my road trip with Jon started one Sunday evening.
we weren’t sure where to go first… we thought of passing through Akaroa and then drive towards Timaru to spend the night there, but the guy from the car rental company suggested we go towards the lakes (inland Canterbury) because it would take us 3 hours driving to and out of Akaroa and then a couple more hours to get to Timaru, when driving directly to Lake Tekapo would take us 3-4 hours.
so that’s what we did in the end, and since we needed to get to Queenstown to a party on Saturday, apparently we had a LOT of time to wander around before getting to our first final destination.
it would be my “second” time driving and Jon’s first. I had been in Chch for a little over a month which meant I knew the city a little bit better, so I was the one in charged of taking us out of it.
I was so tense… and the steering wheel was not aligned so we had to hold on harder bending it a little bit to the right… the weather was not helping either, a storm had started so it was raining quite heavily.
we got to a small town called Ashburton where we filled up the food stack and switched places in the car… bad idea (Jon is going to hate me for this if he reads it)… I was panicking… not that I am Fittipaldi or anything, but a 23 year old KID driving for the first time on the wrong side of the car, and on the wrong side of the road, while it was raining was a terrible mistake: one hand on the wheel, looking at the scenery, stepping on the white lines of the left side (my side) every now and then, sort of afraid when another car came the other way… he actually drove out of the pavement a couple of times stepping on the roadside grass… he was just very confident and that’s what freaked me out the most! so on next stop I told him how I felt and I continued driving for the day… and yes, like an old woman!
we got to Lake Tekapo at around 7. we drove to a backpackers where we got a tween suite with two beds and a heater… we went to the kitchen to prepare dinner, sat to decide where our next stop would be, and then used the computer to send couch surfing requests to people in Oamaru, where we would be arriving on Tuesday.
next morning we took our time to leave the hostel. we went to the small village to have coffee with our new friend from Ireland, Rachel. she is travelling by bus through the South Island and was leaving soon towards Wanaka and then to Queenstown. we then went back to the hostel to grab our stuff and check the couch surfing requests before leaving. we had one reply from a girl that seemed very cool, but she said she could not host us those days but that we should ask her friend, whom we will call Ursula, and so we did! then we drove to the parking lot of the hot pools to make a small walk up the hill and “see” all the lake and its beautiful surroundings… but, the weather was still shitty so we couldn’t really see much…
after this we drove towards Mount Cook.
Jon was driving all the time, he was more concerned this time which made me very happy.
we stopped on the iSite of Lake Pukaki to ask for info and admire the sort of turquoise colour of the lake… simply amazing!
then took the road towards Mt. Cook Village, we got there around 5:30 pm and it was already dark.
the YHA hostel there is beautiful! it’s a huge log cabin with lots of rooms and an enormous kitchen and lounge area.
after having dinner we sat in the lounge next to the fire. there we met 3 girls that were working there, one German, one French and one Estonian; there were also two young people traveling together like Jon and me, Tin (21, Danish) and Freddy (23, Swedish); and in our room was a very nice Italian that I brought to the international meeting in the common room, Gian Lucca.
next morning, after a shitty weather, we woke up to this:
we grabbed our stuff and got prepared to do the Hooker Valley Track. this track gets you to a lake on the skirts of Mount Cook, and it’s not really a track, it’s a walk… even my grandmother could do it, but it’s really nice.
we did the track with Gian Lucca. he is such a NICE person!!! I enjoyed every moment with him… great talks, good jokes, having fun taking pictures! I really, really liked him!
at the end we just sat down and enjoyed the view…
then we went back to the car with a new friend from the states, his name is Joe and he has been travelling all around the world… 43 years old, with a young spirit and mind, he doesn’t look his age AT ALL!
back in the hostel I checked my email and saw that Ursula had replied YES, but that she has no phone, no internet at home, and she forgot to give us her address. so I sent her another message with the hopes of her reading it on time asking for her address. we then said goodbye to our new friends, I was sad to let Gian go… he is travelling the opposite direction that we are, but we gave each other heads-up on what to see and we exchanged emails because we are both going p be in Melbourne the same dates! so hopefully I will see him again!
