Lows and Hieghts
Trip Start Oct 23, 2006
93Trip End May 08, 2007
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But Mike, you plus Jon plus Buddy means there were three people. Did you sit on each other's laps or something?
Only when it got cold. (just kidding) Buddy had already solved the seating problem. (and no, playing musical chairs is not a solution, so that's enough Reggie) Buddy set up a folding camping chair in the space which opens up when the bed is folded away
Gee, Mike, I hate to interrupt again, but a folding chair sitting precariously in a moving van doesn't seem very safe. Or legal.
As far as safety is concerned, I was often cushioned by my overinflated feelings of self-worth. I also have just spent the past five months barreling down rutted dirt roads in the back of, or on top of, poorly maintained pickup trucks. I've also been on damaged, ancient buses being driven by less than sober drivers. So did my personal safety alarm go off when driving a mechanically sound van with my trustworthy friends on the well-paved roads of a civilized country? Not so much. As far as the legalities of driving with one of us in that chair... that's precisely why we kept the curtains drawn. (Yup, curtains. It's that kind of van).
And as we anticipated, New Zealand was also different in its weather, pricing, the strength of its currency, language, yada yada yada. It was startling at first, but second nature in no time. (Or is that third nature by now?)
Upon leaving the sprawl surrounding Christchurch and entering lush farmland, it began to rain
We reached Lake Tekapo, our first stop of the day. The rain had turned to snow. Cool rain was one thing, but snow was a little too much. I still only had shorts and t-shirts. We'd have to remedy that soon. Lake Tekapo has a quaint little English style church on its shores. It's just about the only thing of note there, especially in snowy, low-visibility weather. Despite the drab, sinking sky, we could tell that in sunlight the water would be a brilliant turquoise. Oh well. We decided to take our lunch on the lake's shores while we waited for the snow to pass. We made sandwiches inside the van and set about naming her. Out of nowhere, we decided on the name Dierdre. It just seemed to fit that stout little Toyota. So Dierdre it was, even though the correct spelling seems to be Deirdre. (I looked it up on babynames.com just now. It means "young girl, one who rages, broken hearted" and is of Celtic origin).
Having seen the Church we pushed on to Lake Pukaki. (Mmhmm. Pooh-Cockey. A lot of the native Maori names are fun like that). Pukaki was far more impressive than Tekapo. The water was a brighter blue. The lake itself seemed far larger. It was looking at this body of water where I realized the biggest difference between New Zealand lakes and those of home and Asia
We drove to Mount Cook Village. I immediately sought to find some long johns. The local outfitter had a pair for not too much money and in my size. I was still hesitant to buy them. They were garishly rainbow. My hesitation wasn't at all homophobic; they were simply hideous. While Buddy did get a picture of me in them, don't hold your breath about ever seeing it.
We found a spot at the local campground (Dierdre also came with a two person tent. She's ready for anything) and started down a trail suggested to us by a local: the Hooker Valley Trail. We were promised views of Mt. Cook and the Hooker Glacier. The trail delivered
We set up the tent in a snap. Dinner was pasta which we prepared on the butane stove Dierdre hides in her hatch. It was piping hot as we ladled out equal portions with lava for sauce. But within thirty second of sitting on the plate, each of our meals was ice cold. No matter. We inhaled our respective portions, barely noticing or caring. After washing (rinsing) the dishes, it was bedtime. We had no light, and we were all drained anyway. The Buddy/Dierdre combo saved the day again by supplying down comforters, sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows for all. Remembering some ancient vestige of advice from God knows where, I pulled my jacket into the sleeping bag with me so that it would be toasty in the morning.
If only I'd been smart enough to do that with my pants too. They were practically frozen when I woke to Buddy slapping the tent. He'd been woken up extra early by a pair of rowdy hawks who liked Dierdre's roof. Poor guy was cold too. He'd given us too many of the blankets and was cold most of the night. But the sun was already out and warming everything. We had two hikes planned before lunch, and only two apples apiece to energize us. After packing everything back into Dierdre, we set off for a lookout which promised spectacular views of Mt. Cook. It was alright. The Hooker Valley Trail views were better. But seeing as the walk to the lookout took 10 minutes, it was no real loss.
From there we aimed towards our second destination: Sealy Tarns. We didn't know what exactly Sealy Tarns was or why we should go there
But once they were out of sight, we continued our victory celebration. We took pictures, chatted with fellow hikers, and ate our other apples. Then we headed down. With gravity on our side, our return trip took 25 minutes or so. (And for the record, we totally passed the old folks on the way down). Once back at Dierdre, we began making our much anticipated lunch of Campbell's Chunky Soup. (It's CHUNKY!) Then I got attacked relentlessly by two of the largest bees I've ever seen because I was wearing a yellow shirt. Long story short, I ran around a lot and ended up eating while stripped to the waist. My shirt lay in the dirt road where the football sized arthropods buzzed around it.
After lunch we hit the road to return to the previous days lakes. It was worth the return journey. Both Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo were stunning in the sunshine. I'll leave any further description of them to the photos. After the lakes, I took the wheel to give Buddy a break. We headed for Dunedin.