Tales of a wandering lesbian


One thing about New Zealand is that there aren’t a lot of people there.  During the day, we would see a handful of other campervans driving from one city to the next.  And there were even a couple of nights that we spent alone.  I mean, really alone.  The first was outside the city of Cardrona.

Unable to locate a suitable Conservation campsite, we searched the map for an alternative.  As we made our way along, we happened along the parking lot for the ski resort at Cardrona.  The gravel lot was the entrance to the closed-for-the-season alpine area.

We pulled the van off the road and found a quiet spot away from a couple of disturbingly flattened rabbit carcasses.

Krista went to explore the little gatehouse, while I stepped into the old cemetery adjoining the parking lot.

A handful of old headstones and obelisks stood in the gently tended graveyard.  I wandered among them watching the darkening sky.

Krista, on the other hand, made an exciting discovery:  power.  The little gatehouse had an outlet where we could charge our electronics.  And, inside a flap on the outer wall, was a key.  Apparently, our “success” with the stolen showers made us rather brazen.  We took the key, opened the little door and walked inside with an armful of electronics.

We left the cameras, ipods and computer plugged in while we made dinner, cleaned up and began our nightly cribbage tournament.  The wind kicked up a bit and the sky continued to put on a glorious show of light-on-cloud.  When the light began to fade, making the stark white gravestones shine in the dim, I climbed out of the van to retrieve our belongings from the gatehouse.  I had no intention of being out after dark.

Halfway to the house, my headlamp caught the head of one of the flattened rabbits.  Long dead, the opened mouth and white teeth took me off guard, and the fur was loosely held together, blowing in the breeze.  Startled, I jumped back as though I’d just run into a glass wall.

When my heart climbed back down from my throat, and I forced myself to chuckle, I continued on, sure to pass far enough away from the second rabbit so as not to repeat the ridiculous jumping scene that Krista was surely watching.  I climbed the fence and reclaimed the wires and machines that would help us document our trip.  Holding the keys tight, I stuck my hand inside the flap and found the hook where the keys belonged.  I heard a guilty jingling clunk, stood still while the sound registered, and then hoped that whoever returned in the fall to open the gatehouse, would return with their own set of keys.


Although we saw only a handful of cars that night, the next campsite was by far the most remote.  The Department of Conservation pamphlet had little descriptions next to a picture of each campsite.  St. Baathans caught my eye.  The picture itself was only of a gate and a sign.  This was the kind of site where we would close the gate behind us so the livestock didn’t get out.  Cool.  According to the description, it was in an old goldfields area, just up the road from the ghost town of St. Baathans.  The pamphlet also indicated that it was a popular picnic spot with locals.  Usually that would eliminate the site from our list, but we were so excited about the goldfields that we decided to give it a go.

The spur road that led to the town and campsite was empty.  We didn’t see another car the entire 10K.  We saw sheep, we saw horses, we saw cows, but we didn’t see people.  None.  The further we drove, the more alone we felt.  We cross-referenced the site in our guidebook and found that the St. Baathans area was known to be haunted.  Great.  Maybe we’d be excited to see picnicking families, after all.

Our road dead-ended at a sheep fence.  I hopped out to swing it wide, and Krista drove through so that I could close it.  We found ourselves in a field, a few acres in size.

It was empty.  There were no families, no campers.  We were, again, alone.  And this time we were in a place known to be haunted.

No matter.  We had our choice of camping spots.  We settled in under a tree, a short way from the bathroom and water faucet.  Still tired from our three-day trek, we took some time to relax.  our recent camp spots had been without river or lake, so we were in need of a washing-up.  And even the shower we’d appropriated had left me no time to shave my now prickly legs.

I filled a plastic tub up with cold water from the tap and set to shaving my legs, sitting in the door well of the van.  It was a beautiful view.  What looked like an old ramp for loading and unloading sheep was the only other thing in the field.  Rough and weathered, I fell immediately in love with it.

As I finished up my legs, I realized how warm it felt out.  It was probably due to having poured the frigid water over half of my body, but I was suddenly struck by the fact that we were alone in the middle of New Zealand.

“I’m going for a run!” I yelled at Krista who was lying in the van and giving me a bit of privacy.


“Just around the field.  I’m going to be naked, so be warned.”  I was stripping off my remaining clothes.  (I swear this isn’t a normal thing for me.)

I did a lap around the field, the foot-high weeds smacking the tops of my feet as I ran.  Then I headed to the ramp.  Up, over and off the end of it I flew, laughing all the while.  There wasn’t even a sheep to see me as I jogged back to the van.

There was, however, a friend with a camera.  I wrestled the camera out of her hands, approved of a couple and deleted the rest.  (Bodies look funny when you’re running, just by the way.)

We spent the rest of the evening resting, cooking, eating, and, of course, playing games.  When we went to sleep, it was dark.  Really dark.  We slept hard.  And uneasily.  The place was beautiful, but it wasn’t somewhere I wanted to experience during the night.  The idea of slipping out to pee in that darkness was uninteresting.

When we woke, it was also uneasily.  We both had stories to share.  Krista had a series of disturbing, grisly dreams.  I, unable to wake from the dream I was having, called out to Krista in the dream, and she rolled over in the van, waking me up.  In our morning haze, we cuddled up next to each other, offering the kind of comfort that can only really come from the closeness of another person.

We didn’t linger.  Neither of us was eager to spend another night in St. Baathans.  The place was beautiful, but it was quiet, and lonely, and a little too dark.  On our way out of the gate, we poked a $20 bill into the donation box, settling up for the nights we’d forgotten to pay.  This was a free site, but maybe we’d delayed payment a bit too long.

Bookmark and Share

January 20, 2011   2 Comments