we then started our way towards Oamaru. I was driving this time.
we took a small detour to the Clay Cliffs, place recommended by Gian. it’s a crazy place, where the mountains have been sort of carved out creating stalagmites of mud. the Clay Cliffs are the result of millions of years of erosion on layers of silt and gravel that were exposed by the Osler fault line.
we didn’t stay there for a long time because we were afraid of the sun setting and not being able to see the elephant rocks near Oamaru.
so we continued our way…
when we got to the detour to go to the elephant rocks we started following the signposts… if there where any… and Jon was supposed to be the copilot, and read the map to get us to the different places we wanted to visit… after driving for a while we did a U-ey (U turn) because we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere and the signs were starting to get confusing, and then we got to a bigger road that seemed to be THE one, but now Jon was sleeping, the sun was setting and I was driving through the exit to the freaking elephant rocks because we were not going to be able to see anything, and I really wanted to get to Oamaru.
in Oamaru we stopped at the McDonald’s to have free wifi, and why not, a burger now that we were there… after all, accommodation was going to be free… or was it…
Ursula had NOT replied anything!!!
we texted the friend that recommended her to us, we sent several last-minute requests to hosts in the city, I even texted Lizzie because I knew that Mark’s family was from Oamaru, so maybe they could find us a place to stay? NOTHING… NADA… we were homeless… so we had to drive to a hostel and pay… after spending more than $10 in McDonald’s…
the hostel was nice, but I was gutted and tired, so I didn’t even try to socialise this time… everybody, including Jon, was watching a movie in one of the common rooms… antisocial karenula went to the empty common room upstairs.
next morning we got a message from one of the last-minute requests we sent. she asked us to come as soon as possible because she might have to go out… so we went to her house, which is quite near the centre, and saw this beautiful blue house with a garden that needed some care, but otherwise very pretty… we knocked on the door and waited for her to come open…
[here comes the good part (part one of the good part)]
she greeted us happily and with a big hug (I’m also a hugger so I found that really nice of her… kiwis don’t usually do that with strangers). she’s a nice lady with half her teeth missing, crooked nose, and what seemed to be her somewhat-fat belly was something else that has been hanging there for a looooong time (if you know what I mean)… we entered the house, the first thing I saw was a box of rotten apricots right next to the main entrance, the smell was intense but it didn’t only come from that box… it was the house’s smell, of humidity and dust and fungus… there were boxes with stuff everywhere, all kinds of stuff… this woman is a hoarder! every room, every corner had something… many things… papers, books, old things, new things, antiques, clothes, fabrics, boxes, boxes, and boxes… we had to jump over things to get to another place… I remembered that on her profile she mentions she’s got a cat… well, I was afraid that the cat might be under the pile of sh…tuff! maybe the smell was not of an old house, might be from the cat rotting somewhere!!! I sort of didn’t want to stay there, but she had kindly texted me and it would’ve been very rude to visit her house and say no in the end… so we toughened up!
we went to the car to get our things and we tried to tell her we wanted to go to the centre, walk around, go to the supermarket and all, but she started talking about so many things… I honestly missed half of the conversation… I just got certain key things like “the Chch earthquake was a terrorist attack”, ” I don’t know if the earthquake set off the bombs or the bombs set off the earthquake”… “aura”, “reiki”, “light”, and “healing”… and all this time getting a step closer to the door to go out and do our stuff in the city.
when we finally got out of the house… we met the cat!!! I was so relieved!
and off we were to walk around Oamaru…
the town is beautiful! the architecture is very old, the buildings are made out of stone, so it’s a big change from what I’ve been seeing all around New Zealand – except for the broken buildings of Christchurch.
