Our one shower for the week, and the home of Tin Pan
Arrowtown, New Zealand
Vern: We left our freedom camping spot early without waiting for the kettle to boil and continued on the motorway to Queenstown. After an hour or so we passed a rest stop on the banks of Lake Wanaka. We stopped and stood in awe of the huge blue lake and the snow-capped mountains reflected in it. Then we noticed the faucet labeled 'Treated drinking water' and stood for a similar amount of time in awe of that. It's surprisingly hard to find clean water available in a spot where one can walk up to it and fill up a 5-litre tank without being judged, or escorted out. So we filled up the tank which feeds the sink in the car, and filled all the other water bottles we've been stockpiling, then had a coffee and enjoyed the lake some more.
We drove on and just as the road swung away from Lake Wanaka on our right, it clung to the shore of Lake Hawea on our left. This was great driving. The road rolled in to the town of Wanaka, on the banks of the lake of the same name, and the helpful woman at the I-site suggested the three-hour 'diamond lake' walk which takes one up to the top of one of the mountains which crowds round lake Wanaka. They always seem disappointed at the information centres when we ask about hikes which can be completed in a day. Generally rolling their eyes before politely explaining how to get to the trail-heads. Kiwis seem to be big fans of the multi-day trip, but we're paying for the van so paying extra (although they're surprisingly cheap) to stay in a mountain hut doesn't really suit us.
The walk took us up to the small and unimpressive Diamond Lake, then on to a very windy bench with a great view of Lake Wanaka and the mountain range and finally we scrambled up over mud and icy patches to the summit and were rewarded with a 360-degree view of natural splendour. Lakes, mountains, forests and snow: All there to be soaked up in a sweep-panoramic on our little Sony. It felt good and active and healthy to be hiking a lot again. Or I should say 'tramping' which is what Kiwi's call nature-walking. And with all the walking we've been doing, not to mention sleeping in a car, going days without a shower, raiding the 'reduced' shelf in stores and visiting scores of public toilets, there's no question about it - we are bona fide tramps!
After a reward cup of coffee and a scrumptious 'price-slashed for quick sale' banana cake, Andrea drove us two hours to Queenstown. We pulled into a Holiday Park (caravan/campervan park with showers, a kitchen and a lounge) and haggled to get $3 off the price. Then we had our first warm showers since we'd returned to New Zealand. It was glorious and we both returned from our respective bathrooms grinning widely. We cooked a hot meal quickly and easily and huddled up on a comfy couch in front of the fire to watch the opening ceremony of the Rugby World Cup, and the All Blacks take on Tonga.
The following morning we woke up late, had a leisurely breakfast (still cornflakes, but leisurely) and made use of the boiling water on tap to have three cups of coffee. We followed this with two more nice long showers. We figure you can space bank showers - if you take two or three in a row, that should last two or three days. Right?! The weather was still terrible so at a little after 1pm, we walked into Reception with a list of questions about Queenstown starting with what you can do on a rainy day. The owner started answering question one, but stopped abruptly and tendered a question of her own, "Are you staying another night?"
"No thanks, we'll be leaving today" I answered friendly.
"Because checkout is at ten AM" she hissed.
Whoops! Three hours over and we're standing there wet haired and fragrant from our illegal showers. That ended our line of questioning and we back-pedalled round the elephant in the room and out the door. We darted out the door and sped off in the campervan before she had time to summon her husband to confront us about paying up for overstaying.
We tried and abandoned a short walk along the waterfront of Lake Wakatipu because the weather was terrible and then sought refuge in McDonalds where the free WiFi allowed us to communicate with the real world for a bit. Afterward, feeling a little guilty about not sight-seeing, we drove to nearby Arrowtown - a small olden-day style town with wooden buildings and old fonts, it was set against an array of autumn colours even though it is supposed to be spring. It was alright, a little try-hard perhaps. In Arrowtown is the restored Chinese Mining Town - excavated and restored as part of an apology for treating Chinese immigrants poorly in the 1800s. A few shacks have been restored, including that of a man named Tin Pan, which seems convenient for a man who makes his living gold-panning, and the home and store operated by Ah Lum, who could speak both Chinese and English and acted as a go-between between the two cultures. It was an interesting little history lesson and worth the short walk.
We decided we'd return to Queenstown later in the hope of better weather and got back on the southern highway to Te Anau (the closest town to Milford Sound). Shortly after dark, we pulled over at a rest stop and set up camp. It was a small piece of land seemingly cut out of a cattle-ranch and it stunk of manure. After I thought about it for a bit, I realised that I probably only noticed the stench because I was so clean. I wondered if all the previous times that we'd pulled over near a farm, the sheep and cattle had been balking at our odour!