Te Anau Layover Day
The morning arrives lazily, and I journal a bit in my bed before I remember how nice and warm the common areas inside are. I head in and nestle down on an overstuffed couch next to a blasting heater with coffee made from an instant water boiler. Heaven.
Eventually Prana straggles in, and we ponder the day. Maybe we will go to Milford sound. We go to the desk to book something. A different woman is there, and offers to help. Prana replies, “uh, is Margaret here? I already have a relationship with her.” I know what he means, of course, but the woman who is not Margaret looks scandalized, and Margaret starts cackling in the back office. She comes forward to both mercilessly tease Prana for his word choice and assist us with our day. “Is the Milford really worth it? I’m just not interested in only seeing stuff from a bus window.” I ask. “Oh yes, definitely,” Margaret insists. “If you want the best tour, you should take the full day with the extra stops, and walk around the bizarre little museum and camp.” This piques my interest. Of course it seems like an exorbitant amount to pay to ride on a bus with a crush of other people, but when Prana and I step away and converse, we rashly decide to splurge. Why not? We ask Margaret to work her magic. “Oh no!” She hangs up the phone after a long conversation. “There’s only one spot left to book on the full trip. But there are plenty of spots on the partial day trip, I can book you on that.” The partial day trip costs not much less than the full day, and is indeed just a day on a bus. “I think we’ll pass,” I say, oddly disappointed. The danger of hope and attempted commitment.
It looks like the trail has in mind a completely mellow day for us, and so we accept it. At one point we had thrown around the idea of two or more days off in Te Anau, but firmly decide we will return to the Te Araroa tomorrow. I feel a pang of anxiety at not returning immediately, at a potentially wasted day, but I know it is coming from fear and scarcity of time, and not a true desire to be on trail. I know my mind and attitude need a day off, even if I don’t want to take it, so I squelch down the dissonance and look to embrace the day.
The morning is filled with journaling, and as lunch time rolls around, Prana and I set out to find a bakery about which we have heard delectable rumors. Bakeries! Our circuitous route lands us near the waterfront of Lake Te Anau, a long skinny fjord enfolded by parapets of soaring cliffs. On the way we recognize the service station that sells fresh fruit ice cream from Margaret’s description. Score! We will pass it on the way home. The Fjordland bakery is tiny, but this is because it has exactly the right things, namely smoked seafood pies and sweet potato chips. We order and carry our grease-soaked, hand-warming paper bags wafting their mouth-watering aromas to a bench on the lake shore for an impromptu picnic. We linger over each divine bite, soaking up the warm sun, the perfect air temperature, and the spectacular view in front of us, all senses filled with bliss. I am filled with pure, pressure-less, crystal clear contentment. Yes, the Milford Sound may be beautiful, but is it more beautiful than this. Who decides? And is a moment happened upon like this worth more than a manufactured one, even if the manufactured one lives up to its promise? I’m inclined to think so.
We finish and sit for awhile, and then begin to work our way back towards the holiday park. The Lakeside Service Station beckons us in- what is this magical ice cream?
Answer: you choose your combination of fresh berries, and they grind it with vanilla ice cream to create a smoothie soft serve. Oh. My. God.
We lick our ice cream cones as we walk back through the town. The afternoon pleasantly swirls away in a series of phone calls back home to family, and I tell my mom her Christmas/birthday present I have planned for her this summer- a trip for us to the Dirty Dancing Festival! I miss my family so much.
For dinner we cook up a big pot of pasta and veggies. As the day comes to an end, I feel unequivocally grateful that we had a full unplanned day off. I am even looking forward to getting back on the trail tomorrow. This is a good sign. I call out sweet dreams to Mouse and snuggle down into the quilts with Prana.