Tales of a wandering lesbian

Arrested development

We arrived at the campervan sometime around 9PM, disheveled, and happy.  Our bus from the Milford Sound had stopped for fish and chips (or in my case, chips and chips) on the way back to Queenstown, leaving our stomachs full, if complaining about the grease.  We climbed off the bus a few blocks from our parking spot, and shouldered our packs instead of asking for a ride.  At this point, a few blocks was nothing, and our bodies functioned more normally with heavy packs than without.

The little van was there, its fancy paint job clear, even in the fading light.  As we approached it I began to smile.  We unlocked the doors and slid them open.  The funky smell, part motor oil, part fabric softener, met our nostrils.  What had been strange a week before now was beginning to smell like home.

Bags heaved on top of the bed, we climbed in the cab and headed to our old Moke Lake camping spot.  Even with the weekend crowd at the lake, we found a quietish spot and nestled in, both of us feeling secure in our little van.  Even when the midnight fireworks started again…

When we awoke the next day, the van smelled less homey, and more like our dirty bodies, dirty laundry, and fried food.  We drove into town, in search of three things:  food, laundry, and a shower.

The icy river-baths had been nice, but they didn’t provide the kind of scrubbing opportunity that a shower does.  We were sure that Queenstown, being a tourist town, would have showers that we could purchase.  We were wrong.  The girl at the tour office looked at us strangely when we asked.

“Hmm.  I’m sure there must be somewhere you could get a shower.  You know, you could go to the youth hostel at the end of the block.  There’s a separate entrance to the dorms, and nobody at the front desk would see you.”

Steal a shower?  Great.  I’m not a big fan of stealing anything.  The idea of sneaking into a hostel and stealing a shower made me nervous.  If we got caught, we’d be naked and in trouble.  It wasn’t the relaxing image I had in mind.

After asking around, it seemed this was our only real option if we didn’t want to pay for a hotel room.  So we packed up our day packs and headed to the hostel, trying our best to look like we belonged there.  The girl was right.  There was a separate entrance.  Nobody even saw us head up the stairs to the dorms.

The facility was more like a hotel than a hostel.  Each room had its own bathroom, accessible from the hallway, so we were able to walk directly into a bathroom.  The first one looked unoccupied.  I headed across the hallway to see if I could find another.  The door was open, so I stepped inside and waved to Krista before closing the door.

I stripped down as quickly as I could, and pulled out my soap and razor.  It had been far too long since I’d used either.  Then I stepped into the shower.  “Shit!”  I’d chosen a bathroom that clearly had an occupant.  I looked around:  shampoo – soap – conditioner.  Damn!

There was nothing for it.  I wasn’t going to try to find another bathroom at this point.  I turned on the shower and got to work.  It was probably 5 minutes before I emerged from the bathroom fully dressed and mostly clean.  My legs were still prickly, but sunburned chest was clean, and my hair was out of a hat for the first time in a week.  I placed a few coins on the sink and leapt into the hallway.

There was no sign of Krista.  The door where I’d left her was open, so I made my way back downstairs and outside, trying to remain as calm as possible, mentally locating my passport in case I was arrested for trespassing.

Krista wasn’t outside.  The van was parked a couple of blocks away, so I headed that way, sure that she had hurried out to wait for me there.  Only she hadn’t.

I opened up the van, toweled my sopping hair, and reached for my hair gel.  Looking up the sidewalk, I saw a familiar sweatshirt.  Paula, one of our new friends from the Routeburn Track, was walking toward the van.  We chatted, and I did my hair, all the while looking back down the street toward the hostel.  Could it be that Krista had been discovered in somebody else’s shower?  What if she’d been thrown out or arrested?

I’m not a worst case scenario person, but this was starting to worry me.  Paula and I talked for about ten minutes before I excused myself to go find Krista, promising that we could connect later.  Back in front of the hostel entrance, I tried to look up the stairs.  There was still no sign of Krista, but I wasn’t about to head back in.  So I took up a post half a block away to wait.  The next five minutes seemed like an eternity.  I studied an interesting, artsy man in a shawl and beret until Krista came bouncing out of the doorway.

“How was your shower?” she smiled.

“It was about 3 minutes long.  I totally thought you were arrested.”

“No, I was shaving and enjoying my shower.”

Apparently, I’m a little paranoid.  After I had closed my door, she’d jumped into the bathroom next to mine, not the one across the hall we’d looked into.  Like mine, it had shampoo and soap on the shower floor, but unlike me she hadn’t worried about it.  She’d calmly scoured her skin and relaxed while I was frantically throwing my clothes back on.  Clearly, I had no future in shower-stealing.

