It was in Invercargill, New Zealand, when I realized Lunar New Year was the next day. At this point, I was using the internet less and quite out-of-date of the world beyond NZ and correspondence from family and friends.
For some odd reason, I was calm even when I had no accommodation booked for Queenstown the night of the new year. According to Stuff.co.nz, the trend of increased traffic from Chinese tourists during January and February is due to the long new year break period (7 days) and summertime weather; even with this prediction, I felt unfazed. If I couldn’t find accommodation at a hostel, I figured I would just chill at Fergburger until closing time (4 AM!) and then watch the sunrise. I guess my mentality was changing, becoming more flexible with things not going according to plan.
The next day, when waiting for the bus to Queenstown, I manage to book one night at Base Backpackers, renowned in NZ as a party hostel (my friend Y was also booked there, but she wouldn’t arrive until the evening). To be honest, my Plan B sounded pretty darn good! But, nevertheless I was grateful to not have to drag my suitcase around and instead take advantage of the walking tracks around town. (The hostel ended up being more quiet than expected, with clean feeling beds…they could work on the conditions of their washrooms though.)
On the bus ride, I sat next to a girl also travelling solo; we didn’t talk but acknowledged each other silently. At the I-Site information center we bumped into each other, exchanged introductions, and decided in 5 minutes to go to Starbucks and then do the Queenstown Hills Loop walk (2-3 hours)…a much more subdued option in comparison to the Ben Lomand walkway (5-8 hours). It’s nice to have compatible company on such a festive day. She was Japanese, on a working holiday, and enjoying the last two months of her time in NZ.
We ended up making friends with a British traveler atop the hill and together we went and tried Fergburgers for the first time. For $8-12 NZD, the quality and portion size was well worth it…oh yeah, and the 1 hour wait under the beating sun.
Before we knew it, the sun began to set as we strolled around Queenstown Gardens, admiring the Remarkables mountain range across Lake Wakatipu. Y arrived in town in at 8 PM and together we went to Vinyl Underground – a bar that hosts open mic nights – and Fergburger…again. It was a great Lunar New Year, despite the fact that my family was all the way in New York.