mines or something for good measure. You think cleaning a hostel for three hours daily sounds easy? Yeah, that’s what I thought too. But Jugglers’ Rest isn’t just some hostel – it’s the cleanest hostel you’ve ever seen. There are three of us working here, including myself, and over the course of those three hours we scrub, dust, polish, vacuum, and mop every inch of the building until it’s shiny like a baby’s heiny. You heard me. And Nikki demands perfection – “just do it right the first time,” she told me the other day.

That doesn’t mean she isn’t a great gal. I really like Nikki, and even admire her in some ways. She’s phenomenally headstrong and independent. Yet although she always remains firm (arguably even obstinate) in her convictions, her clientele don’t seem to take offense. Her artless rapport with travelers of all stripes is just that good.

The other Jugglers’ employee is a genial former archaeologist from Winnipeg named Marvin. Since graduating from college and deciding that digging stuff up wasn’t his forte, Marv has tromped across the globe as a beekeeper, a Kiwi conservation worker, a hunting and fishing guide, and a handyman. He’s easy to get along with, has a great sense of humor, and (as you might expect) is quite the repository of unique knowledge and stories.

Marvin’s tramping experience has actually convinced me to forego tramping the popular Queen Charlotte and Abel Tasman Coastal Tracks in favor of a relatively obscure backcountry route known as the Travers-Sabine Circuit. I’m glad he mentioned this option to me; it’s much more economical than either of the aforementioned famous tracks, and the solitude and diverse alpine terrain strikes my fancy more than running into numerous day-trippers along recurrent (though admittedly gorgeous) beaches. What can I say? I’ve just got this thing for mountains. Anyway, I’ve already booked a shuttle to the track gateway at Saint Arnaud for December 14th. I’ll hopefully have some time to provide y’all with a pre-departure update on that journey a day or two before.

But right now, I’m tired of writing and, for that matter, being awake. Good night!


~ by Jack on December 2, 2007.

2 Responses to “Some Notes on Picton”

  1. Jack- I look forward to hearing more about your adventures in the North. I hope you are having a great time. I am still getting settled back in here in the States and working “hard”. Take lots of pictures!!

    -Eddie “I don’t even like jelly” Hickman

  2. Sounds like you’re really getting a true kiwi experience, I sort of regret my decision not to WWOOF. Nevertheless, I got in some awesome tramps before I left (Mueller Hut by Mt Cook and the Rees-Dart), and I’ve heard good things about the Travers-Sabine. Its especially a good decision to avoid the big walks now that tourist seasons really peaked – when I did the Tongariro crossing at the end of November it was as busy a Manhattan sidewalk!

    Don’t be a stranger,

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