25th December – Mt Cook

Merry Christmas!

Considering how busy some people were last night, everyone’s surprisingly chipper this morning.  I’m feeling a little woozy, but power through it to go grab my ‘present.’

On Christmas Eve, Base had a promotion where if you brought down a clean sock, they’d give a ‘stocking filler’ in the morning.  At reception, this greeted everybody coming downstairs.

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So for Christmas, I got some sweets, some sunscreen, a pen and a bunch of Base/Queenstown money off vouchers.  Yay!

The other good news is I’m back with Lolly until Christchurch.  She’s doing the next leg of the journey and has decked out the bus appropriately.  Every seat has a small collection of chocolates and candy, and we have a tree and tinsel prepared.  She’s also arranging a Christmas picnic so we don’t have to worry about food at $10 each.

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Since its Christmas, everything is closed, but Lolly still finds one shop for us all – the fruit stand we stopped at before.  I take the chance to grab some more dried mango and a lemon, since that woozy feeling is getting worse.  She also tosses round the clipboard for rafting tomorrow, which I sign up for.

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For lunch, we’re stopping at the shore of Lake Pukaki, with Mt Cook in the distance.  The water is stunningly blue, and if I was feeling even slightly better than I was (and had known it was coming and made a point of having a change of clothes), would have jumped in.  As it was, only one person risked it – a guy on the bus who has quite literally jumped into every pool of water he’s come across.

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Lunch consisted of baguettes and sour dough bread, with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, sundried tomatoes, brie and a few different meats that we could throw together.  We also had chips and a bunch of different dipping sauces, as well as several packs of biscuits.  There was enough for everyone to get at least two decent sized sandwiches, and then we started pigging out on the big box of cherries Lolly bought from the fruit store.

Unfortunately, this is the point where my wooziness turns into straight on sick.  I don’t know what’s happened to me, but I’m assuming food poisoning from the less than perfect refrigeration some of my food has experienced lately.  It was less than an hour from our accommodation at that point, but I feel awful.

So awful, that once we get to our stop, I tell Lolly I’m not entirely sure I CAN go rafting tomorrow.  I really want to do it, but my body is shutting down.  I really don’t want to spend $200 if I can’t enjoy the experience.  She says I can take my name off, and if I feel better tomorrow I can sign up again last minute.

Our accommodation for the night is by far the swankiest I’ve stayed in.  Mt Cook Backpacker Lodge has some spectacular views, and despite having dorm bunk beds, has a bath in the bathroom.  An actual bathtub!

Unfortunately, this is the point I discover that I’ve left ALL my shower toiletries at Queenstown.  Including my very expensive keratin hair treatment, so I have to borrow someone else’s shower gel and find a place to buy my own soon.

At 3, Lolly drives any of us interested over to the walks near Mt Cook (saving us about half an hour of walking).  We can either do the Hooker Valley Walk, or a very steep walk up to some reflective lakes.  I choose the Hooker Valley Walk since it’s by far the calmest, and at this point I’ve thrown up twice so want something low maintenance.

That said, I’m clearly not at my best.  I’m currently not in the best shape, I can admit that, but I’m lagging a good ten minutes behind everyone else right now.  It’s supposed to be a 90 walk to the valley, but I’m definitely taking longer.

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The walk at least is a pretty nice once.  The area is filled with green bush and steep mountains still covered with snow.  There’s even a minor avalanche just as I turn a corner – it was out of sight but almost sounded as if it was going to drop on top of me.

When I finally make it to the end, my suffering is worth it, because the end of the trail reveals a lake teeming with icebergs, and yet more beautiful clear water.  Some of the more enterprising visitors have even made a stepping stone bridge to one of them, so if you’re willing to risk the icy slipway, you can get some pretty good photos.

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Coming back is thankfully less of a strain, because everyone’s taking their time and I have some company – plus it’s mostly downhill.  I end up breaking off just at the end though to check out the Alpine Memorial not far from the start.  This is a memorial dedicated to everyone who has died on the mountains in the area, and has a plaque for each one.  Mt Cook is considered by many mountaineers to be even harder than Everest to climb, just due to how hard the weather and terrain can be, and the surrounding area isn’t much better.  It’s not for the unprepared.

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Sadly, I see Lolly drive into the carpark when I’m still on the route, so have to leg it over the last 1600 metres (thankfully flat) to make sure I can get a ride back.  Do confuse one of the girls who had promised not to let the bus go without me when I end up on the bus before she does just due to where she was waiting, but only one girl goes unaccounted for (turned out she’d walked back earlier) and we head back.

The Lodge has a bar on its second floor, which also has a restaurant and a Christmas meal option.  When we checked in, we had three options.  Just buy a room for $35, buy a room, Wi-Fi and meal deal for $55, or buy a room for $35 and buy the Christmas special for $36.  I originally planned to buy the meal deal, but with me feeling how I did, I just bought a room and grabbed a mug of hot water and lemon.  Made my way through about 3 cups in the evening while everyone sat at the table waiting for their meals.  Lolly was a little horrified, but I wasn’t paying $15 for a meal (that did admittedly look very good and I WISHED I could have had) that I might not be able to keep down.

To be fair, the kitchen was probably relieved to have one less order.  They were the only place in the area open, and they had people from the neighbouring hotels and hostels coming in for dinner too.  Some of our group had to wait 20 minutes before they could even order, and still had a good 60-minute wait for their food after that.  It seemed crazy, especially as you’d think they’d be prepared to be busy on Christmas (if you’re the only available restaurant in a wide radius, of course you’ll be packed).  At least the food was good when it did show up (someone let me have two of his potatoes before the plate was taken away, and they were great (and stayed down, so yay for that!).

Once about 70% of the group had been served, I excused myself and headed down to the lounge area below to try and catch up on my blog.  The group had planned to come down and start showing up skydiving and bungy videos, but think everyone took so long to be served, that most of them just called it a night instead.

Tomorrow will be the last day with Lolly, as I’ll be stopping in Christchurch.  Fingers crossed I feel better.

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About Batale

I am an aspiring writer - though since I haven't written anything original in about 2 years, so calling me a writer is like calling a man who makes dinner every night a 5 star chef. I started this blog to force me to write. From the 1st January 2013, I intend to update this blog every day. If nothing interesting happens, I'll write about something that does interest me, whether that is a movie, a book, something I've heard about, or even some of my stories growing up.
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