Hostel Hopping, Otago, New Zealand
Showers had become optional. Breakfast had become minimal; hot water, instant coffee and biscuits. I wore the same pants pretty much every day, and I slept well. By day 9, hostel hopping had become surprisingly hat. I adopted a nightly routine not so different from that at home – grocery shop, cook dinner, pour glass of wine, nerd out on laptop, march around in pjs, brush teeth, climb into bed, pass out. Unlike at home, every night I was meeting new people, cooking dinner with new friends, or exploring the urban layout of whatever city I happened to be in. I slept in a room with five other people who were guaranteed to either snore, sleep talk, wake up at ungodly hours or stumble around at 4am and flip on all the lights. I never really knew what I was getting myself into – and it took some getting used to – but I was beginning to love the simplicity of living on so little. I was especially in love with laundry day - a lot like Christmas morning when you’re living out of a backpack.
After three days in Wanaka, I packed up and drove to Otago, from Wanaka to Arrowtown, over the crown range instead of around. I stopped at Postmasters to see Maria, a friend I had met in Argentina four years ago. We reminisced over backpacking Buenos Aires while sipping flat whites. As we said goodbye, she suggested I hike Tobins track before making my way to Queenstown. I parked the car and crossed the Arrow River, then began the steep trek uphill along the track. I reached a bench at the top, unoccupied and perched at what seemed like the top of the world, overlooking all of Arrowtown and the Wakatipu basin. I retraced my steps and made the short drove to Queenstown, where I checked into another YHA lakeside hostel. (YHA is tops, by the way...should you ever find yourself in New Zealand). I met two girls from Korea and we cooked some food together, without speaking a word of common language.
I ran into Karlijn in the hallway, a twenty-something from the Netherlands who I first met in Wanaka. Despite my lack of snowboarding skills (and most skills snow-related), I committed to boarding the Remarkables the very next day. Karlijn and I walked into town and picked out our rental gear, then left the next morning at 6am for an hour-long bus ride up the mountain and into the most beautiful snowy sunrise I have ever seen. I managed to survive the green slopes in one piece, though I should admit that every single time I stepped off the lift, I crashed into a heaping mess and took everyone down with me. Exactly one guy made it off the lift without a beat. Thankfully, no one seemed to mind, and one 12 year old was sweet enough to stay by my side as I scooted down the mountainside. We piled back onto the bus after six hours in the snow and cheered to our collective survival. Queenstown struck me as the sort of place I could most definitely live, and love till the end.