Oh, it’s such a perfect day. I’m glad I spent with you. Some awesome people, and almost a Dolphin or two…

Thursday 03/04/08

(Writing on the 5th)

The next part of the adventure saw us heading into Wanaka. We were up early, and not feeling too good with our hangovers. We were driven to a cafe which was also the starting path of another hiking activity. It had some gorgeous views of the main mountain in those parts, before we headed to the main lake, all of this in the Southern Alps I think.

It was a long drive to Wanaka, and the hangovers didn’t help. Still, I did manage to sleep between breaks. We eventually got to Wanaka, and part of me instantly fell in love with the place.

Nice and spread-out, gorgeous houses, a huge lake surrounded by mountains. Just gorgeous. Plus, we weren’t hoarded into a “backpacker” bar, but instead went to two “normal” places, and didn’t feel like we stood out at all.

It was on the way to Wanaka that I realised that my Queenstown departure date was wrong, and so I had to ring or email the Kiwi office ASAP in case the bookings for the buses out of Queenstown got filled, meaning there would be no room for me to get back up to the North Island in time for my flight! I cheated my way onto one of the computers by “fixing” what everyone thought was a broken mouse, and I felt slightly bad about jumping the queue, but backpacker-instinct for looking after number-one kicked in, as I wanted to get the email off to the Kiwi Express office before it closed for the day. So that email has more or less set in stone my return journey dates to Auckland, meaning a stay at every stop except Picton for exactly two nights. That will make it very difficult to bond with or meet anyone who is on a 1-day timetable, or it will force me to just get stuck in.

I then wandered down to the lake, as Koru had told us all on the bus that if we went down to the lake at 6pm with peanut butter sandwiches, we could feed the Dolphins… I was early to the lake and so I asked at the Tourist Information desk how it worked. The woman laughed and told me that Wanaka LAKE wouldn’t, naturally, have any Dolphins, and that it was a regular trick that Kiwi Express drivers do to wind up the passengers. Felt a bit daft for not realising this sooner!

I went back to the hostel and let Laurence in on the ‘secret.’ I wouldn’t have minded being caught out normally, but before I asked the woman, I had literally just been looking at a map of Wanaka, and so should have spotted it was not connected to the sea! As we walked down to the lake, I ended up letting the rest of the gang in on the secret though, as another group off of the coach were in front of us and they had bought the full works for their dolphin visit; loaf of bread, peanut butter and even a dedicated butter knife! That could have been us!

There was meant to be a BBQ that night and Koru wanted the whole bus to go in order to a) Hand out the prizes for the Poo Pub costumes and b) Because it would probably be the last time our coach-gang would all be together before all going our separate ways in Queenstown.

I had another chat with Koru, and he got drunk again. He seemed a bit down, I don’t think he enjoyed this trip or this group too much for various reasons, but he was glad a few guys like myself, Mark and Tom took the time out to get to know him, and to chat to him about non-bus related stuff.

I tried to take it easier on the booze, but it didn’t work! Went to Shooters bar to finish the evening off. Before we did that though, Koru was talking to Tom about doing the bungee jump on the way to Queenstown. Koru said that if Tom did the jump, that he would pay half of the fee. Tom left the table, and the “half” idea turned into all of us putting in $20 each, which we all happily put into the pot. I wanted to see Tom do it, and it felt good that most of the bus had chipped in too. I think Tom suspected as much, but he said nothing if he did.

So, although we didn’t see much in Wanaka itself that evening, part of me liked it very much, for its “American” look and how it reminded me of the type of town you see in films like The Goonies. Took a good hangover with me the next day!

SOUNDTRACK: “Dolphins Were Monkeys” by Ian Brown.


I think the diary does a very good job of summing up the day, especially managing to completely miss the fact that Dolphins would not live in a land-locked LAKE. The question as to whether or not Dolphins may eat peanut butter sandwiches, is something I still haven’t questioned.

Wanaka was very, very picturesque – part of me fell in love with the place on first sight, which is bizarre, as we did not spend nearly long enough there to get a real feel for it. On the surface of it though, it was a beautiful place.

I seem to recall the night at Shooter’s bar being a good one too, and a night where I had a really good long chat with Ciara, the Irish girl from the bus who had been in our ‘gang’ since the beginning, about Life, The Universe and Everything. There was another trio of Irish girl’s on our bus, but for some group-mentality reason, we had decided they were a bit mad (we were hardly 'sane' ourselves) and so mostly kept our distance. At some point between 2008 and now, I had deleted my original Facebook profile without backing up everybody’s contact details first. As such, Ciara is one of a very small handful of people who I’m still connected to online and via social media.

If I am ever abroad in Ireland (where a fair chunk of the hang originated) or parts of the world where these folks live, I’d feel nervous about asking for a meet up – old habits die hard. But the whole point of travelling and having our ‘gang’ (amongst many such gangs that must form all over the world, wherever traveller’s go) to begin with is that nerves are meant to go swivel. So, if I ever do haul my arse over to Dublin for a knees-up, I will be reaching out for a glass of Goon or a Jaeger-bomb with as many folks that I can reach.

And indeed, if by any miracle you are one of the people I was fortunate enough to meet on the way, but whose details and social media connections I have lost, then a) I hope you’ve enjoyed reading so far and b) Holler!

Lake Town. Missing the Dolphins. Missing the BBQ. Cool pub. Shooters. Roaring fire. Talking Film. Good people. Great times.