Tales of a wandering lesbian

Fellow travelers

My arrival in New Zealand was unceremonious.  After a 12 hour flight and a 5 hour layover in Auckland peppered with fluttering sleep on airport benches, I found myself in the smallish Christchurch airport.  Sitting across from 3 espresso stands packed next to each other, I contemplated my recent decision to give up coffee.  An hour later, Krista, my NZ travel companion stepped off of a plane, ready for our adventure.

Krista and I had dated for a blink of an eye.  The super-heated kind of a thing that leads to illusions of intimacy that inevitably come crashing down the moment reality is introduced.  Now, almost a year later, we found ourselves fellow travelers, eager for companionship, and wondering what the next two weeks in the tight quarters of our rented campervan would bring.

The campervan company was one that Krista had picked out months before.   When her travel companion fell through, and I decided to fill-in a month before the trip, Krista sent me the information she had compiled:  booking information for treks, maps of the country, and the website for the campervan company.  It was the van that was most exciting to me.  The vans were hand-painted by graffiti artists, and equipped with a bed, a sink and a camp stove – nearly everything we’d need.

We spent time stalking the vans online, reading their names and descriptions and studying their paint jobs.  When we arrived at the rental office, we were excited to find out which of the 100 vans we’d be driving.

“Elliott’s Trip.”  This was the van we would be driving for two weeks.  This was the van we would be living in.  Cooking in.  Sleeping in.

The other side was better – less creepy leprechaun, and more phoenix, but we were still unconvinced.  We were hoping for some ancient Maori symbols, or a serene whale.

Undeterred, however, we struck out.  Christchurch had some interesting spots.  Cathedrals stretched high, and boats punted along the river.

We took a moment to look around, but we had a mission.  We were headed into Arthur’s pass, a beautiful stretch of mountains, where we would find a place to camp for the night.  After a quick stop to stock our cooler, we headed out of the south island’s largest city, and into the countryside.

The first couple of hours were dominated by ever-lowering fog.  We didn’t see much, other than the occasional sheep, until the fog suddenly cleared, giving us a better view of where we were.

A road sign told us that “Castle Hill” was ahead.  Neither of us knew what this could be.  It wasn’t on our list of things to see.  But we were both up for adventure, and, as we approached, our interest grew.

A trailhead led from the small parking lot up into the hills.  Groups of sheep and cattle dotted the strange landscape, marked by large, blocky rock formations on the towering hillside.

Steep drop-offs and bizarre formations rose up from the ultra-green grass.  We walked and climbed and gazed around from a perch atop the rocks, taking in our first real view of the island and its terrain.

Back at the van, we pulled pamphlets from the glove box.  The New Zealand Department of Conservation maintained a variety of campsites across the country.  If we were lucky, we would be able to use the inexpensive, well kept sites as we wound our way around the island.

We evaluated our energy levels and then picked a campsite from the map.  This one would be on a lake, Lake Pearson, and not far from our next day’s destination:  a waterfall hike in Arthur’s Pass.

The drive to the lake was quiet.  We saw very few cars, and the landscape became more and more rugged.  The feeling that we were remote increased with each mile we drove.  We saw Lake Pearson as we approached.  It was low and flat, a mirror of the grasslands surrounding it on most sides and the trees on its banks.  The hill on one side was pointy and brush-covered, reflecting the freshly-setting sun.  Here we found our campground, marked by a small sign, a tent, and another campervan.

Surveying the area, we chose a spot close to the water, and under the trees, where we backed the van in and made ourselves comfortable.

For the last six months, Krista had been traveling around the world, taking some time for herself.  For me, it had been well over a year since I had sold my house and hit the road.  Now that we were here, beside a lake in New Zealand, we found ourselves nesting.  We cooked dinner and put sheets on the bed.   We evaluated our provisions and did the dishes.  Then we settled in to watch the sun set over the camp while we played cribbage and drank tea.  When we finally turned in it was with rib-crushing hugs, and friendly snuggles, both of us grateful for the beauty around us, and also for the bonus that comes with shared experience.  Grateful for the time in the future when we would turn to each other and say, “you remember our first night in New Zealand?”

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1 comment

1 Ant { 01.06.11 at 7:56 am }

Thank you so much for coming back. Missed your writing greatly!