January 17th (late)
It was a long drive back to Queenstown but I made it back to the rental car place in time. Caught the bus back to the center of Queenstown and went to my hostel. Dropped my bags and went out for a walk.
Since I no longer had a cup, I decided to stop into the shop where George bought his tramping cup and grab one of my own. Hopefully this one lasts a little longer than my last two Kathmandu cups. 😀
The sunset that evening was a bit gloomy but pretty in its own way.
I was up early to catch the Stray bus back to Te Anau. Uneventful drive. I had already been over this road on the Intercity bus from Te Anau to Queenstown a few days earlier.
Arrived in Te Anau; I told the driver when I grabbed my bag that if all went well, I would be hopping back on the bus at the end of March.
I was tired and hungry and a bit anxious about going to the holiday park to get all settled in for the job. It was only about 11am, lots of time to get to the park and so I thought “coffee time.” I found a little cafe in town, got breakfast and a coffee, and then headed to the holiday park.
At reception, I talked to those people saying I had gotten work here and that I was supposed to start the next day (the 19th). They called the manager (it was his couple days off) and so he said that I would start on the 20th, and to get me settled in my room. I asked what I should do between now and then and they said just chill and that the couple of days where I wasn’t working would be taken out of my pay. Hmm, that was slightly encouraging only in that they didn’t say anything about accommodation being charged while working there.
So, I got the key to my room and headed over to get settled. I was hoping that the staff accommodation would be almost as nice as the backpackers accommodation we had stayed at a few days earlier. It wasn’t. It was just alright. I pulled some things out of my backpack, walked around a little bit, and then went and took a nap for a couple of hours.
When I checked my email, the contract was there and so I decided to read through it when I finally went out for dinner later that evening. Reading through this contract just hit home a little too hard. I would be seriously bound to actually stay here and work for 8 weeks… Oh, wait. The end date was wrong. Part of the contract was regarding accommodation: it was going to be approximately $120/week off of my paycheck.
I’m thinkin… I’m thinkin….
Hmmm…. what to do with myself today. If I’m going to settle here, I should probably go spend some money on groceries. But, about this time, I just started to get really, really anxious. My mind started racing. How much am I really going to save considering I’ll be buying groceries and accommodation will be coming out of my pay? Is it really worth my time to stay here? I’m going to be legally bound and make myself look really bad if I break a contract (even a short-term, temporary, seasonal work one) and leave early. The end date in the contract is wrong even though I clearly and up-front told the manager that I would be leaving at the end of March; the end date in the contract was end of April. That morning I had gone to a common area to get wi-fi because it wasn’t currently working in the staff building. While there, I saw one of the staff walking to the reception area with a plastic container with her lunch inside. What does this mean for me? Don’t the staff get time off for lunch? They must. But the staff I talked to didn’t mention it, the manager didn’t mention regular lunch time, and I don’t recall any lunch time being specified in the contract… what? Yea, I probably could have easily ironed this out by talking to the manager but in the middle of a small anxiety attack, I wasn’t thinking that I wanted to iron it out. I just wanted to escape.
I started feeling like I was going to be trapped, unable to do anything or go anywhere and that after groceries and accommodation taken out of my pay, I wouldn’t really be saving much money after all. I don’t really like the kitchen. The speed at which these things are flying around my brain feels like a racecar on the Nascar track. I’m not seriously hyperventilating but slightly. I’m talking to a friend on the phone, I’m adjusting Stray bus schedule to see if I can actually hop on the bus that is leaving in a little less than two hours. I talk a little longer, my mind races a little longer, I hit save on the bus schedule changes I made to leave in about an hour now, I draft an email to the manager sincerely apologizing but I’ve changed my mind, I can’t stay. I’ve packed my stuff, I’ll pay for my night’s accommodation, and I’ll be gone. I’m terribly sorry.
I get my things, pay for my one night accommodation, and leave as quickly as possible to walk the little distance to where the bus will pick me up. The bus was there, I talk to the driver and say “Hey, I’m back already.” I just want to get on the bus, sit by myself, and fade away. So now, I was realizing that I had no idea what I would do between now and end of March when I plan to go Nepal.
My friend is gone, my two girlfriends that were going to go to Nepal with me have backed out for different reasons. I’m back to going there on my own; back to traveling solo.
Back on the bus, we stopped in Manapouri; there is a beautiful lake there. We only stopped half an hour and I was in no mood to go swimming. My mind was swimming.
How am going to travel for 2 months without breaking my budget and ruining my future travel plans (Nepal then Europe)? I was feeling like this one decision spurred by a small fit of anxiety had just thrown all my travel plans very high into the air and I had no idea what was going to come out of it.
