New Zealand

I can never decide whether I love or hate Sundays. The thought of Monday is rarely pleasant, yet I always find calm in Sunday mornings. Often spent with a book and coffee in a nearby cafe. Today was spent, sitting in the warmth of a summer that is fading away quickly. Finished this book called ‘The Outsider’ by Albert Camus. Beautiful read. A man who doesn’t lie. A man who didn’t cry at his mother’s funeral. And a society which doesn’t understand people who exist beyond the boundaries of norms defined by them. Maybe this deserves a separate post.

I have become a reluctant writer this year. I write in private and rarely post. For a year that has panned out this beautifully, it is fairly odd behavior. Right after my one week in Cambodia, I was headed to New Zealand, to meet the busiest man I know. 🙂 He left LA in January 2018, and the year has been spent thinking of him and missing him. This was a fairly impromptu plan. All we had were our tickets to Auckland. And the rest was for him to plan, during his long layover in Hong Kong. We had no agenda. A rented car, coffee, whiskey, good food and soaking up some winter sun somewhere amidst snow-capped mountains – that was our plan.

Queenstown from the balcony

Packing for summer and winter in a small backpack is not easy. I was abysmally short of winter wear. As the flight hovered over Auckland, I woke up to gorgeous mountains, clouds and lush green landscape. Sat up and grinned. This was going to be a beautiful week. The company and the country promised good times. Picked up my now dirty backpack and took the airport shuttle to the hotel. And there he was. Maybe in that one moment he knew how much we missed him in LA. That no plan of ours is as warm, anymore. We exchanged quick notes and immediately figured that finding ourselves a few glasses of whiskey is key. While I struggled to find one set of evening worthy clothes, this guy was dressed to the nines. And gloating about it. How the tables have turned, apparently. 🙂 The warm familiarity of a decade long friendship often shows up in poor jokes and laughter. That was our evening, along with long conversations about how the last six months have panned out. We signed a travel treaty too. Very formal and very sober.

Whiskey. First evening. Auckland.

We took a morning flight to Queenstown. The airport itself is nestled between gorgeous snow-capped mountains. Picked a rental car and started driving around town. It is a small tourist town, with beautiful drives, lakes and a general holiday-like happy vibe. We were in no rush to see anything. Walked around the lake and then, walked some more. Saw a long line outside this place called Ferg Burger and we queued up too. Just to be introduced to the best burger in the world. We were hooked with the first bite, and that place and the Ferg pie shop became our go-to food fix pretty much every day, while we were there. There are no specifics to give about that day. The kind of day where you roam around with a book, talk when you feel like, sit in the sun and just watch time go by. We had almost wrapped up our evening and were walking back, when we heard music coming from an obscure part of the street. Followed the rhythm and landed up in a surf shop, which converts into a basement club in the night. There was a makeshift DJ stand, a small space for dancing and a small bar which was handing out drinks frantically, as more and more people spilled in. When we walked in, the night was just getting started. And then the music began. And how! The crowd started dancing and so did we. And the night went on. I remember us ending the night on the top of a hill, freezing and looking at the lake glimmering in the moonlight.

At 3 am

Queenstown to Milford was a four hour drive. Late nights and early mornings are not so good anymore. The last ferry leaves at 5.30 pm and we were running late. For very important reasons – coffee and staring at unbelievably beautiful landscapes. Photographs will be able to explain better, why we took as many stops.

Confession. I took a four month pause with this draft. It is pouring cats and dogs in LA today. It is 2019 already and I am making the most of my last few weeks in LA. Which means I am spending a LOT of time sipping on coffee in my favourite coffee shops. Sitting in one of them, sipping on a Gibraltar and watching people outside scrambling in the rain. It is true that folks in LA really don’t know how to deal with rain. Throws them off a little bit. Anyhoo, so where were we? Milford Sound. We managed to sprint and get on the last ferry out. Now, I do agree that Milford Sound is gorgeous. The ferry goes through beautiful mountains and waterfalls. But, it is slightly overrated. It was beautiful but I was not blown away. Except this one moment. The ferry went (almost) under this beautiful waterfall and we could see a rainbow weaving in and out of the waterfall. Our way back to Queenstown was a dark, cold one. Yet, we stopped again, just to take some much needed long exposure shots. On hindsight, good idea. 🙂

Milford Sound
Missing the usual company 🙂

We spent another day in Queenstown, soaking up some sun and doing nothing at all. Argued about mundane things, talked about important things and then, made ample trips to Ferg burger and pie to stuff ourselves. After a beautiful sunset, left for Wanaka late evening. The route was through the mountains, covered with a fair amount of snow. Maybe, it would have been a better idea to drive in the day. There wasn’t a soul on the road. Pitch black and anxiety inducing (for me). It is funny how daylight changes our perspective. In summary, we reached Wanaka safely and swore that we will drive back in the day. There was no big agenda for the sleepy town. Beautiful views and a sunset which easily sits on my top three list. The evening was fairly memorable though. Locals told us about a bar with live music. Went in to see an Irish band kicking up a storm. 🙂

On our way to Wanaka
Lake Wanaka
Gorgeous sunset in Wanaka

Before I wrap up this post, I must mention that I got inked. 🙂 Something which had been on my mind for the longest time. The exact tattoo was sent by a loved one. It is made of rainbows and all good things. Elated. Still am. 🙂 We flew back to Auckland and partied away our last night there. A major flight goof up later, I was headed to India for a few days. That travel pact Shomu and I made (with Nams as the co-signer) is something we hope to keep, irrespective of time and tide. New Zealand was beautiful, but my memories will always be about the company I had. A decade of friendship brings in a sense of warmth and camaraderie that’s hard to be without. It is one month into 2019 already. Maybe a good time to start thinking of where next.

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