The New Zealand Chronicles – Part 3

The series starts here
Driving back, by the time we reach the tiny little one-street town of Fox Glacier, it’s almost sundown. We find these little NZ towns amusing in that sense – except for three cities – Christchurch, Queenstown and Dunedin – the other towns that we encounter as part of our trip, are mostly one-street towns. To both sides of the street are various shops – mostly souvenir shops that sell t-shirts, books, trinkets and little odds and ends. Typical touristy stuff. Apart from souvenir shops, there are a few motels, a couple of restaurants, one supermarket, a couple of cafes and that’s about it. The streets themselves are hardly a kilometer long, if at all. The road to our motel intersects the main street of Fox Glacier at right angles, so after a quick glance at the street, we drive off towards our motel.

The one-street town of Fox Glacier, with Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman in the distance.
The one-street town of Fox Glacier
Except for cities that are of the bustling metropolis variety, most towns in NZ will have motels, not hotels. In addition to being cheaper, motels are smaller – about a dozen rooms or so on an average, compared to a typical hotel with hundreds of rooms. They are mostly family owned businesses, run and maintained by the family or its delegates. Motel managers are typically friendly people and take a personal interest in ensuring that your stay is extremely comfortable. They often like to interact with people who stay with them – helping them with places to visit, maps, providing amenities in the room etc. – but they also do know that you appreciate your privacy, so in most cases, this will not feel like an intrusion. Another advantage of staying with motels is that added services like internet, cable TV etc. would often be free in motels compared to hotels which would charge you a hefty fee for the same. Motel rooms also come with kitchenettes stocked with utensils, crockery and such for those looking to cook in. And of course, wineglasses and such for those looking to unwind after a long evening! After having stayed in motels for a few days, when at Queenstown, we ended up staying in a hotel, we hated it even though it was the Hilton! At the time of our travel, an average motel room cost us about $80-100 a night.
A motel room - Fox Glacier, New Zealand
A quaint little motel room, offering privacy and solace.
The manager at our Fox Glacier motel enquires if we would like full-fat milk or fat-free milk to be stocked in the fridge and proceeds towards our room as we stay back in the office and talk to the lady behind the counter. Deciding that the glacier would have to wait till tomorrow, we take her suggestion and drive towards Lake Matheson, barely a 5 kilometer drive away. Towards the end, the gravel road turns into an unpaved path. Judging by the cars parked haphazardly, we figure it’s a parking lot. From here on, it’s about a 300 metre walk to the first point on lake. The walking trail is so built around the lake’s circumference, that there are lookout areas built every two hundred metres or so, aimed at providing breathtaking views of the lake. Lake Matheson is a famed lake, often seen on the cover page of magazines and books that cover New Zealand territories.

And when we and a few others stand there in the silence, looking up at the twin peaks of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman in the distance, flanked by nature on all sides, the soft ripples in the water serenaded by the gentle breeze, the shimmering reflections of the peaks in the water – we can see why this place would be a photographer’s favourite. With the passage of time, the setting sun lends various hues to the reflection of the twin peaks so much so that every few minutes, the click of the camera comes up with a different shade of the same picture. I am instantly reminded of a client of mine in the US, who is a photography buff. She had set up her camera on a tripod in her office, so that it faced the east window – where the sun rose every day. Every morning at the same time, she would click a picture. And in a year’s time, she had a full year’s worth of shades – every single morning different from the other!

Lake Matheson showing reflections of Mount Tasman and Mount Cook in the distance
Mount Cook and Mount Tasman forming perfect reflections on the rippled waters of Lake Matheson

We sit in silence for a while, my husband and I, and a few others around us. Conscious of the presence of others yet unwilling to breach the calm. Australian flies buzz in the distance building up a cumulative drone. There’s nothing else around, for kilometers. My mind wanders – what if someone were to get lost? What if someone needs medical help? 

Lake Matheson showing the reflections of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, in a different hue.
Lake Matheson showing the reflections of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, in a different hue.
Farmers and their families stay far apart. For farmers living far away, the NZ government is known to arrange for airlifts to the city hospitals, if the need arises. It amazes me and irks me simultaneously. How does a government care so much for its citizens? And then I think, why does it? Isn’t it the individual farmer’s decision to go stay so far away where medical help might not reach in time by road? So, how long and how much should the government give in to – irrational decisions taken by individuals risking their own and their families lives for the want of privacy? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to be insensitive. But to me, that feels like a selfish move – because in the time that the medical team gets to and from the remote site, maybe they could helped x more patients?
The waiter at the restaurant near Lake Matheson where we have dinner, gets into a conversation with us. Now that I think about it, staff at cafes and restaurants all through NZ seem to be the chatty, friendly kinds – often getting into conversation, wanting to find out how you like the country and such. She tells us that farmers’ children often study in the city and stay at boarding schools through the week, returning to their homes only for the weekends. NZ colleges also have specialized farming courses, and dairy farming technologies developed in NZ are world leaders in farming methodologies.
Post sunset, daylight falls rapidly and the roads are bathed in darkness. There are no streetlights and the only light to guide us back to our motel are the headlights on our car and the vanishing red tail lights of other cars in front of us. It’s the end of yet another day in the so-far picturesque trip – the one trip where I haven’t yet tired of taking ‘people-less’ pictures!
To be continued. 
Please note: I have put in effort to crop personal images to make them non-personal for the blog. Because I have had a couple of requests – If you wish to use these pictures elsewhere, please feel free to. And even though there’s no obligation to, I would love it if you would let me know of it or better yet, pass on image credits! 

I would love to hear your views!