we stopped at the Salvation Army family store gym favourite stores in the world) to look for a cassette with cord to play our iPods in the car (yes… a car with cassette player)… and we couldn’t find one there, but we did find this (our new companion):
after a walk and lunch Jon decided to go to the movies, but I didn’t feel like it, so I went to the library to use the computers and start sending more couch surfing requests for Dunedin, where we would be arriving the next day. I then went to get the car to pick Jon up and go to the supermarket.
we got home and cooked for ourselves because our host had already had dinner, she had two friends there, one using a computer, another one watching TV, and our host using another computer too… we asked her if we could use her kitchenware to cook and she said “yes, but only if you clean them… and if you can clean my dishes too would be great”… no comments… then we sat and started talking more with her, I then made some tea and asked her if I could use her milk, she said it was her friend’s milk (the one watching TV), that I should ask him… so I went to ask him, saw that he had already a cup of some hot drink, he said I could use some of his milk, and when I came back to the kitchen I got told off “you should’ve offered a cup of tea to him too”, and I said “yeah, but I saw he already has a cup of tea”, and she said “well, next time you should offer”… again, no comments… she was a very nice lady but somewhat patronising, she had great stories to tell, about herself and the imaginary world she lives in, but she could be a little pain now and then.
after this, we didn’t want to be there anymore, so at 9pm we said goodnight with the excuse that next morning we were going to get up very early to see the sunrise in the Koekohe Beach.
[and here comes the other good part (part two of the good part)]
we got into the room, it was a 2X3 room with a small bed and barely any place on the floor (due to all the collection of stuff)… Jon had a sleeping bag so it was I who had to sleep in the bed… I honestly didn’t want to do that! we took a mattress out from the pile of mattresses that were my bed, and put it on the remaining spot of floor for Jon. then, when Jon was already tugged in his bag, I lifted the covers of the bed to get in, and… well… the dead cat would’ve been better… it was full of dust, and PUBES!!! they were not chest hairs, nor any kind of facial hair because they were right in the middle of the mattress… I started laughing madly! Jon had to get up to see it for himself! I could NOT believe this…. who knows how long those sheets had been there without being thrown into the washing machine… if she ever does that… if she even has one! and again, the whole smell of humidity and fungus was all around the room and the blankets and sheets… call me pedigree girl if you want, but THOSE are not sanitary conditions to live in… I toughened up… again… and decided to grab another cover and sleep on top of the bed not getting in it… but it was so early!!! we would have to pass out for nine hours not to notice where we were… but NO! Jon (aka Mr. Pee-Pee) woke up at TWO am to go pee and woke me up… he came back and he started snoring!!! I could not believe it! I was not able to sleep at all! with his snores and my imagination going to places where I could see the spores in the atmosphere going into my system… it was just too much… I started snapping my fingers to make Jon stop, but I only woke him up and made him grumpy haha… it serves him right, I thought… after four hours of making friends with the spores I was asleep again…but, o shit… it was time to wake up!
I grabbed my stuff and ran out of the house… I couldn’t stay there another minute… got into the car and started coughing… I felt ill, like if I had smoked three packages of cigarettes the night before… my lungs were whistling, my head hurt… it was bad! when Jon came into the car he just said “you don’t really realise what you are breathing inside the house until you come out and breathe AIR!”.
Jon drove this time.
we got to see the sunrise next to the Moeraki boulders.
I started feeling very nauseous, I really wanted to throw up… this was not right, how can that lady live there?!
the sunrise was beautiful! lots of beautiful colours, and is very interesting to see the boulders, naturally made by the ocean more than 60 million years ago… so beautiful!
we drove again and detoured to see Shag Point… oh yes, it exists, and no, we didn’t shag… it’s a beautiful drive next to the coast, and there were supposed to be penguins and seals, but we didn’t see any.
again we drove taking now and then the scenic routes marked on the map or on signposts… on one of them, we saw the signs of the Orokonui Ecosanctuary so we decided to visit it and see what it was all about.
it turned out to be a beautiful place! the building was amazing, combining wood, and steel, and containers… it was brilliant! the light that came through the windows and the orientation of the building to have the view to the park… it was all perfect! so perfect that I asked the woman from reception if she knew who the architect was… she gave me his name, phone number, and even told me the office is in the centre of Dunedin… very accommodating!
