So, I saw a somewhat familiar face in Dunedin. And after that a million more unfamiliar ones.
I passed back through Queenstown for a night before heading to my favorite town in New Zealand, Wanaka.
I arrived in Queenstown and headed straight to my hostel. It was full of people in the entrance so I took off my bag and waited in the never-ending line for my turn to check in. I get my room key and head up the stairs. As I walk into my room I immediately have the uh-oh feeling because I know I’m in for a treat. The room is a disaster and two people are in bed sleeping so they either had a long night or were about to have a long night. Lovely.
I looking at all of the beds trying to figure out which is mine because the normal set up with clean sheets isn’t catching my eye… None of the beds had been changed. I headed back to reception to get it sorted out. They had forgotten to change the bed over so they quickly made it up and I threw my stuff on top.
I needed to get outta that place and I didn’t feel like making dinner so I decided to do the backpacker thing in Queenstown. What’s this? $5 dominos pizza. But of course I couldn’t just get my pizza and be happy. Nope. I wanted my pizza with a view so I decided to trek up the mountain until I had a nice place with a view. So off I went with my box of pizza up the mountain… People probably thought I was insane. Miles later I found a nice little place to eat. I opened up the box to find that they had given me the wrong kind and it was one I didn’t even like. Nice. Oh well, the group of backpackers at the bottom appreciated my pizza and I got a nice view so it was a win-win.
As I was going to bed that night, a guy and a girl walked in and make quite a commotion. Then they both casually climbed in the bunk above me. Oh no. Let’s just say it was impossible to sleep that night and I went for a midnight stroll.
The next day I went to the best place in the world, Wanaka. As soon as I arrived off the bus I met a girl from Germany, Dana. We were staying at the same hostel. I really wanted to go do a four day trek in the matukituki valley so I was trying to cancel my hostel but the department of conservation advised me not to do the trek, especially alone, due to heavy rain and wind in the valley.
Dana was about to go hike Mount Iron so I asked if I could join. I had planned on doing Roy’s Peak (the one I couldn’t hike up because of my legs the first time I visited) but figured I would just get at that the next day. We walked about 15 minutes out of town and did the 2 hour trek. For reference a tiny, tiny dog was doing the hike. So it wasn’t bad whatsoever.
While we were at the top we were discussing other hikes when an older gentleman came over and said he had overheard us talking and wanted to give us tips on some good hikes in the area. It was a beautiful day and he offered to give us a ride to Roy’s Peak once we were back to the bottom. We were a bit hesitant and he said if he was at the bottom when we were we could decide. I sort of had the “okay.. Older guy, is this creepy or not…” Thing playing in my mind. He seemed genuine and knowledgable about the area.
As Dana and I hiked down we discussed whether or not we should do it.. Neither of us had any food and we only had a little bit of water left. Roy’s Peak was a much more difficult trek and would take anywhere from 5-7 hours. We decided heck, why not.
We reached the bottom and waited a few minutes hoping he hadn’t already left. He arrived shortly after and we headed to the base of Roy’s Peak. He was a middle school science teacher from Australia who lives in New Zealand during the summer. Pretty cool.
The hike was quite steep to start. We continued up and up and decided to every once in awhile take the “shortcut” and just bushwhack straight up. We all had quite different paces so we decided to sort of just meet at the saddle. I hike quite fast so I led the pack and stopped every once in awhile to make sure they were still trekking along.
I was so happy with how far I had already come because the first time I attempted Roy’s Peak my legs were not having it. Many times I thought I might have to stop because of my legs. I didn’t want to overdo it and my goodness was I close to the threshold. Finally I arrived at the saddle after a billion switchbacks and steep climbing. I sat with the guy at the top (if you haven’t realized yet I am terrible and can’t remember his name). We watched people take a million selfies and waited for Dana to arrive.
I had just met her but I can’t even tell you how excited I was when she reached the saddle. I was so proud of her. It was the biggest hike she had ever done (or at least since she was younger). Such a cool moment.
They waited at the saddle as I continued on to summit the peak. I am so terrible at direction. There is this big, well worn path and I decide hey, maybe I should take that little path that wraps around the backside.
I wandered off and ended up on a scary ledge with a very small trail along the ridge. I decided I should probably backtrack and take the normal route. I got to the summit where the gusts of wind were insane. I only stayed for a moment before heading back down. I am so thankful that I am learning how to listen to my body. Those moments at the summit are always worth so much more.
When I got back to Dana she said “he” had started back down because it’s harder on his legs. I took some photos for her and she took a couple of me because he had taken some but his finger was featured in all of them. New style of photography? I think so.
GARY. His name is Gary. Just saw it in my journal. I am no longer a terrible person. (And here is his photography)
That night Dana and I went to the grocery store. I got some veggies and rice and she got a pizza. This was quite comical because we got back to the hostel to find that we had no over. She improvised and used the microwave. Let’s just say her crust was more like.. warm dough. We also discovered TimTams which are the best cookies.
The next day we got coffee at a place that Gary said was the best in town and what do you know, there was Gary. We told him we were going to find water to lay at and he said not to go to Lake Hawea because it’s windy. Afterwards what do you think we did? We hitchhiked to Lake Hawea of course. As we were walking to find a place to hitchhike we passed people in all of the best spots. We eventually got to a roundabout and just as we stuck out thumbs out a car pulled over and two French guys made room in the car. Literally instantaneous, it was crazy.
