Holy men and mountains

Mount Cook

Because I don’t have a car, some places in New Zealand are less accessible to me. I already showed you you can get quite far by hitchhiking, but sometimes it’s fun to have company for longer than just one car ride.

This is where Facebook comes in. There are several New Zealand Backpacker Facebook groups where people ask for rides, sell stuff or a looking for travel buddies. I joined a couple of those and saw a message from a certain Amaury, saying that his travel mate had to get back earlier than expected and that he had space left in a trip to Arthur’s Pass. I heard that was supposed to be a beautiful place, so I messaged him that I’d like to join him.

We had great fun chatting and it seemed like it was a done deal. But before we left he had to tell me about his job. His job might change my mind about joining him apparently. I wondered what job was so vile that it turned others away, more and more curious.

He was a priest. A priest in the French Army. I told him as long as he won’t try to convert me I’m fine. The day before we left, he messaged me that he had found an extra travel partner: Elodie, also from France. Now I was afraid that they would be speaking french all the time! I didn’t need to worry though, they both spoke English very well and even talked English when not directly addressing me.

Fun fact: My accent is so atrocious that almost every person I meet immediately knows I’m from the Netherlands and I am mortified.

In Arthur’s Pass we had a nice little cottage between the mountains and I had a room all to myself for the first time since I left home. There is not much more to do in the Pass than hiking, so hiking we did.

There was a track that was supposedly very difficult but that we wanted to try anyway. When Elodie and I got there the next day, it turned out you were just sort of supposed to go straight up the mountain via a “stairs” made of tree roots and rocks. For some reason, we did it anyway and we were NOT disappointed.

View of Arthur's Pass

We didn’t do the whole track because at the top there was nothing to hold on to and I could feel my legs tremble already, so we made the same way back down and did another, more flat, track after a bit of rest.

The next day we went back to Christchurch with the Transalpine Express to pick up a rental car to drive to Lake Tekapo. I had really wanted to go there because it is a Dark Sky Reserve, which means it has some of the darkest skies in the world. Amazing for stargazing. We even booked a tour and everything.

Lake Tekapo is so blue, absolutely batshit crazy.

Lake Tekapo

We explored the place while we were waiting for the tour the start at two am. I had found myself a dark spot already to gaze up at the stars which was a good thing because at 01.40 am I got a text that the tour was cancelled because of the weather! We were thinking about shifting it to the next day, but when we woke up it was pouring rain. We cancelled the whole thing and I thought that was it.

After Lake Tekapo, we drove on to Mount Cook. The weather gods were favouring us once more and under the blue sky, we could see the snow-capped mountains in the distance

Lake Pukaki

Driving up to the mountains was an amazing sight. After we dropped off our stuff we walked to a glacier lake and I couldn’t believe it.

What I also couldn’t believe, was that when we came back we met a Swiss girl who had given Elodie a ride at some point and who was going to some astrophotography that night. I quickly asked if I could come along and I could! At ten pm we drove to a field some way out of the “village” (which was just a couple of hotels and motels) and set ourselves up for stargazing. I want to thank her for the amazing photos.

Starry Sky Tasman Valley

The next day we left early to get back to Christchurch where I had to say goodbye to my travel buddies. I had the best time spending a couple of days with them, so if they read this: Thanks!

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