Queenstown had a couple of things left to offer us.  We still had a pile of dirty clothes and a couple of empty bellies.  Fortunately, the town had a Laundromat and several restaurants, so we were able to pay for what we needed.  And I didn’t have to wonder if we’d get arrested.  It was a win-win, really.

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January 13, 2011   Comments Off on Arrested development

Change in plans

The first time we entered the uber-cute town of Wanaka, it was like we were a victory party, returning from the sand fly wars.  Wanaka rests on the banks of one of New Zealand’s beautiful, slender lakes.  It has lovely, gluten-free cafes, the ranger station for the Mt. Aspiring National Forest, and a strange attraction called Puzzling World.

Our first goal was breakfast.  Preferring to minimize our welts, we eschewed the usual van-side breakfast to take our chances in Wanaka.  Recently gluten-free, I was exuberant to find myself standing in the Cheeky Monkey café in front of a gluten-free pastry section.

We both ordered pancakes, mine of the non-gluten variety, and plopped ourselves down on a picnic table outside.  The weather on the south island was unseasonably warm and lovely.  We decided to change into shorts and spend the day near the lake, soaking up the clear skies and recovering from the past whirlwind days of driving.

We had nothing scheduled for the next couple of days, until we needed to be in Queenstown to catch a shuttle to the trailhead for our three-day trek.  Wanaka was cute, delicious and mercifully fly-free.

With our pancakes comfortably in our stomachs, and sun on our cheeks, we decided to swing by the ranger station.  New Zealand weather is less predictable than a mid-term election, and we needed suggestions for bike riding and lake swimming.

The station was great.  We took a moment to check out the stuffed birds, and I covertly plugged in all of my electronics for charging (the van didn’t have its own power source).  Krista, who has a small obsession with weather, went to check the board and chat with the rangers.  Sometimes obsessions come in handy.

The warm spell was hanging on, but estimated to disappear in a couple of days – right about the time we’d be hitting the trail.  That meant wet, muddy hiking.  It also meant sand flies.  It didn’t take us much time to make the decision.  With the help of our new ranger friends, we had rearranged the reservations for our overnight stays in the Routeburn huts, and even booked a boat trip on the Milford Sound, with bus transportation both ways, and a picnic lunch to boot!  The rangers were a little jealous – at least that’s what they told us.

Our new confirmation numbers in hand, we took a couple of deep breaths, agreed to return to Wanaka for some R & R after the trek, and walked back to the car.  Our driving wasn’t over.  In order to hit the trail the next day, we’d have to check in at the Queenstown tour office tonight, go shopping, pack, and find a place to sleep.

Fortunately, the drive to Queenstown was a scenic one, past more of the strange glacial water,

rolling vineyards,

and into the lakeside town itself.

Queenstown is a tourist town.  It’s clean, and well appointed, and expensive.  After checking in at the tour office and the ranger station, we took some time strolling through the high-end outfitters.  Everywhere we looked there was Icebreaker wool.  I smirked, knowing I’d be at the US sample sale in a week.

Then we headed to the grocery store to stock up on the food we’d be packing in with us.  The Routeburn is a backpacking trail.  We would be packing in food, pots, clothing, and sleeping bags.  Our hut reservations granted us a place to sleep and stoves to use.  The rest we had to bring.

When I head to a new country, I wonder a bit about the food.  I like food.  A lot.  But I seem to keep eliminating things from my diet.  I don’t drink.  I don’t eat meat.  I try not to eat much sugar, and now I wasn’t eating gluten.  I really wondered what a country like New Zealand, known for its meat, would have to offer me.

It turns out, quite a lot.

The Queenstown grocery had an enormous gluten-free section.  Along with the usual pasta and rice options, there were tons of pastries, bars, and other delicious snacks.  I filled my basket, and a cheerful employee pointed out the more exciting things they had.  We left with great meals for each night, fixin’s for sandwiches, and snacks for along the trail.  Along with a couple of huge Cadbury chocolate bars.  (There’s no gluten in most Cadbury bars, it turns out.  Though there is rather a lot of sugar.  Sacrifices were made.)

Our food in tow, it was finally time to head to our campsite.  The only Conservation site was about 20 minutes away, on a lake, at the end of a farm road, through flocks of roaming sheep.

When we reached the end, we were surprised to find a number of vans and groups of tents.  This was clearly a popular site.  It was easy to see why.  It was beautiful and peaceful (except for the midnight fireworks), a lovely place to prepare for our next three days on the trail.

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January 9, 2011   Comments Off on Change in plans