After an hour’s delay at Wellington airport they got on the speaker and were basically like, “Yeah, Queenstown is closed, we’re flying you to Christchurch and after that you’re on your own, good luck with that.” All these rumors were flying around the terminal about which roads were closed and about how maybe we could get flown to Invercargill or maybe we’d have to stay overnight in Christchurch or maybe no one would be getting to Queenstown at all ever, which was going to be very inconvenient for everyone, considering that it was the Winter Festival weekend and all. I texted Mat. I texted Lydia. I texted Laura. I texted A. I texted my mom. I got on the plane and figured I’d decide what to do once I was physically on the South Island.
After standing in various lines for a while and hearing more rumors about what was closed and what required snow chains and what was absolutely impassible, I decided to meet up with Mat—last seen here in Wellington for the Cuba Street Carnival in February–in town and drive down with him and his friend Mark, who was so insanely keen to go skiing the next day he’d mapped out this weird alternative route to Queenstown that basically involved driving around the whole east coast of the South Island. Somehow, twelve hours later (it’s usually a six hour trip) we made it there, and after spending a night in the filthiest flat that has ever spawned a colony of boy-fungus, this is what I woke up to:
My good friend Lydia was already in town and we finally met up on Saturday afternoon.The Winter Festival was postponed because no one could get in, and so we just saw a movie and talked for about eight hours straight that night, a trend we would continue for the rest of the week. Queenstown is really small and very much a resort town; there are the rich people staying at the beautiful high-end resorts and then there are about eight thousand backpackers, all ruining their tires by neglecting to take their snow chains off in town. It was really freezing cold and since we weren’t skiing we just kind of wandered around looking at stuff for a couple of days.
There were a bunch of people with Star Wars costumes who had come for the big parade that was now canceled, so they just wandered the streets and posed for pictures with people. I had my picture taken with Darth Vader and that was fine but I realized what I really wanted was to swing across a canyon with Princess Leia hanging on to me. Since there were no canyons to be found, I settled for pretending I was old Ben Kenobi instead. The stormtroopers played along with perfect seriousness and said “You can go about your business” and so we did.
We ran into other people we’d met at various times backpacking, including a boy from Christmas In Whitianga and another boy from the hostel where Lydia’d lived for a couple of months in Wellington. This latter boy, Robbie, did a night time bungy jump and we went up to the Ledge to see him do it.
I concluded, after watching him hurl himself off into the darkness above the town, that I am completely missing the adrenalin rush gene and was very glad to just look over the edge.
And to throw snowballs, of course.
Sunday night—because every night in Queenstown is going-out night—we all went out dancing. Lydia and I were sharing a room with a couple of fun Canadian girls and one of them lent me a tube top and Lydia lent me an awesome shell necklace she got in Australia and we all got ready together, dancing and singing to Beyonce and Justin Timberlake and putting on lipgloss and eventually ending up at the silliest of all silly backpacker bars, where everyone was drunk and twelve years old and drinking vodka and Red Bull from china teapots. I was very nervous about this tube top thing but I tugged it up from my armpits and went to town, shaking my booty for at least two hours before I realized how thirsty I was, and then downing a liter of water and getting back up on the floor to shake it some more. Usually for me the getting ready part is actually the most fun part of a night out but this time I just decided not to care about the multiple decades older I was then everyone else or that I was the only one not drinking or that I had to keep tugging up my tube top and just shook it and shook it and shook it. People kept screaming at me that I could pull any of the multiple youngsters hovering around me and attempting to hump my leg, but I didn’t even try. I just danced and sweated and had an excellent, if ridiculous, time. Sadly, no pictures of the booty-shaking exist, such a thing being probably impossible to capture on film, I’m sure, but here’s a picture of me and Lyds before we went out, looking a little unsure as to what the night holds in store for us.
Monday morning Mat had to head back to Christchurch so we all said goodbye that night and got a few hours of sleep before packing up the car the next morning and heading over to Dunedin for the next installment of our South Island adventure.