We figured we couldn’t just hitchhike back right away so we walked/blew across the sand for awhile then grabbed coffee at the only cafe in town.
We hitchhiked back to Wanaka which again we were picked up right away by an English guy. We walked around town before heading to my hostel (I switched to a new one) to play pool. One game has never lasted so long. Honestly the first 5 games ended because one of us hit the eight ball in on accident. So yeah we were good.
The next day I got in touch with a local, Kris, that I had met a couple of weeks prior to see if he and his friends happened to be getting into any climbing while I was in town. He asked if I wanted to grab coffee so we met at a cafe and of course I saw Gary. I’m telling you.. Small Island.
We sat with an English girl and all chatted for awhile. (It’s very common to just sit at other peoples tables if they have room) Kris was full of energy and seemed to know just about everyone. His friend Chip joined the table and they chatted for a bit then asked if I wanted to join them for a climb that day. YES
I went back to my hostel to grab my gear and ate a quick lunch before meeting back with them. Chip’s friend Rachel had to do some stuff with her bike and then was going to be joining us. I asked if I needed hiking boots and Kris said we would just be going to a place we could drive to. Awhile later we headed out toward Hospital Flat to climb. Due to the clouds they changed our destination and the new place we were going was a trek up.
So, in my $5 flip flops from Hawaii I trekked up though sharp rocks and bushes into this awesome little crevasse with caves. SO AWESOME.
I still would say I am a beginner with climbing, especially outdoors. Sure I know what I’m doing and I can lead and everything but I just don’t have a ton of experience. Natually Kris gets all ready to go and I’m supposed to belay. Nice. It had been quite awhile since I climbed outside and I hadn’t belayed a lead climb since before my trip. I quickly scanned through everything in my head and suddenly it was like I was a pro. Funny how quick it all comes back.
At one point Kris decided to try a pretty tough route and he fell before the second bolt. I shot up pretty quick and far as he took his lead fall.
We hiked back out and went back to the cafe in town. Everyone got a beer and I grabbed a ginger beer as a nice refreshment after the day. Later Dana and I met up and played pool again before she headed off to her hostel. She was definitely an awesome addition to the people I have met.
The next morning I was woken up at 5:30am by 3 Chinese girls making breakfast in our room with all of the lights on. Who does that? I was quite frustrated but decided to look at the positive and went on a nice morning walk with a cup of coffee.
Remember the spoiler alert from my last post? (Probably not because no one is actually following this HA)
Well, I had met a really incredible family in Dunedin at church who was going to be in Wanaka at the same time. They got ahold of me and asked if I wanted to hike down Cardrona with them. Cathy’s husband was doing research on the fog and water so he had to collect his samples. I figured sure, why not.
Before going I had to sign some liability waiver because we were going to be on private farm land and the family couldn’t be responsible if something happened. The area we were in had crazy weather changes and we didn’t know what to expect. Side note – The family on the farm were herding 1400 sheep across the valley that day. WHAT. That’s insane.
Anyways, we drove to the top of Cardrona (past the ski resort.. VIP stuff). The road was insanely bumpy but we finally reached the top. It was so windy and cold. I suddenly felt a little unprepared. I had incredible views of Queenstown and Wanaka which was awesome.
They did the first switching of the water samples and we headed down the mountain to find the next. I had imagined walking down a trail but quickly realized we would be bushwacking down the whole way through some rugged terrain. We couldn’t find the second sample so we took some up and down detours to find it. This was a continued cycle as we trekked down for the next couple of hours. The weather was pretty much just cloudy with occasional rain. The guys ran out of extra sample bottles when we got about 2/3 of the way down and we had hit an old farm road so Cathy’s husband ran down to get the car while we waited.
About an hour later he came flying up the road. Literally so fast because the road was so steep and sketchy and he wasn’t sure he would make it any slower. We headed down a seemingly never-ending bumpy, dodgy road.
They invited me to Cathy’s brothers house for a BBQ and I couldn’t decline. I arrived expecting a couple of people their age but was immediately greeted by two guys my age and later another. It was quite awkward because I was just some random backpacker they picked up along the way but they were all super nice and welcoming.
I helped in the kitchen a bit before dinner. I guess I didn’t put this together beforehand but they were preparing lamb on the BBQ. That was an interesting first. I was so blown away by the generosity of the entire family.
Cathy’s brother is a beekeeper so I also learned a ton about honey, as well as the fact that most of the worlds carrot seeds are produced in New Zealand. Neat stuff.
The next day I did pretty much nothing. I went to the farmers market then spent the day FaceTimeing and observing people.
- German guys really like to hangout in their underwear whenever possible.
- Asians eat A LOT of sliced bread late at night.
- Everyone calls sandals, jandals
- People only know/sort of know Montana when I tell them it borders Canada
- Everyone goes barefoot everyone. “No shirt, no shoes, no service” does not exist here
- A lot of people eat fries in the morning.
Yep. That’s all I got. Right before leaving Wanaka I met three Montanans at my hostel. Small freakin world.
Alright. Next stop, Queenstown. Round 2-ish.