The rest of our day at Freestone Backpackers consisted of sleeping, eating, and trying to pet one of the roaming horses on the grounds. I was marginally successful. One of the horses, Rebel, was very interested in the apple I was offering him but, sadly, had zero interest in me. A few quick pets and he was back to pulling the grass. Who needs a lawnmower with these guys around? Our little cabin was just what the doctor ordered after our overnight excursion. It was comfy, cozy, and oh-so-warm. In fact, a bit on the hot side with the stove cooking in the corner.
Katie was opening windows after a while, and even I – queen of cold feet – was getting steamy around the toes. Regardless, we got some much needed sleep in our hotbox. As an added bonus, we were treated to an unexpected sight on our way to the bathroom that night. It was late enough that the sun was well below the horizon; darkness filling the sky. We had our flashlights out (they’re called torches here in New Zealand), and we saw, sitting in the center of the trail, a lone hedgehog (aka: An adorable, irrepressible, miniature ball of joy!). In case you were unaware, I have an affinity for hedgehogs. They're so cute! I resisted the temptation to pick it up as it slowly padded its way off the trail and into a bush. Its inability to make a quick getaway made it all the more loveable.
Thankfully, we’d scheduled a day of rest before our four day trek on Milford Track. This gave us ample time to shop for our camping meals in Te Anau and stuff our packs with all the needed gear. Te Anau is a nice little town about 20k north of Manapouri. It was here that we decided to eat our first meat pie! We chose a venison pie, as the café boasted theirs to be the best in the world. Plus, as I mentioned before, venison is new to us. We'd decided early on to experience all the native or unusual foods New Zealand had to offer – that’s one of the best parts of travel!
Unlike the venison burger we had back in Invercargill, this was true venison – no added onions or garlic or sauces. Just tender venison meat and gravy wrapped in a light and flaky crust. We both really enjoyed our first meat pie of the trip. It was delicious AND cheap – you can’t beat that! Afterward, we treated ourselves to an ice cream cone under the sun. Apricot for me and licorice for Katie. Yum! It wasn’t the healthiest thing to eat but we knew we had days of hiking ahead of us. We might as well fatten up for our trip, right?
We continued our eating binge that evening, stuffing ourselves with what we termed "a feast for the ages" – Pasta with wine marinara sauce, ground beef, zucchini, broccoli, mushrooms, and a buttered baguette on the side. To wash it down, a nice big bottle of ginger beer (the non-alcoholic variety). Scrumptious, filling, and great fuel for the four days of hiking we had ahead of us. Tomorrow we started The Milford Track, one of the greatest hikes in the world.