It’s odd to think I’ve been in New Zealand for over seven weeks now.
The first two weeks went by so slowly. Every waking moment was filled with a new “gosh I can’t believe I made it here!” emotion; constantly trying to take in every conversation, every fern, every smiling eye, every hill’s slope, every strand of a detail. Then suddenly the time began to whiz right by, especially since coming to the south island, and I stopped paying such close attention to everything around me.
I’ve been worried as of late that I’m… well, it’s not that I feel disenchanted with New Zealand at this point. It’s just that I’m used to it now. The first couple bus rides we took going from city to city consisted of my nose being pressed up against the glass, gawping at every beautifully green hill we drove by. Now I tend to spend bus rides either sleeping or playing Plants vs. Zombies. I suppose it was bound to happen. I just don’t want to fall into the habit; taking this gorgeous place for granted. Being here is a gift – not everyone gets an opportunity such as this – so to squander it away by playing iPhone games and being caught up in my own world is practically a crime.
But I digress. Let’s talk Te Anau.
Kathleen and I got into Te Anau late two days ago. We were still feeling under the weather – Kathleen more so than me – so we decided to go buy some soup from the store. Funny thing about small towns though: everything closes super early, meaning there wasn’t a single grocery store open by the time we got our hostel room squared away. Out of options, we ended up buying a pizza, which I ate 75% of, seeing as Kathleen couldn’t really swallow just yet without it hurting. The two of us then headed back to the hostel to get some much needed shut eye.
We had decided to spend our first full day exploring the town and checking out Lake Te Anau; however, there were two things we didn’t account for. The first being it was a small town with really only one main street, so not much to explore. The second?
But we tried. Oh how we tried. We’re troopers after all. Nay, not troopers, Portlandians. What’s a little rain? That wasn’t going to stop us from going out and enjoying ourselves. So we tossed on our heavy jackets, beanies, and gloves, and we were off.
We managed to walk a good half mile or so down the side of Lake Te Anau before I threw in the towel. The wind kept backhanding my face and my jeans were completely soaked through, ie. I was miserable. Even a Portlander has her limits. Defeated, we trudged back to the hostel, where I put on some dry clothes and finally began catching up on recent Daily Show episodes.
(I should also mention we’re sharing a room with four Asian girls who all only talk to each other in what I believe to be Mandarin. It’s odd to feel like a minority for the first time ever. New experiences abound.)
Today was a much better start though. We were going to see Milford Sound! One of the most beautiful places in all of New Zealand! Oh joy!
We kicked off our bed sheets, grabbed some breakfast from a local restaurant, then headed to the pick up spot. Not even the rain could deter our positive outlook on the day. To pass the time we sang a bit of ‘Waiting For The Bus In The Rain’ while admiring the beautiful mountains off in the distance.
Yessir, nothing could break our high spirits on this fine morning.
And then the bus never showed up.
We waited a half an hour before giving up hope. As Kathleen and I walked back to the hostel, we fretted over whether or not we had done something wrong when signing up for the tour. If we were to blame for not being picked up then that was a whole lot of money wasted on nothing. Needless to say, after some angrily written emails and a bit of correspondence, we learned there had been an avalanche and the bus could not have gotten us over to today. So we rescheduled our trip for this Sunday, which will be during our time in Queenstown. Less ideal, but eh, sometimes shit happens.
Now we were stuck. We were in a tiny town with absolutely nothing to do with our free day.
Luckily the rain decided to let up just a bit, so we figured we might as well try going back to the lake. We walked the opposite direction this time around and, well, just see for yourself how the rest of our day was spent.
What a wonderful hike. We spent a good couple hours on the path, admiring the beautiful scenery, stumbling upon a wildlife sanctuary, conversing with geese, and just having a spectacular time.
I was worried that Te Anau was going to be a bust. With the exception of Dunedin, all of our stops have had wonderful memories tied in with them. Waitangi in Paihia. Homemade bread in Rotorua. Drinks with Meg in Wellington. “Stolen” cake in Napier. Rummy tiles in Nelson. Muppet music in Christchurch. Carol in Oamaru. Burritos in Invercargill. Hell, I admit it, even Dunedin has a good memory or two tied into it. I was worried that Te Anau wouldn’t leave any impact on the two of us while here, so I’m glad that we had our hike today, if nothing else. (We also have the Booty song, but that’s a tale for another day.)
Today made me realize that even if I am used to New Zealand and the “wow” factor has worn off a bit, that doesn’t mean I can’t still appreciate the hell out of this country. This gorgeous, breathtaking, fall-to-your-knees-in-wonder country. I am so grateful that I have this once in a lifetime opportunity and hope I can continue to appreciate it throughout this coming year.
We’re heading to Queenstown tomorrow – at long last! We’ve heard so many wonderful things about the city, so we’re expecting a spectacular time. Besides our rescheduled trip to Milford Sound, we’re also going on Ride of the Rings which, you guessed it, is a tour of (more) Lord of the Rings filming sites that we get to via horseback. Plus we’re just looking forward to hanging around the town, going out for drinks, and exploring. Kathleen’s only got three weeks left in New Zealand, so we’ve got to make the best of them.