(Ok, so it took a while to get back to it, but here’s the rest of the story of our Mt Cook adventure…)
As we left the main highway and headed up the road to Mt Cook the mountains got higher (well, steeper – we couldn’t see the tops of them in the clouds, so we just guessed they were getting higher as well :-)) and the rain got heavier. But we were still pinning our hopes on it clearing up the next day. Finally we arrived at the village, and found the YHA. It was bucketing down by now, so we grabbed bags and ran for the door… and running up the ramp I slipped on the anti-skid matting (!) and did the most spectacular flip – my feet flew out from under me and into the air, and I crashed heavily onto the ground.
As I flew through the air time seemed to slow down, so that I had plenty of time to realise what had happened, that I couldn’t stop it happening, that I was probably going to hurt myself badly when I landed, and that anything I did at that point to try and break my fall would just make it worse. So I just let myself fall, and that turned out to be exactly the right thing to do, because amazingly I was pretty much unhurt! I was badly winded, and had a wee bit of bruising on my elbow and hip where I landed, but otherwise I was fine. Obviously in accepting my fate I’d unconsciously relaxed my muscles, which is the best possible way to take a fall.
While I lay there in the rain for a few seconds, trying to get my breath back and doing a mental check to see what was broken (and not really believing nothing was), everybody came running (including someone from inside the building, who’d seen me through the glass door), also thinking I must have seriously hurt myself. It took a while to convince them (and myself!) that I really was fine.
The next drama was trying to get checked in. Although we’d asked to all be put in the same dorm room, they’d mucked up the booking and split us between two rooms. That was ok, but they’d put me and lytteltonwitch together, and MrPloppy on his own. It was the first time MrPloppy had stayed in a backpackers’, and I could see the idea of being left on his own in a dorm full of strangers was about to send him into a panic, so I asked if he and lytteltonwitch could swap so he’d be in the same dorm as me. Lytteltonwitch didn’t mind, and they were both mixed dorms, so it shouldn’t have been a problem, but for some reason the woman checking us in just couldn’t get her head round the idea – she kept telling us we couldn’t swap, because there were no spare beds in the rooms. In the end we just gave up trying to explain it to her, accepted the keys she gave us, and then MrPloppy and lytteltonwitch swapped keys 🙂
Our main aim in coming to Mt Cook was to check out the Official Bookcrossing Zone at the Hermitage, so after unpacking the car we headed up there to check it out. The bookshelf turned out to be in the bar, so we thought we’d better order a drink to give us an excuse to be there. And it was definitely only going to be one drink – two glasses of house wine and a glass of orange cost $20!!! I felt seriously out of place standing at the bar in my scruffy clothes while next to me an immaculately dressed elderly American woman with an accent straight out of an F Scott Fitzgerald novel ordered a cosmopolitan and explained to the bartender that her daddy had taught her to always lay the straws across the top of the glass to stop the drink spilling as she walked back to her seat.
The bookshelf was worth checking out – not so much for the books, which were the usual random selection you get in any book exchange shelf, but for the setting: a secluded corner of the bar was set up like a private library, with leather wingback armchairs, ceiling-height bookshelves (housing, as well as the OBCZ, old ledgers containing years of guest registers – fascinating to look through!) and a leather-topped desk. We spent a long time there nursing our expensive drinks and enjoying the atmosphere. We of course added a few of our own books to the OBCZ (Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg, Hinds’ Feet in High Places by Hannah Hurnard, Meeting the Americans by Yolanda Drummond, and The Twist by Richard Calder), and picked up a few for ourselves (I took You’ve Got Guts, Kenny Melrose by Shirley Corlett).
The toilets were another must-see at the Hermitage – well, not so much the toilets as the sinks. Instead of a line of basins as there usually is in a public toilet, there was just a long slab of flat marble with a row of taps suspended above it. It looked like turning on a tap was sure to flood the room, but when you did turn one on (well, waved your hand at it – they were all movement sensitive, of course – nothing so primitive as an actual tap to turn!) you discovered that the slab was angled backwards just enough so that the water flowed off it into a small channel at the back and drained away. It looked spectacular, and was probably very practical as well – just one big flat surface to clean instead of individual basins.
We looked longingly at the restaurant’s buffet for dinner, but decided that would have to wait until we won lotto, and we headed back to the YHA to cook our own dinner. Lytteltonwitch had brought some meat and veges, and we’d brought some rice risotto mix and nibbly bits, and the plan was that we’d cook something for ourselves the first night and then the next night see if we could find somewhere (other than the Hermitage!) to eat out. Of course, we hadn’t counted on how full the hostel would be, so the kitchen was totally packed, and we had to wait for a couple of hours before we could claim ourselves a bit of space to prepare dinner. But we made good use of the wait (while nibbling on cheese and crackers) to label up some of the unregistered books Otakuu had given us to release (I’d brought a couple of sheets of pre-numbered labels with me):
- The Moon-Spinners by Mary Stewart
- City Life, City Love by Beverly Sommers
- The Testament and A Time to Kill by John Grisham
- Newborn Daddy by Judy Christenberry
- The Firm by John Grisham
- Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
- The Street Lawyer by John Grisham
- The Firm and The Pelican Brief by John Grisham
- A Painted House by John Grisham