5 months and 4 days later... reaching Bluff

We had a relaxing day in Otautau. We decided not to hike in Longwood forest : Marie-Laure had heard that it was muddy and she has bad memories of muddy forests. 
Historical building in Otautau
We start the day with a hitchhiking session. It takes us 2 hours to have our first ride. We will get the second one quite fast and the 3rd one will never come. We hike the last 6 kilometres on the road and we reach Riverton.
We leave our backpack at the backpackers hostel. We know that we might not find a car that would take us to Colac Bay, so we decide to walk in direction of Colac Bay directly from here. It's a beautiful sunny day and we reach the seaside in no time. We are happy to see the sea again. The coastline is scenic and we enjoy the walk without backpacks.
When we come back in Riverton in the afternoon, Jenny and the 3 American girls are there as well and we spend our evening together. The backpacker is pretty much empty, there is nobody except us and another girl. Not even the owner.
The 3rd of April, we have a full day of walk on the beach. It's sunny again. Very flat, nearly boring, but sunny. Like 90 mile beach where we started hiking Te Araroa in November. We meet a couple with the woman's mother on the beach. They come from Invercargill, the place that we will reach at the end of the beach. We soon realize that they leave 200 meters far from Carla's house. Carla is a good friend of Heather (she's living in Nelson and we stayed at her place in January) and she invited us to stay at her place with her family. We agree that we'll meet for a coffee this afternoon, when we reach Invercargill.
We walk with Jenny most of the time and we arrive at the end of the beach in the early afternoon : 15 kilometres on a flat beach doesn't take long.
From the end of the beach in Invercargill, we hitchhike. A car stops for Jenny and then one for us. It's an old woman named Elizabeth and she has 4 small dogs in the car. We jump on the seats at the rear, with 2 of them by my side. They are quiet and nice. Elizabeth is known by everyone in Invercargill because she is "the dream weaver". She tells stories to the children in the schools of the area. She brings us to Carla's home.
So we meet Carla, her husband Jeremy and their child Cyraul. We immediately feel good with them. In the middle afternoon, we go the neighbour's house for a tea. They bring us to a wine shop they know. The boss there is a French guy and he helps us to choose nice bottles for tomorrow's celebrations.

The 4th of April is Marie-Laure's birthday. When she wakes up, she is welcomed by Cyraul that made a beautiful purple birthday cake in plasticine.

A last windy and rainy day

The sky is dark but it's our last day. We walk with Jenny during about 2 hours, near the seaside. The wind is very strong but it doesn't rain much. We reach the State Highway, where Carla comes to catch us. We drive back to her work and she let us the car, so we don't have to walk on the road. We reach Bluff hill by car with Jenny and the American girls (which means driving the road twice to catch the Americans, but we really want to finish together today !).
One hour later, after a last walk under the pouring rain with a crazy wind that pushes us in the right direction, we eventually reach Bluff... When we enter in the restaurant that is a little above the signpost, we are welcomed by applause and champagne. Another hiker reached here today before us, Kirsten. She's there with her family and we sit down at their table. Soon, the table is full of celebrating hikers.
Our walk is finished. After 5 months and 4 days, here we are. It feels really weird. I'm happy and sad at the same time. Happy because we made it. We were able to keep on walking till here, getting over the difficulties, meeting wonderful people. We didn't hike every inch of the trail, but we enjoyed it so much. This hike changed us. I'm also sad because it's over. We won't live this again. But that's part of the rules of the game. Part of the learning.
But I don't have much time to spend on this, we need to come back to Carla's home with Jenny and start cooking tonight's dinner. After all, today, it's a double celebration : the end of Te Araroa and Marie-Laure's birthday.

And now, what's next ? We will drive back to Auckland. We will stop en route to see friends. And we will hike more trails of course !!!


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