TRAVEL THURSDAY: My Day Trip to St. Arnaud

Lake Rotoiti

Once again, I’m passing you over to AJ. After returning from Whangarei, he couldn’t resist heading off again, going for a day trip to St. Arnaud. I can’t wait to hear what he got up to…

Car Crashes, Snowfights and Lunch With a Politician – My Day Trip to St. Arnaud

Every time I go to St. Arnaud, I’m always struck by the beauty of Lake Rotoiti. When I had a backpacker friend come down to visit me, I decided what better place to take her than half an hour down the road?

I couldn’t have planned it any better had I tried. As we swerved through the mountain range, the landscape around us slowly evolved. Thick groves of evergreen trees hung over the side of the road as more and more mountain ranges came into view. The further we rose the more snow we saw, reflecting gold in the sunlight. I’ve only seen snow twice in New Zealand before, so this alone was incredible to me. I wasn’t alone. My travel partner was getting excited as well, the prospect of a snowball fight enticing.

The Dumbest Car Crash in the Whole Pack of Car Crashes

As we arrived we were treated to an incredible sight. The entirety of the township was dressed in a white cape of snow, from the cabins to the picnic tables. It was truly a postcard moment, evoking memories of opening Christmas cards from Winter Holiday relatives. We grabbed a desperately needed coffee from the only shop in town, before walking to the nearby lake.

Lake Rotoiti
Lake Rotoiti looked absolutely incredible, capped with snow

I couldn’t live in St. Arnaud. The population of 79 couldn’t keep me entertained. It has one shop – which sells at petrol station prices – and two cafes. However, for a day trip this place was everything I could have asked for and more. We wandered down to the lake, through the crunchy snow, and mingled with the tourists. It doesn’t snow in this part of the world often, so people from the neighbouring Blenheim and Nelson flock to St. Arnaud as soon as someone mentions snow. As a result, the area was filled with a whole plethora of people.

Despite this, me and my companion found a nook to explore. We ended up in a forest trail, dodging falling clumps of snow and jumping over puddles like schoolkids. Breaking through the trees, we found a spot overlooking the lake all by ourselves. We spent time skipping stones, letting the views wash over us.

Lake Rotoiti
Our little spot, where we relaxed and skipped stones

As we were leaving, two teenagers were doing burnouts by an intersection. They drove off around the corner, and we laughed about how funny it would be if they hit a tree… Until we found out that was exactly how events unfolded. No one was hurt (except my sides, from laughing when the passenger called the driver “the biggest c-word in the whole pack of c-words”).

Snowball Fight World Cup Final: England vs. Germany

We gave birth to a snowman called Frederic before booking into our cabin for the night.

Frederic the Snowman
As always, it’s important to make friends while travelling

After much panicking (as not much accommodation in this town is listed online) I found the perfect location. The Travers-Sabine Lodge provided affordable cabins, and the staff were incredibly polite and friendly. We spent a bit of time talking to the receptionist about the area, and about our lives. I traded earthquake stories with her, after she told us about some nice hiking trails which looked especially nice in the snow.

We entered the lodge and were blown away by the romance of it all. I paid way more at a 5 star hotel in Auckland and received much less than I did here. Worth every cent!

Walking a small route that took us around the lake to another small section, we saw, to our dismay, that the snow was starting to melt. Desperate to be children again, we kicked down abandoned snowmen and used their guts to form snowballs. We decided to play a little game. Whoever took the most balls to the face would be the loser.

Splitting up, the way began. We danced in the snow, trying desperately to dodge the other’s blasts. She ducked behind a tree, while I dived behind the littered corpses of snowmen a fair few times, but eventually the first blow hit. I wiped the remnants off of my forehead, adding it to my projectile, and threw it back at her. I only missed by about a kilometer. In the end she took the win: she sent two balls to my forehead, while I only got one ball on her chin.

An Unexpected Guest for Lunch

New Zealand. It’s a country in the middle of nowhere, known for its lack of risks. It’s also in the midst of an election right now. All the politicians are super busy campaigning, trying to get to general public to tick their box of lies over the other’s. Therefore, you can imagine my shock as we were sitting at one of only two cafes in the town and the Minister of Foreign Affairs sat down two tables away.

Now, you’d think the fourth most important man in the political landscape of the country would be flanked by three All Blacks and an intimidating bouncer. Not so, for this is New Zealand. He had one woman writing down everything he said, another two weedy looking hype men, two secretary, behind-the-scenes type girls, and the most threatening of all: an elderly bus driver. This was a bit of a culture shock for my foreign friend, as was the painted bus they rode. It was National Party blue with a picture of Bill English on it – a phenomenon which apparently doesn’t happen in Germany.

After being reminded of our place in the world when the coffee lady personally delivered coffees to him and asked if anyone wanted tea and biscuits, we watched as the bus driver tried to smooth an air bubble in the bus’s paint. A perfect metaphor to National’s solution to the housing crisis in Auckland, I feel.

On the way back, we paid our snowman a visit. We were shocked to find out that he survived the night, though he was looking a little worse for wear.

Melting Frederic the Snowman
Sometimes the friends you make leave you. Sometimes, they stick around a little while longer.
One Last Look Over the Lake

Laying down on the stones overlooking Lake Rotoiti, I was reminded of how lucky I was. Sure, I’d lost the only map we had, but that in itself turned to luck as we stumbled across some amazing scenery. I live in this beautiful country, where I can get lost and wander around without being hurt. Where even big important fat men can wander around and not get hurt!

I’m lucky that I can afford to travel, and that I can do so with incredible company. This trip taught me that even the smallest places can have the biggest memories. There’s so much left for me to see in this world.

AJ at Lake Rotoiti
Reflecting by the lake