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December 20 2023, Magdalen Hut to Lewis Pass Road:
Today was town day and it was hard for me to enjoy the section coming into Boyle Village as I found myself so in my head about timing. I felt hangry and annoyed that I was going to be late. Funny because there was no such thing as being late, yet the concept of time was often a triggering perception for me. I could tell Orange felt that off of me, too. I guess there were still some things that were apparently uptight about my personality.
I walked into the outdoor center before the main road to pick up the tent that Angus had sent me. The guy at the front desk had warm eyes and a sweet smile for me. He looked at his clipboard.
“Box number 100,” he said.
We went in the back to pick it up. He couldn’t believe how light it was.
“Is there anything even inside of here?” he asked.
“Zpacks tent,” I said with a chuckle.
I opened it up and hugged the tent in joy. I was so stoked to have my own personal space again, a much needed luxury for me.
Ben popped out of the blue as I was rearranging my pack. He happened to stay there over night and must’ve overheard us rustling around outside of his room. He gave us hugs then asked if he could hitchhike to town with us. Of course we couldn’t say no.
We walked up to Lewis Pass Road and all of us started hitching. It was four of us so it was a little complicated but I didn’t mind because I had a book with me, the author being Sylvia Day, whom I had become obsessed with and now completely hooked on. Lenses joked that all the photos she had snapped of me was of me reading my book in various places, including while trying to hitch a ride.
Eventually, we all got hungry and snacked on some crunchy peanut butter that Lenses still had left at the bottom of her jar. She came in to save the day with that one since we all ran out of food to absolute nothing. Orange rummaged through his pack then whipped out some dark chocolate caramel squares and all of a sudden we were good for a while longer. The hanger had momentarily subsided.
As we were hitching, a car pulled over on the other side of the road and dropped off Mountain Ninja! We reunited with hugs and she was off on trail again.
“We’re never going to see her again,” I said, knowing she was a speedy hiker.
Shortly after, a guy pulled over gesturing the sign number two, indicating he could only fit a couple of people in his car. Orange and I hopped in and told the group we would get accommodations taken care of. The driver had a teenie weenie little puppy dog that I found to be adorable. It weighed barely nothing, was the color of salt and pepper and could easily have been disguised as a stuffed animal.
We got dropped off at the junction for Hanmer Springs and Christchurch. From there, we got a ride by two Dutch guys who were a gay couple. I told them I was Lithuanian to which the guy pointed to his hat that read: Lietuva. What a synchronicity! They spent a good amount of time in Lithuania and absolutely loved it!
They dropped us off at Kakapo Lodge and we waited for our tramily to arrive. They had gotten a ride five minutes after us so we didn’t wait long. Once they were in the lobby, we tried getting our room situated. The owner offered Orange and I a bed and the rest of the group bunks. I shook my head ‘no’ and asked her if I could get a bunk instead as I wanted my own space.
We paid to stay for two nights, then all met up in the lobby about an hour later to walk to the restaurant together. Orange overhead an older gentleman talking to Lenses about butterflies. Turned out he knew the guy and happened to be a family friend!
The Butterfly Man, as he liked to call himself, hugged Orange and patted his back while saying, “Here’s what I learned about life. If ya talk to people, ya make connections.”
He felt grateful to bond with all of us, then left to go search for butterflies in the New Zealand mountains.
As we walked over to the town center, Orange and I agreed it had a similar energetic and visual feel to that of Big Bear, CA. There were large pines around the area, dropping pinecones along the streets with the scent of resin in the air. Home.
At the restaurant, we all got beef burgers. Ben’s came out much earlier than ours so we all stared at his food impolitely. I pointed out how it had cheese deliciously melting on the side and all he could say was, “Oh. My. God.”
He looked at it as if he had seen the most awe-striking woman in the world. When ours came out, we all started ravenously eating at the same time, moaning in utter enjoyment from each bite.
Ben goes, “I wonda what it would be like if there was a table sitting next to us just watching and listening to us eat. They probably would think we neva had a burga before.”
Then, we were on our way to get some ice cream when a guy aggressively approached us. At first we thought he was a homeless guy about to ask us for money. I could tell by his accent he sounded a bit European so I asked where he was from.
“Kazakhstan,” he said.
He said he also spoke Russian, so I said “I don’t understand Russian” in Russian because that was the only sentence I knew. Then he started having a full blown conversation with me in Russian and I repeated I didn’t understand what he was saying and that I spoke Lithuanian.
“Ukraine?“ he goes.
“No, Lithuanian,” I said.
He frustratedly gestured smoking a cigarette to us.
Ben goes, “I don’t smoke.”
“No no,” I said, “I think he’s asking for a cigarette.”
Eventually we guided him to a place where he could buy one, then told him ‘thank you’ or ‘you’re welcome’ in Russian because I didn’t remember how to say ‘goodbye’ in the moment. I thought it was cool and funny how language barriers worked, always getting a kick out of the experience of not being able to communicate clearly.
We walked into the ice cream joint and I could already tell that I would love the guy just by the way he looked at me. Sinister eyes. Flirtatious smile.
“I saw your ice cream through the window and I just had to get some!” I exclaimed.
“Come get a closer look,” he said with a suggestive smirk.
“Mm, do you guys have whipped cream and sprinkles?” I asked as I gently tilted my head.
He laughed and said, “No, we don’t have that here. What flavor ice cream would ya like?”
“Either chocolate or coffee. Can’t pick. Surprise me.”
He gave me both and I was happily surprised.
“Spoiled ya with both since we didn’t have sprinkles for ya,” he said with a wink.
Mm, what else could you spoil me with? I thought to myself.
We went to the library to hangout then I got a free book from a tiny little old school telephone booth that was refurbished. Afterwards, we went back to the room and waited out the heat, then naturally gathered our group together again for dinner. Everyone decided on Indian. I was holding my boobs as I read the menu plastered on the wall beside the restaurant. Something about that action helped me think. I opened the door to find three of the workers smiling profusely at me. Apparently there was a window there the whole time.
I saw some giant pieces of chips in a basket and curiously asked what it was. They gave it to me to eat. I tried it but didn’t like it so I secretly gave it away to the group as to not offend the people who made it. Everyone ordered takeout and we took it out to eat at a picnic table beside the park. I got a half gallon of cookies and cream ice cream for us to share. It was delightful but they definitely skimped us on the cookies.
I loved the little tramily we had formed. We were full of laughter and joy for our time together. Ben decided to stay one more night with us because he was having so much fun. After we ate, I had the group hug the giant pine tree for a picture. They weren’t as fond of it as I was, but that was alright.
As we were walking home together, I felt happy. I thought of Voodoo, I thought about how exhausted I felt this summer. I thought about the sadness in my eyes and the depletion of energy I felt. And today, I felt grateful that I had a full smile and eyes watering from so much joy. Instead of wiping tears of sadness from my face, I was wiping tears of happiness. I felt grateful I was surrounded with good people and that I was simply feeling good again. That in itself was a huge blessing and I was all of a sudden willing to take it day by day.