| January 30, 2019
Part 6 - Adventure Into The Mountains
The weather forecast called for clouds and rain, so I wasn’t too bummed out. On arrival though, I learned a hard lesson: Alpine climates change quickly. The sky was crystal clear, without clouds to be seen. Despite my blisters, which had painfully persisted since Wellington despite the blister healing pads I bought, I set off to walk around the lake. After about 7 kilometers, I had to take my boots off. I kept pushing off, barefoot on the grass, marching up towards the observatory, having decidedly gone “full kiwi”. Finally, I had reached the top – and boy were the views worth it. With the southern alps around, the beautiful Lake Tekapo below and the knowledge that I had completed a 10 kilometer hike uphill (on what admittedly was probably an actual mountain), I was feeling pretty good. My foot, however, wasn’t, so when I was ready to go, I asked a person named Jared who was taking photos if he had a car and if he could drop me at Tekapo – he agreed. I was very grateful.
The next day was also beautiful but I spent the time inside doing remote work back in the states. After I finished up, I went out and enjoyed a café, hoping the weather would hold for the stargazing I had booked that night. That evening, I tried going to sleep early so I could wake up at 1:30 AM. When I awoke, as I feared, the clouds were in full effect – 100% cloud coverage. At the stargazing tour, they offered a refund or the opportunity to go into the observatories and see a presentation about it. I opted for the refund, then went back to try to go to sleep. I probably dozed off around 4 AM, and woke up at 7 AM. I spent the morning in Reflections café after checking out then boarded the bus (which was late) to Mount Cook / Queenstown.
On the way to Mount Cook, it was extraordinarily hot – the AC unit on the bus had broken and the sun was once again beating down on the area making for a beautiful spring day. I sat next to a young man named Ivan, who began chatting with me. We talked about travelling, friends, meeting people and the adventures we were having. After about an hour, I interrupted to actually introduce myself as Preston, he said he was Ivan. He asked where I was from, and he said he was from Russia. He said that he was glad that we could sit and have such a nice chat, that people were people and just wanted to live life and that we could all get along. I, of course, agreed. After agreeing, he smirked a bit, leaned over and whispered, “And also, I’m sorry.” I knew what he was getting at – it was indeed a funny thing and we had a good laugh about it.
I had booked the Hermitage Hotel lunch, so when we arrived, I went downstairs for a buffet-style lunch with a stunning view from the Hermitage. The hotel itself has fine architecture and design, maximizing the views of the beautiful Mount Cook National Reserve. With the good weather, it made for a really soul-inspiring lunch. After I finished up, I went out for some photos, then up to meet the coach again. When I got to the coach I introduced myself to someone who was waiting for a bus. She was a lawyer from Paris, who was a solo adventurer, hiking and climbing mountains half way around the world because she can. We had a lovely chat for multiple hours about life and the world. Talking with her and hearing how she was enjoying her time off to relax and enjoy life in the beautiful country stirred more deeply that feeling in me – these places I was seeing needed to be enjoyed and not just simply something that could be seen later, or that there “isn’t enough time” to get out and do these things. We arrived in Frankton near the airport said our goodbyes and had a hug, then went our separate ways. After checking into my AirBnB, I grabbed dinner then went back and turned in early, being exhausted from a sleepless morning due to attempted stargazing earlier.
The forecast called for rain when I was doing Milford Sound, so I swapped the day from Friday to Sunday. Friday I spent some time in town wandering a bit, but it was a pretty relaxed day, and most of it was spent resting. I had my bungy scheduled for Saturday, so I was really hoping the weather would not be rainy. I went to Arrowtown, cruised the museum, had a beer in an extremely overpriced pub (the same Tui IPA that was $8-9 everywhere else as $13), then headed back to the AirBnB when the rain started. Waiting for the bus I chatted with an Australian mother and daughter who were in town for the marathon on Saturday. They were from Western Australia, outside of Perth, and we had a great time chatting waiting for the bus and on the ride back. I stopped off in Frankton, went to the AirBnB and turned in for the day.