Now this was the end of the road. Frank and Josi had flights out on Thursday, not just out of Queenstown but out of New Zealand – Frank moving on to Chile and Josi going home to Australia – so after returning from Milford Sound, the place that felt so much like a final adventure together, we decided to just hang out and chat over a chill beer at 1876.
This was our kind of place. Nice outdoor tables and good cheap beers, it was a great atmosphere to enjoy each other’s company on a pseudo-warm evening. One beer turned into two turned into going to the liquor store for more on our way back to the hostel. And while we were debating how many we should get who walks into the beer aisle but Karim from Wanaka! Frank and I were overjoyed to have our two travel buddies together, so obviously we went with a 15-pack of Speights and all hung out in our room for a few hours. I knew I didn’t have to say bye to Karim when I left Wanaka.
I had planned to leave Queenstown on Wednesday but that night Josi convinced me to stay one more day. She and Frank were leaving Thursday, so I should wait till then too. This was definitely the right decision; I had two more days in Queenstown to just hang out with the people who had become more to me than just travel buddies, they were my close friends.
The next morning we returned Fez. It was a sad moment for all. Then Frank and I had to hitchhike back into Queenstown from the airport. My first real hitchhiking experience! It made sense to try this in New Zealand, land of nice helpful people, and with a 6’3″ British guy to scare away the crazies. We were picked up by a very nice Irishman in less than 5 minutes who dropped us off right at our hostel door. My first hitchhiking was a success.
Due to bad weather, we lost all motivation to be active this day so instead we watched movies inside, eating the hostel’s free popcorn and soup (Southern Laughter, it’s related to the one in Franz Josef). Sometimes you have to love those lazy hostel days. Plus Josi had never seen Love Actually before. How was that possible?! Obviously we had to right this wrong immediately.
Our last day together was pretty much a summary of our trip: hiking and hanging out. First we went on a hike up Queenstown Hill. It was a perfect choice for the day, uphill enough to feel like we expended energy but, at an hour and a half return, short enough that it wasn’t a huge undertaking. The view at the top was fantastic. We could see from Queenstown to Frankton, looking out over the lake and with the background of The Remarkables mountain range. We took our time on the way down, pausing to take pictures and have some interesting discussions on a bench. Traveling for so long and having such fleeting interactions with people I sometimes missed the deeper conversations I can have with people from home. Frank, Josi and I were at the point of deep conversation, had been for a bit now, and that was very much present in our walk.
That night we took it easy; out for dinner and hanging out at the hostel with some wine. We tried to say our goodbyes at night since Josi and I had to leave early the next morning but none of us were ready. We all woke up early, in time to see a beautiful pink sunrise sky over the mountains, and first said bye to Josi. At least for now. We agreed that it wasn’t goodbye, it was see you soon. We made a plan to reunite in Berlin over the summer, and more short-term I will see Josi in Melbourne in a month.
An hour or so later, Frank walked me to the bus station. We had known each other for 19 days, but it felt like years. It was a big risk to decide to travel together after more or less 15 minutes of conversation and we would have been lucky to even just get along, but who could have predicted that we would become so close over that short time. I guess that’s what happens when you do a road trip in a foreign place together, when you experience intense new things like skydiving together, or share a new favorite place in the world like Wanaka. Although we are going different directions from here – Frank to South America and me to Asia – I know we will see each other again. It just wouldn’t be right if we didn’t, the universe isn’t that mean, and we won’t let it happen. Frank – you know I miss you, because we still talk all the time, and don’t you ever lose touch.