I was hitching back to my hut, with the adjusted plans of simply hitching to Queenstown the following day instead of walking, when I got picked up by a friendly crowd of Uni students on a weekend hiking trip. There were about 9 of them in the camper van, I think, but still room for me and my stuff. We were approaching my drop off point when Tash, the driver, said, 'Are you sure you don't want to just come to Mt. Aspiring with us? We're coming back this way tomorrow." Well, ummm. Why not? No one was waiting for me (Bethany was going to be gone from Queenstown by the time I got there anyway), so why not enjoy a spontaneous adventure with some college kids?
What I didn't realize until I arrived was that it wasn't a few mates camping for the weekend. It was the Otago Medical School Tramping Excursion 2015. When We got to the parking lot, 70 odd 20-21 year olds were milling about, getting organized. I was not mentally prepared for this level of socializing! But I still certainly managed to have a grand old time. I mostly hung out with the people from my van, those who had gotten to know me by name (it wasn't my name - they had dubbed me 'Annie' in place of the girl who couldn't make it- but still a name) instead of 'that random hitchhiker chick those guys picked up'. It's easier to meet people in a group of 9 than a group of 70. Everybody was friendly, though, and I didn't have much trouble settling into the rhythm of things. Uni students are Uni students the world over, it turns out. The atmosphere, the jokes, the flirtations, the drinking games were all relatively the same as home. I did like the 'Gecko' rule in Kings and plan to adopt it. When whichever card is pulled, everyone has to run to a wall and plaster themselves against it like a gecko. It's quite hilarious.
They dropped me off the following day with joyful farewells and I sent my thanks to Annie for letting me (unknowingly) be her for a night.
I hitched to Queenstown the following morning with a middle aged guy named Ant (antony) who was originally British but had spent the last 20-some years building a hotel and resteraunt business in Southeast Asia. He moved to New Zealand a few years ago to raise his kids in a stable environment (and in a place where they, apparently, get to go skiing every Friday during the season instead of having Gym class. Lucky kids!)
Queenstown is touristy and overpriced. The busking was disappointing, mostly because everyone (except Bethany) said it would be great. It is, at best, mediocre. I was relieved, however, to find dinner very cheaply. Miso soup and rice for $3. I think it was intended as a side dish, but sounds like dinner to me!
I head to Christchurch tomorrow. I'm even taking a bus instead of hitching, thanks to my generous parents. But it looks like Christchurch, believe it or not, is going to be even worse! $40 for a tent site?! What!!?!? I found a cheaper hostel. Ridiculous.