we then drove to Port Chalmers, which is the port city of Dunedin.
and then we got to the main city centre.
our first stop was the library to check our couch surfing requests… several people had replied that they couldn’t host us… we started sending requests to people in Queenstown, it was already Thursday and we were getting there on Saturday, so we’d better do it then.
while in the library I got two messages from two hosts in Dunedin. the first was from a girl named Maud telling us that she was able to host us, and gave us her address. the second one from a guy named Dan, a local kiwi that was willing to host us too, though he had a couple of surfers in his house at the moment. we said we already had a host but that we were in the library, so we asked him if he would like to join us for a coffee, and he accepted…
we met with him in the octagon, and he took us to one of his mates’ coffee shop. after that, he took us everywhere… he toured the city with us being a great guide! he would tell us curious facts, history facts, showed us his flat, inside the cathedral… he was awesome!
after our little tour with Dan, we went to the supermarket, bought a little snack and some things for dinner, and headed towards Maud’s house…
since we arrived there early we went to the beach to sit, have our lunch, and watch the sunset…
we then arrived to the house… it’s a beautiful little house on the hill with ocean view and an amazing garden. they grow their own veggies, have chickens, fruit trees… everything! I loved it!
and Maud is just awesome! she is a beautiful person in every aspect, I felt as though I’ve known her for a long time and that was a very nice feeling!
she prepared dinner for us with Jon as a helper… I didn’t do anything to be honest, but because I was told that everything was ok…
after dinner one of her flatmates came home, Dave. he sat with us and we were all chatting and drinking together all night!
they are both very pleasant people, warm, caring… it’s just delightful to be with them!
the next day we went to the city centre again…I called the architect’s office, and I was told that he was in a meeting but they took my name and number and said that HE will call me back. Jon wanted to be in the library all day so we went there. at around three pm I got the call from the architect… karenula had a date!
so then we had a quick lunch and Jon went back to the library and I walked to meet with Architect Tim Heath in his office.
I knocked on the door and the architect himself opened it. he greeted me shaking hands, and invited me to sit down… it was a very small but cosy office, apparently the only people working there are the architect, Hannah who was in the office too, and someone else that was not there for the moment. the three of us sat down to talk. Tim said “Hannah, this might be the closest we’ll ever get to Luis Barragan” I wanted to hug him!!! we started talking about a lot of things… I wanted to ask them so much of what they do and how they do it, but mainly I was the one being asked questions, about my travels, my life as an architect back home, what my plans were… they seemed to be very interested in this peculiar being from an exotic land that could speak their both languages: English and architecture. they started giving me advise on what to visit and where to stop in this trip with Jon. they even gave me a map where they highlighted all the routes I should take! they were very nice and I was very grateful for that. in the end we talked little about architecture, but enough to understand their design process and ideas… I REALLY liked them and what they do!
I met with Jon again. we went to the supermarket to buy dinner, it was our time to cook for Maud. we were going to make a typical kiwi dinner (and my favourite): stake with a side dish of pumpkin, kumara, and potatoes!
after dinner we grabbed the car with Maud and went to a bar where a local band was playing, it was the last gig of the band because the lead singer was going back to The States to live. the band was amazing! and the lead singer was sooooo cute! I fell in love a little bit… he had it all (even wife and kids)!!
after that we went to another bar where they had a Latin Night… so of course I was singing with all my strength “la vida es un carnaval” and all the Juan Luis Guerra y sus 4/40 songs… after dancing, and singing, and drinking Corona, we went back to the house to sleep.
next morning we said goodbye to our wonderful hosts! I didn’t want to leave, though Dunedin is not my favourite city (maybe because of the weather we had all the time: cold, windy, and cloudy), I did love what I lived and saw there for two days! I guess I would need to give it a chance… and, we drove to Queenstown to get to the party…
overall, this is how we moved in seven days: