2/28/10: Wanaka, New Zealand
No matter how big this blog gets, we’ll always have a spot in our hearts for the common folk. Today we thought we’d prove this by giving back to a few of the people we’ve met in the past two days. Unfortunately since we can’t literally give back since we don’t know where any of them are any more, we can only write about them and take solace knowing somewhere deep down they’ll feel good about their new-found fame.
First, let me tell you a little story about a little old lady. I’ll call her Mrs. Gilmore because I can’t remember her real name and because she reminded me of Happy Gilmore’s grandma. Mrs. Gilmore rode the bus with us on our two-hour journey from Queenstown to Wanaka. We picked her up from her front door instead of at a bus stop, and then she sat shotgun instead of the with the rest of us in the back, thus leading me to believe that she was the bus driver’s mother. After holding a long conversation with the driver, she was dropped off in Wanaka at a small cafe across the street from where the rest of us were dropped off. (With all the preferential treatment I wouldn’t be surprised if Ben Stiller came out and offered her a warm glass of milk before her nap.) Then came the kicker. After helping Mrs. Gilmore to the street, the driver came back on the bus told us how the little old lady has been making the lunchtime commute to Wanaka four times a week for several years now. Four days a week she rides the two hours to Wanaka, eats lunch at Relish Cafe, then rides the next bus back. Crazy.
My second story involves four other travelers: Dan, Kuan, Rachel and Patrick (you decide if those names are made up or not). It is a bit more convoluted, so if you need a pencil and paper to keep up, go grab one now.
There are more than 20 backpacker lodges in Queenstown. Some of the larger ones contain well over 20 rooms, made up of both privates and dorms. On average I’ll assume each location has 65 beds. That’s 1,300 beds for backpackers in Queenstown, and when we arrived almost every single one was filled.
Our room of eight beds at The Black Sheep contained Dan, an Aussie backpacker who frequently hitchhikes between Wanaka and Queenstown to pursue his paragliding license. [Side note: hitchhiking is such a common way to get around in this country that it’s practically encouraged. Most hostel workers will provide backpackers with information on the best places to stand depending on which city you are traveling to. Unfortunately Zhou and I have yet to try it.] Upon learning of our trip to Wanaka, Dan highly recommended a place called Wanaka Bakpaka, saying it was in his favorite five hostels in the world. We took his word and decided to book it. Then, on our last night at The Black Sheep, Kuan and Rachel showed up in our hostel room. They were travelers who had settled in Wanaka to get a job, both finding cleaning jobs at Wanaka Bakpaka. They knew Dan well and were shocked to see him in Queenstown. Dan told them that he’d left his striped towel at Wanaka Bakpaka and he wanted them to hold it for him.
Fast forward to today, when we arrived at Wanaka Bakpaka. One of the first people we saw here was Rachel, who had made up our beds for us. When we checked into our room, we met Patrick, a German backpacker who had stayed in Wanaka since Christmas. Earlier this afternoon I noticed a striped towel in his pile of stuff. I casually asked if he knew a guy named named Dan. He laughed heartily like a German, then said in his unbelievably slow accent, “Suurrreee dooo. Innn facct I haavvvee hissss toowwweeellll riiiighttt heeerre. Heee stayyed innn thaaat beddd riiiight theeerre.” (Does that convey the slowness of his speech, or does just make him look stoopid?) Kuan later showed up as well and but was exhausted from staying out all night at the casino Zhou wrote about a few days ago.
I don’t know if I properly conveyed how crazy this whole situation was to me, but I was really amazed by all the different connections. Maybe you had to be there.
Finally, I’ll try end on a good note in case you were bored by the last story. During our bus ride to Milford Sound a few days ago, we sat next to a family of six, the youngest of which was a tiny baby. I remember a couple years ago when my cousin had a baby, I had to ask Zhou if it was the kind of baby you could just leave in the house while you went out to a movie. I still haven’t gotten over her insane laughter at that question, so now when I see babies left alone I get offended. Well, guess what? This family left the baby alone in the bus during every scenic stop we made heading to the sound. We even did two 20-minute walks, and both times when Zhou and I got back on the bus, there was the helpless baby more alone than Kevin in Home Alone 2.
The craziest part to me though was that every time the family got back on the bus, the first one on would crane their neck really nervously as if there was a good chance the baby would no longer be there. I know, most of the time the baby was napping, but was I wrong to be offended by this?
Picture of the Day: Zhou, a la Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, shows no bounds in her love for as many different types of animals possible.