On the way, Carlos asked us about religion, government and our travels. They were both really nice and friendly guys. Carlos was going home soon to join his father’s business. He showed us pictures of his girlfriend back home and told us about picking up Argentinian girls.
Our first stop was a town called Timaru. The town didn’t boast much by way of tourist activities, so after chatting with the information center worker for a bit, we headed out of town and towards Mt. Cook. On the way, we stopped near the water for lunch. The day was overcast, but the weather was pleasant. I had packed a sandwich, and Timo made one in the back of the van while cranking up the music and singing the praises of sweet chili sauce.
Our journey continued westward through towns such as Fairlie, which featured some sort of old church. Again, I was using my guide — this time a Frommer’s — and it wasn’t telling me anything interesting about these towns.
At one point, we passed two hitchhikers standing on the side of the road with their backpacks. Timo said, “I think we can fit them in”, and pulled over. The young girls were Nina, a German, and Erin, a Canadian. They crammed their bags and themselves in the back with Carlos and we kept going towards Lake Tekapo. The girls had just spent some time in an area called Arthur’s Pass, west of Christchurch, and were headed to Wanaka, where Nina was staying with her boyfriend.
During my time with Charlie in Melbourne, we went out to a bar in Brunswick with some of Charlie’s friends. One of them brought another friend named Jen who was from Wanaka. That night, when Jen found out about my inevitable trip to NZ, she kept telling me that I must go to Wanaka and how wonderful a town it is.
We reached Lake Tekapo and snapped several pictures. There was another really old church here and we caught a couple pictures of it too.
The next stop was Lake Pukaki, and by the time we got there it had started to rain lightly. One was supposed to be able to see Mt. Cook from the lake, but it was hidden in a thick layer of clouds. The view was truly inspirational. Timo and I agreed that we could spend days here taking pictures. And it didn’t even matter that there was a thick layer of clouds, in fact I think it made it more mystical.
Despite the incredible view, a trip to Mt. Cook would be foolish. We started reconsidering the destination of this road trip and thought about finding a town in which to wait out the storm.
When the girls found out that we were waffling in our original plans, they immediately started telling us to go to Wanaka. Despite being a fine place to stay, it is one of the closest towns to Mt. Cook (and of course, it would mean they wouldn’t have to hitch anymore).
We finally all agreed that it would be best to skip Mt. Cook and find a place to stay in Wanaka. We would wait until the weather got better, then head towards the mountain.
Soon after it got dark we pulled into Wanaka. Without many streetlights or late-night businesses, it was hard to figure out what the town center looked like. We headed towards the backpackers where the girls were staying. There was no more room at The Purple Cow, but Erin told us of another hostel a few houses down the road called Fern Lodge. Carlos and I found a room there and Timo decided to find a place to park and camp in the van.
We all ate at Fern Lodge’s small kitchen and I chatted with Josh and Sarah, an American couple who were biking around New Zealand. There was a sign outside the kitchen asking if anyone wanted to do some work in the morning. I inquired and found out a local woman needed some gardeners for mulching work in her backyard. Gardening? Yeah, I can do that.
She would come the next morning to pick me up. I told Carlos and Timo that I may not be able to go sightseeing with them the next morning, but that I would meet up with them that evening.