The sun was still rising when my alarm startled me awake Thursday morning. I begrudgingly rolled out of bed and into the car, off to the bus station in the city. The cityscape was gorgeous and glimmering as we crossed the harbour. An exhausting, but good start to an adventure.
I’d rather fly any day — buses are definitely not my favourite way to travel — but the trip was brightened considerably by a construction worker doing a kind of bizarre flailing dance at us as we drove by, and by an extremely lovely lady at a cafe in Taumarunui. Plus, it always helps to travel with a friend. The destination: Ohakune. A small, rural town sitting just south of Mount Ruapehu. A cute little place, much smaller than I’m used to having come from Auckland. We had some damn good lemon honey ginger at a cozy place called Utopia.
There was a little lolly shop next door, looking like something straight out of a kid’s book. We decided not to go inside, considering the number of bags we were lugging around. Perhaps my biggest regret of the weekend was this choice!
Eventually we, and the rest of our large group, made it to our accommodation: a small cabin in Rangataua. Utterly adorable, complete with a bunk bed room and a fireplace — which quickly became my new favourite spot in the world. I’d forgotten just how much of a simple pleasure it is to sit beside a crackling fire as the windows frost up outside. Made even better with friends, food, and a lil’ bit of alcohol. The only downside: the railroad was only meters from our house.
Friday was snow day. But first — pancakes, bacon, eggs and fried banana for breakfast. If anything, we were well fed that weekend. Well fed and a little frozen, at times. As a convoy we headed off up the mountain (fun fact: Ruapehu is actually an active volcano) but one of the cars broke down partway up the icy slopes. Oh dear! We took this chance to play around in the snow. I, in my utter joy at the stuff, jumped right into a drift up to my thighs. I hadn’t been in real snow since I was a wee child so I was a little underprepared and a little overexcited. Not much could have dulled how I felt playing in the snow, though. It was a simple, childlike joy.
Now, I’m a person born for warmer climates. A slight summer breeze can make me slip on a jumper. Despite all this, snow has now become one of my favourite things. I went mad with my camera, threw snowballs at everything, jumped around in knee-high snow. Together, my friends and I built a snowman. Or rather, a snow-muscled-duck. It was exactly as bizarre as it sounds.
To warm up from our adventures we all went to a restaurant in Ohakune called The Powderkeg in which we ate far too many chips — both fried and corn. Two things stood out to me about this place: the antler decal and the giant fire set near the bar. Very Beauty and the Beast.
The food was good, though there was sweet chili sauce in everything. A strange choice for nachos, I think. The most important part about that restaurant though, I feel, is the mulled wine. Like a slice of heaven in a glass. I’ve only had mulled wine twice in my life and this second time made me want to just live on the warm, sweet stuff. I very nearly cried tears of joy.
Then it was back to the house for soup and bread, and charades by the fire. Everyone kept guessing Star Wars for mine! Saturday was all about cosplay photoshoots. Back up the mountain for a lot of us, the brave few in fur and armour (I was layered up in real clothes, not that it stopped me from getting soaked). The chance to work with a photographer I admire — Little-Noise, who is also a friend! — was a super interesting learning experience.
The landscape was utterly breathtaking. When the sun shone through the clouds everything lit up with golden light. In the distance rays of light shone down amongst the gloom. I took far, far too many photos trying to capture the view. It’s the places like Ruapehu that make me understand just how beautiful New Zealand is.
There was a lot of throwing snow, both at each other and for getting shots. Unfortunately because of my camera I didn’t quite get involved in a snow fight — but I did lob a few good snowballs! There was also quite a lot of yelling. And a fair bit of me screaming whenever I tripped in the snow (not an uncommon occurrence).
We were all pretty keen to get home and get into some warm and dry clothes by the time the sun had set. My fingers and butt were near frozen off. Remember kids, wear your gloves in the snow! A car broke down again, though. Car luck was running especially low, apparently. Back home, we warmed up as we watched slideshows of our photos. The last night was going to be a roast, but in the end we were all far too exhausted from the day to make anything. Instead we settled for some good old kiwi fish’n’chips. A lot of fish and a lot of chips. A couple of us made crumble while watching the rest of our friends play Cards Against Humanity. If ever you want to know how terrible your friends are as people, watch them play that game.
Because it was our last night we stayed up far too late, our conversations getting more and more inane as the night wore on. I didn’t want the night to end, because that would mean us having to all go home the next day. But alas, we all eventually went to bed, and Sunday came. We had ended up with a lot of milk still left, and quite a bit of chocolate. The logical conclusion: hot chocolate. Real, creamy, delicious hot chocolate.
And then it ended, as all great weekends must. We packed up the cars, said our goodbyes, and hit the road
Some of us did meet up on the way home for lunch. The coffee sucked, the food wasn’t so bad. Ah, rural food stops. We were all pretty dead at this point and just wanted to be home already. A long shower and a soft bed sounded pretty appealing at this point. As we ate, we were stared down by a dinosaur.