Reached Lake Tekapo couple of days and it is spectacular, a tiny village on one side the lake and surrounded by mountains. I reached in the afternoon via Bus from Christchurch, it is about 3 hours and the south island’s landscape is amazing, lot of sheep grazing on the open fields.
Weather in the area is unpredictable and changes very quickly. I was welcomed by rain when I arrived and had to walk a bit to reach the hostel. Room was small and sharing with five other people but the location was unbeatable, right on the edge of the river and you can see the blue water of the lake and snow peaked mountains from the lobby. As I was settling down another guy from Finland showed up and we started talking after exchanging initial pleasantries and he had been traveling for a while in New Zealand for about two months and had worked in farms and interestingly he was a sailor back home. We were in the kitchen preparing lunch and one Chinese girl asked if we want to hitchhike to Mt Cook the next day and I was like absolutely and Finesse guy was traveling to Christchurch in the morning. Rain had stopped and we decided to go for a walk around the lake and another girl from Spain joined us and everyone was interested in culture in home countries so it was not a quite walk, everyone asking all type of random questions to each other. When it started raining again we decided to go back and when we reached the hostel it was full of people and everyone was hanging out in lobby and kitchen and it was loud.
Our room was full as well and now I was sharing the room with people from France, Germany, Spain, Finland and Kiwiland (local) and since the rain was getting heavy outside and temperature dropping everyone was getting cozy in their blankets and someone broke the ice and all started talking and after the first round of where you from, how long you been traveling here, where you going next the conversations moved to music, languages etc. and the whole room bonded. It is quite fascinating how quickly from complete strangers few hours ago one moves to a very friendly comfort zone in a foreign land. Only the French girl was spending one extra day and rest everyone was continuing their travels next day and I told her she is welcome to join the hitchhiking trip tomorrow which I am doing with the girl from China and it would the first time in NZ for each one of us.
We met in the kitchen in the morning during breakfast decided to head out around 10am for the hitchhiking adventure to Mount Cook which is about 100 kms south from Tekapo and takes about 1:30 hours. We stood in the direction of Mt. Cook on the main road thumbing down to the vehicles going south, some ignored us, some smiled, some were sorry as they had no space. We were waiting and talking about the next plan if we don’t get a ride for hours what we are going to do and it might be easier if do it one by one as finding a ride for all three might be tough. We made a process to smile big and thumb to every passing vehicle and the traffic was very light. After waiting for fifteen minutes we thought we might not get lucky today and we were switching from talking with each other to full attention smile mode as soon we saw a vehicle and then resumed talking once the vehicle passed and as we saw this car we got in our process and it passed and three of us looked at each other asking how long should we be trying and the car stopped few meters away and I screamed run, he stopped. We were ecstatic and the driver asked where were we going, we said Mt. Cook and he said he is going further down and we requested if he can drop us at the intersection of the road which goes to Mt Cook and it was about 50kms from where we were standing and he was like sure, come on in. Each of us thanked him like few times as soon we sat in the car and he was driving from Christchurch to Queenstown and he was Asian decent but Kiwi now. We had to wait for about 25 mins. He dropped us at the intersection and we thanked him again, we passed a beautiful lake just before the intersection and we decided to walk to the lake and it was about 30 mins walk but the lake was beautiful. On the way back to the intersection, middle of no where we were hoping we get a ride soon. It was about noon and very few vehicle passing by and very very few turning towards our destination. We applied the same process and someone will shout hey car is coming this way, stand up, be ready, smile and we were loosing hope after 30 mins and then one Asian guy stopped and he was Chinese and the girl spoke with her and he agreed to give us a ride and we were doing hi-fives and guy cleared his backseat and moved all his stuff to the trunk. We thanked him few times when we were settling down in the back seat and he replied he was also a backpacker and know the feeling, it was nice. It’s amazing how one pays it forward. He was from China but now settled in Singapore and traveling with his wife for couple of weeks.
We reached Mount Cook village, it is in a magical setting, landscape which can not be captured in words, huge mountains all around and in between this beautiful valley and this tiny village. Few clouds over the mountains and sun playing hide and seek, it looked unreal and we were in awe. It started raining when we reached the visitor center and were told we can’t do hiking as all the trails are closed and since it is raining now we don’t have many options. We shared a very expensive pizza at the only cafe and waiting for rain to stop and hoping to find a ride back soon. It was about 2.30 now as we started walking down the street, taking pictures and appreciating the magicness of the place. We were worries that if it starts raining again and if we don’t find a ride back before dark we don’t know what we can do as all our stuff was in hostel at Tekapo. We reached the intersection of the local road and the main road towards the intersection we got the second ride. The very first camper van stopped and we had mastered the process by now, synchronizing thumbing and smiling. The guy asked where were we going and we all were on our way to Lake Tekapo only problem was he did not had seats at the back but a mattress so the girls sat on the back and I did all the chatting upfront. He was from Australia and we were his redemption as he told he was not able to pick hitchhiker yesterday because he was running late and felt bad. He told me in NZ you can rent spaceships, its the name of the camper van and it has a big mattress at the back and it is good for two people. We were back to our hostel by 5 and it was pretty impressive.
I had already made up my mind when I was in Christchurch to hitchhike the remaining south island after I leave Lake Tekapo and I don’t have anything planned. I also made a hitchhiking sign in Christchurch with help from the Superman who made the sign more artistic.
Pictures don’t do justice but here is Lake Pukaki
Mount Cook Area