- "Happy Birthday", by Stevie Wonder
Solo travel has its perks, but there’s nothing like a great travel companion to really make an awesome roadtrip.
I am being joined for the next two weeks by a friend from Hawaii, the beautiful Kapuaola Gellert [or just Ola for short], who is an Epedemiologist currently working and conducting medical research on the tiny island of Molokai. She also happens to be a mad keen Waterwoman: StandUp Paddling, Outrigger Canoes, Surfing, and anything to do with ocean sports are the loves of her life.
So at 10.26am I meet her at Christchurch airport’s baggage claim, we pick up our $5/day relocation rental special [Toyota Previa family van] and head towards Lake Tekapo. We’ve got 48 hours to complete the journey and deliver the vehicle back to the depot at Queenstown Airport.
Breakfast [at noon] is a smoked chicken panini with blueberry salsa and melted camembert cheese from Vic’s [again!], where we make more new friends at the table. Apparently, in Christchurch you make friends by slamming down your table number to startle your neighbors… Anna and Paul are studying Organic Horticulture and turn me on to some key people and places to visit while I am here.
The 3 hour drive to Tekapo takes us through the rolling green pasturelands of Central South Island. The cloud cover is low, muting the colors and swallowing the hilltops. Sheep, cattle, deer and lamas munch and stare as the kilometers easily tick past, and before we know it we round a sweeping corner and are greeted with an epic turquoise view of Lake Tekapo.
After a good hour taking photos on the shoreline behind the iconic Church of the Good Shepard, we check into The Chalet, a cozy little boutique inn run by Swiss-expat couple Walkter and Zita. The couple has been here since 1987, and show us the available rooms with obvious pride –Zita has designed each one herself. We drop our bags and head to the Alpine Springs Spa and Winter Park for a Skate‘n’Soak.
Two Hawaiians on an ice rink? Trouble. Luckily, there is only one spill between us [me of course], and the rink is empty so as to minimize the risk of us mowing down any unsuspecting skaters.
The natural hot spring waters are slightly salty, and wonderfully steamy in the cold night air. There are three pools ranging in temperature from 36 – 40C degrees; we choose the warmest pool to soak our tight hamstrings and watch a group of backpackers flirt with each other across the way. Ah, the simple voyeuristic pleasures of people watching…
Dinner is at Pepe’s pizza and pasta tavern: one large handmade pizza, half venision [with BBQ sauce and roasted kumara] / half lamb [with mint jelly and roasted potato] with a pint of Speights cold ale to wash it down please. Lamb and venision pizza… only in New Zealand.
BEN AND JUAN FROM GREAT BRITAIN
Two friendly Brits, Ben and Juan join us at our booth and we strike up the travelers conversation: where you from, where you been, where you goin’…? Turns out they have been on the road for 5 months now, and have covered the skifields of Europe, the backpacker treks of Southeast Asia, the trails of Nepal, the suburbs of Sydney, and are now in search of the magnificent scenery and powder snow of New Zealand. It’s also Ben’s birthday, so we end the night with a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday [the traditional version, seeing as no-one knew the words to the Stevie Wonder version], and show some restraint by not dancing on the tabletops per his request.
Happy Birthday Ben!
THE WATERS OF LAKE TEKAPO REALLY ARE THIS COLOR!
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