FRIDAY, APRIL 11,2008
Immediately after I checked in to the YHA I dropped my plastic bag and headed out the door to retrieve my suitcase and backpack, which had been stored at the other YHA in town which had more storage space. After I returned, I set about downloading my pictures onto the computer and preparing for another post to my blog. There is an internet café right next door here so that’s where I headed to inform the world that, yes indeed, I still existed. I returned to the YHA at about 9PM and went to my room where I stayed like a good little girl until morning.
This was supposed to be 3 days of R & R in preparation for the cycling tour, so I took advantage of my private ensuite room and slept in late. I was just preparing to go find a good cuppa when I thought I’d best bring with me my passport and other important stuff - like money! - that I had put in the plastic bag. (Don’t ask me why I put the money in the plastic bag,.I do do dumb things occasionally, but only when the negative consequences are really bad.) So I started to take things out of the bag, sure that it was all there somewhere…….. Somewhere……. Yes, it’s got to be there somewhere….. Ok, where is it? …. These things don’t just walk away. ….Right?…. Right?… Now I know I put it in here…. Ok, I’ll take everything out of the bag and sort through things one by one…. Ok, so it’s not here…. So I’ll take everything out of my suitcase and sort through it one by one. ..Not here. Ok I’ll take everything out of my backpack and look there. Oh God it’s not there, where can it be? Oh no, it’s not here, what has happened to it? Ok , let’s look once more. Ok, I’ll put everything out of the suitcase and put it back one by one. Ok, now the backpack. Now think…..when did you last see it? And so on and so on for 2 hours. Even the garbage was suspect.
When it became clear to me that it wasn’t here, and I didn’t want to think that it wasn’t, I decided I needed to go back to the tour company and see if anyone had found it and turned it in. Could it be on the bus? Could it be in the backpack? Or the small travel bag? The whole day was consumed with what ifs, could it, or is it possibles. But still no luck. I decided to take account of where I stood. I had approx. $NZ190 and one credit card. Making telephone calls cost $NZ5 per phone card. I used up 3 just trying to contact the American Consulate in NZ. I would call and get voice mail. That’s $2. Once, I got a real person and was in the middle of having her explain what I needed to do when………click. Time’s up. I called back after buying another phone card only to hear…..“Our offices are open………“ - obviously not now. That will be $3 please for that stellar information. My taxes at work. Grrrrr. That thought only served to increase my agitation.
Sigh, obviously this was a situation that I was not going to resolve on my own with phone cards so I headed to the internet café. First order of business, find out what the consulate needs to issue a passport. The connection was slow. The connection died. Won’t someone please help me? A geek came over and fiddled with the settings and, the part that always scares me, he writes code. On my computer. I hope I didn’t catch anything - like a virus. A minute later I’m connected again. Time is valuable here. I just can’t type fast enough. I can’t write what I find fast enough, and printing is $.30/pg. Next order of business, email home:
“FAMILY EMERGENCY. CODE ORANGE. PASSPORT, 2 CREDIT CARDS, CASH STOLEN. CANCEL CREDIT CARDS”
Do you think that was too subtle?
During all my back and forths to the tour operator I ran into one of my fellow hikers on her way to the beauty parlor. I explained what had happened and she said she’d stop by later. I didn’t think anything of it and continued roaming and thinking and - what any sane woman would do in this situation - shopping! After all I still had one credit card and I thought I’d better try it out soon before I really needed it, like after I’d eaten a meal. I wouldn’t want to end up having to wash dishes.
So my wanderings took me into a jewelry store full of black pearls. As I’m perusing the cases trying hard not to let my backpack fling anything valuable off a shelf, I look up and there is another fellow hiker, Rebecca, admiring a ring she had just purchased. After a few minutes of chatting she suggested we get a coffee and lunch to celebrate her purchase and she would treat. (Why is it we women celebrate large purchases with another purchase?) We passed a lovely lunch watching a slide show of my pictures and reminiscing the hike. (I carry my computer everywhere now. Losing it would just push me past the edge.)
Back at the hostel is a message board with my name in big letters at the top. Gee, I must have a message. It’s two of the group of Kiwis from the hike, inviting me to dinner. I gladly accepted and they picked me after I made a stop at the police dept. to file my “Missing Property” claim. As we walked up the hill to the house they had rented for 10 of them I gave them the story of what happened. And then when I got to the top I repeated it, mostly for the other women. Collectively we worked out the possibilities and what ifs and maybe this or that’s, but all came to the same conclusion - Yeah, it’s missing. And it’s all very strange.
I was so delighted to be invited to a Kiwi barbecue, and Brent, the group’s chef did a marvelous job with steaks, Waldorf salad, leaf lettuce salad, potatoes and lots of wine and champagne. After dinner everyone reluctantly brought out their stash of cookies and chocolates from the walk to share. It was so funny to see who had the largest pile.
And they are all so very animated when they are discussing politics, rugby, their shared past, education today, and any other subject, that the time passed very quickly and all to soon they took me back to the hostel, but only after arranging to pick me up at the airport when I arrive in Auckland to deal with the passport issue. One of the women also had quietly asked me if I needed any money to see me through, and I was so touched it just about made me cry.
SATURDAY, APRIL 12, 2008
Aside from spending the day writing and emailing I managed to eat. Even though I had a credit card, I didn’t really want to use it. It’s almost a challenge to see how well I can get by for at least the next 2 days. So…..
