Off the Top of My HeadBy Paul Murray
Italian traveller Lorenzo Sebastio is a real backpacker and there aren’t many left.
He calls himself a “snail” as he carries his house on his back everywhere he goes and go he does. His current adventure is to walk from Cape Reinga, the northern tip of New Zealand, to Bluff the southernmost point of the New Zealand mainland.
Walking is his thing and he shuns offers of lifts from passing motorists, but randomly door knocks people’s homes to ask for permission to erect his tent in their garden to spend the night, before moving on again in the morning.
(Presumably, he doesn’t tell people he’s a giant snail before they grant him permission to camp near their vegetable patch)
He arrived at Rongo Backpackers & Gallery, the hostel I own and operate in Karamea at the top of the West Coast of the South Island after having met a couple of the Rongo crew––Violetta from Germany and Yoshie from Japan, wwoofers (volunteers) who were helping us out at the hostel––on the Heaphy Track a couple of days prior.
Lorenzo is a qualified chef and I agreed to let him stay at Rongo for free if he made us a genuine Italian risotto for the pot-luck dinner we had scheduled on the night he arrived…and also if he agreed to be interviewed on Karamea Radio, which broadcasts from the shed behind Rongo Backpackers. Once a quid-pro-quo arrangement was established, we had the pleasure of his company and he the pleasure of a dry, warm night in a comfortable bed and a hearty meal with the Rongolians.
Lorenzo proved a wonderful house guest, fluent in numerous languages after having lived and worked in France, Spain, Scotland and Germany and was genuinely interested in the other guests, he contributed many wonderful insights to the conversation over dinner from his experiences on the road in Aotearoa and elsewhere around the world.
After spending a day with little company other than the sound of nature, the beat his feet and the occasional brief chat with passing motorists, Lorenzo was enthusiastic for conversation and human interaction and he marshalled interesting dinner-table discourse well into the evening.
The solitude of walking long distances on the road (he averages over 20 kilometers per day) affords plenty of time for introspection and Lorenzo has developed an aspiration to retrace the adventures of compatriot Marco Polo as recounted in his 13th Century travelogue, known in French as “Livre des merveilles du monde” (Book of the Marvels of the World), in Italian as “Il Milione” (The Million), or in English “The Travels of Marco Polo,” and to contemporarily rewrite the tome.
In preparation for that rather lofty challenge, he photographs his New Zealand hosts and writes a short account of his encounter with them on his journey with the view to compiling the notes and images into a book and publishing his New Zealand travel experience.
Anyway, that’s enough from me…check out what Lorenzo himself has to say in his Karamea Radio Interview below and if you see him on the road say hello…and if he knocks on your door, invite him in for the evening as he’s a very entertaining, interesting and polite house guest.
I wish him well on his Aotearoa Adventure and beyond.