Street performers practice their trade on the boardwalk next to the lake. (“Don’t clap until I’m finished, except I’m not Finnish; I’m Swedish.”) The sun drifts in and out from behind the clouds warming my back as a soft wind runs its hands through my hair and little waves massage the rocky shore. Seagulls pander about while ducks wash their feathers in the crystal clear waters. Tourists attempt to feed them their leftover Fergburger or are content just feeding their camera the picture book scenery.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen so many tourists. For many, Auckland is just where they fly into, the gateway point to the “real” postcard New Zealand, an image that is embodied in the peaks around Queenstown.
I left Auckland that morning. Not for good. I still flew back in to make the final leg of my journey home. But I left the abroad program’s accommodation for good then, exiting an echo-y empty apartment in the early hours of the morning. I said good-bye to my roommates. I was done with classes (the usual euphoria of the end of classes damped by a certain cheeto with a hair piece and a red power tie). The program for me has officially ended. Yet here I was, still traveling. It felt weird, to be honest. I was already exhausted from it all.
To be fair, it was an early morning for me that day. 5 o’clock alarm followed by last minute packing and cleaning. A 6 o’clock pick up, and a 7 o’clock drop-off (the shuttle had to make a couple stops) at the international terminal to store what I wouldn’t need in the south. Then a long walk to the domestic terminal, check-in, and a wait. A two hour packed flight and then at 10:30am: Queenstown, the “Adventure Capitol” of New Zealand and the birthplace of bungy jumping.
There’s not much you can do in this small little ski town that doesn’t cost at least $70. Trying to save money for other things, I took a walk, a much more leisurely activity compared to the countless adrenaline-filled options that are noisily advertised in the dozen or so booking and information places that pepper the town center.
But before, a Fergburger, a massive, world-famous creation that comes from a place that always boasts lines stretching out the door. Having not eaten since 5 am, I wolfed down that thing (lamb patty, mint yogurt, and all the usual fixings all under a freshly baked bun) faster than I should’ve. By the end, I was surely in need of that walk.
Along the rustling water, down the Queenstown trail, camera in hand and sun streaming through the cloud-tipped peaks surrounding the lake. Some places just seem to be blessing with unnatural beauty. There’s a reason why the South Island is the home of postcard vistas and fantasy lands alike.
Thirsty and tired I turned around and then wandered back to town through a disk-golf course shaded with towering pines and then into the streets packed with tourists and souvenir shops. Ashamed that I was absolutely exhausted from that little trek, I headed for the hostel and chilled in the dark confines of my upper bunk before quietly watching the sun set on the town’s shore, the ducks and the tourists and the street performers stirring around me.