We continued on; heading to the “deep south” of New Zealand. I had decided to skip Stewart Island because I had heard that the ferry ticket (there and back) was $150+/-, that it wasn’t much different from Abel Tasman, and I was now trying to conserve budget. I’m in no mental frame of mind to be making go/no-go travel decisions. I’m completely emotionally drained, mentally exhausted.
We get to Invercargill and our accommodation about 3:30 or 4pm. Checked into my room. I put my backpacks down, I didn’t even change into pajamas. I just laid down on the bed, curled up, and remained awake for a little while but fell asleep probably by 5, woke up maybe once between then and midnight, woke at midnight, and maybe one or two more times in between then and morning.
Morning; approximately 6:30am, my phone starts ringing; Grandpa wants to video chat. It’s a good thing. I need to talk to family. We talked for about half an hour; I told him I was missing my friend, that my budget in the savings account was now all spent, that I didn’t know what I was going to do past the 26th basically, and that maybe, just maybe it was time I just go home.
I resolved I wasn’t going to go anywhere, or do anything outside the hostel that day. So, I have been to Invercargill, but I didn’t see anything there. Oh well. I checked out of my room, went down to the cafe on the first floor, found a table with a power outlet within reach of my tablet power cord, and just sat there all day. Working on my blog and maybe my journal.
At about 3:45, the bus came back from its little day trip and I hopped on. We had about a 4.5hour drive back to Queenstown for one night. I hopped on the bus, put my sunglasses on (maybe because the sun was coming and going).
Back in Queenstown, I didn’t feel like making my own reservation and so decided just to stay at Base Queenstown for the night. I could handle one night at this place; it wasn’t anything special but it got the job done. I got up to my first room and find that all the beds were taken. But nobody seemed to know this yet. So I kept asking “which bed is empty.” Finally, everyone in the room was there and beds taken. So, i went back downstairs, fuming, got a different key, and tried the next room. Got a bed.
Base Queenstown is basically party central so I didn’t get so much good sleep that night but oh well.
On to Mount Cook. Got up early again, packed my stuff, and went out to catch the Stray bus. We repeated the drive that we had taken on our road trip. The route wasn’t new. We did stop at Jones Family Fruit Stall in Cromwell where I got their ice cream with fresh fruit. I had heard that it was definitely worth getting; it was pretty good.
We stopped at a pull-off to take pictures of Lake Dunstan before heading further east on Route 8. We made a couple other stops in Omarama, and Lake Tekapo to drop a couple of people off, then continued up to Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook.
It was a beautiful day, but the Lake just wasn’t quite as electric blue as the very first time we saw it. We did stop to take a picture at a certain point where the road “ends” at the base of Mount Cook.
I didn’t say it wasn’t blue though. :-p
Kids, don’t try this at home. In order to get this shot:
We got to our accommodation: Mount Cook Lodge Backpackers which was easily one of the nicest accommodations so far. The view didn’t hurt either. I checked in, bought 24 hours of internet, and then talked with my Mom for about 45 minutes. Boy did I need that. Up until now, my head was in a dark cloud, I wasn’t thinking clearly and knew I shouldn’t make any rash travel decisions. I knew I needed to talk to Mom. She helped me get my head on straight again.
After we chatted, I went and walked Kea Point trail again because the sky was mostly clear, what clouds were there were very high, higher than the peak of Mount Cook. Yup, there was a clear view of Mount Cook today and at Kea Point, there is a beautiful view of the mountains.
Took a time-lapse video of the clouds approaching the mountain but never seeming to cover the peak of Mount Cook.
After returning from the walk, I cooked dinner, worked on my blog, and then got ready for bed.
Up early again this morning, we were continuing the drive to Christchurch.
I took a long walk around the city; I saw the “Cardboard Cathedral,” the 185 Empty Chairs which memorialize the 185 people killed in the earthquake, and the Botanical Gardens which had the largest and most beautiful hydrangea flowers I’ve ever seen as well as a phenomenal rose garden.
This was a huge tree that looked like someone had a continual twist on it while it was growing.
Leaving Christchurch the next morning, we had to pick up some new people from the airport. Guess what we passed on our way there!! The US National Science Foundation Antarctica Program building!! It was so cool!
We continued our drive up the coastal route that had recently been reopened. The road had been extensively damaged by the earthquakes and equally extensive roadwork was needed to make the roads passible. While work is not nearly complete, we heard that NZ had been doing round-the-clock work on the route in order to open the town of Kaikoura back up to tourism.
We stayed one night at the Dusky Lodge; mehh… Don’t stay there if you don’t have to. I was able to book my extra nights in Kaikoura at the Sunrise Lodge, almost just across the street. Highly recommend Sunrise Lodge. The place is immaculate, and it feels more like home than a hostel.
I booked my activity in this town (Whale watching) for the next day as I didn’t feel like racing off to an activity that I could do the next. I did run to the grocery store to get a few things, and then took a nap.I felt myself just slowing down and decided to lay down.