Breakfast There is instant coffee, tea, and creamer in the room
And I had pitas left over from before the Milford tour.
In the common fridge in the “free food” bin was
Margarine and jelly. No cost
Lunch Left over cookies from Milford and an orange from
Dinner Packaged udon noodles, one large carrot, $NZ 1.20
Tomato, garlic, spices, oyster sauce, soy sauce
In “free bin” No cost
Broccoli left over from Before
Milford No Cost
Made a delicious stir fry
Dinner was served with a $NZ 30 bottle of Voigner that I had purchased in the wineyard at Renwick. I served it out of a plastic glass because the wine glass I had broke.
Internet to email $4.50
SUNDAY, APRIL 13, 2008
Back and Forth, Back and Forth
And still no luck. The manager of the YHA reviewed the tapes of the hallway to my room and saw no one come into my room other than myself. So it boils down to somewhere in Milford Sound. I believe at this point it’s a lost cause and just want to get on with my travels. Oh well. Might as well go shopping.
Breakfast More pita bread, tore off moldy parts
Instant coffee No Cost
Lunch Candy bar left over from hike No Cost
Dinner 2 eggs, tomato from “free bin” No Cost
One portabello, small piece cheese $1.15
Made an omelet with mushroom, tomato
And cheese (cheddar)
Served it with the Voigner in a plastic cup
My afternoon snack was a ginger hot chocolate at a café that had free WIFI so I got to have a snack and do email for $4.50
MONDAY, APRIL 13, 2008
The Weakest Link - Queenstown to Wanaka
Oh yeah that’s me! Monday started the West Coast Escape bike tour, six days of biking up the West Coast of New Zealand through Mount Aspiring National Park, Haast Pass and the Southern Alps to Hokitika where a trans apine train will take us through Arthur’s Pass and on down to Christchurch.
The first challenge Monday morning - figuring out how the brakes work. They’re backwards here, small gear on the right, big cogs on the left. And the gear shift! There are 2 clickers on each handlebar. Push the lever down on the right to make it easier, but up on the other side for easier. I’m constantly getting it backward, and consequently either falling off because I’m in too low a gear, or killing my thighs because I just pushed into too hard of a gear. And the helmet adjustments. I’m being strangled.
Second challenge - a very steep decent down with harepin turns. Well, I thought, that was fun. But then we kept going. It was hard to get warmed up after that because it was so windy and cold coming down, but a few miles of roadway and I warmed up. And then we hit the first hill. No, correction, this was no hill (to me). This was every bit as steep as the first decent, only it was up, and with a lot of truck traffic and dust to boot. Oooohhh - what have I gotten myself into. Two of the group went ¾ of the way up before being picked up by the van, and 2 went the whole way up. One of those two was long gone before we even got near the place, and that’s after he had already ridden I don’t know how many Km just getting out of town while we all took the bus. And what did Mrs. Q do? Hah - she hopped on the van at the first bend in the road. Thighs of jelly. And knowing for sure that I am the weakest link!
At the top of the hill was a very nice sign, a downhill truck on a wedge and a sign below saying “Downhill next 43Km”. Very nice indeed. We took that road down partway, ( I got up to about 50KPH on that road) then turned off to go into a little town called Arrowtown, a leftover from the gold rush days. It was here that we had morning tea, under the trees of the city park facing the mountains with their brightly colored fall trees. Could have been Vermont it was so cute. But soon enough we had to head out of town on a road that was gently rolling hills until we had lunch at the Cadrona Hotel. This Hotel, another throwback in time, is about the only thing in town, and if you saw it, you probably wouldn’t stop, but you would be missing a real treat. Out the back is a large yard with picnic tables and umbrellas and a lovely rose garden and a handsome stone fireplace that would be great for evening cocktails on a cool evening. We had huge bowls of soup with crusty rolls and lemonade, a drink similar to Sprite. After lunch we loaded the van and drove actually past Wanaka to a park from where we cycled on a single-track path that went up and down and around always following Lake Wanaka on the right side. Parts were very narrow with steep drops to one side. Further along the track goes by some beautiful homes with stunning views of the lake and the mountains. These homes I later learned would be $2-3 million each. It seemed that all to soon we rolled into town and, groan, up a hill to our motel. I was thrilled to have a private room there being no other single people on the tour. After a hot shower and brief rest we headed to dinner down the hill and fille our stomachs with local fish and a great dessert. I staggered up the hill and barely made it into bed before falling asleed.
The Real Cyclers - And Me
The group consists of a Colorado couple ^v^v^, an Australian couple ^^, and me _ _ _ _. Brook, from Colorado, is off to climb Denali when they return from doing this and the Milford Track, not the luxury walk, but the one where you carry all your food and sleeping bags. He and his wife, Pam, have climbed (I forget which mountain) and Brook hasn’t ridden in the van yet. Whereas we may drive 40K to get somewhere to bike, Brooke will bike the whole way, probably over 100K, and arrive before we do.
The Australians are regular cyclers who talk about some of the races and rides they’ve done in the past. His seat looks horribly uncomfortable with absolutely no padding, but he swears otherwise. I can’t get enough padding.
(Finished this at 12:30AM and haven't had time to edit to terribly but must go to cocktails now. Long day in the saddle.)