In New Zealand, in addition to Lake Pukaki, another one of my favorite lakes is Lake Matheson.
Lake Matheson is on the South Island, located near Fox Glacier, and is famous for the mirror reflection of Mount Cook and its surroundings.
I took my first trip to Lake Matheson with a Swiss girl I already met in a hostel in another city in New Zealand, who was now also my roommate here. It’s very likely to coincidentally run into people you met before while you travel around New Zealand. Public transport is very inconvenient, so going around the island in one direction, you will see a lot of familiar faces from place to place.
So, even if you are traveling alone, you don’t actually feel alone, because you will meet many people you met before at the next place.
The weather was not good, very cloudy, with drizzling rain from time to time. Seeing the raindrops on the window, even being crowded in a small car feels kind of delighting.
“Okay, from here we have to walk.” The Swiss girl parked her car, put on a waterproof jacket as we open the doors and start walking in the rain towards Lake Matheson.
After walking a long but very well marked way, we try to find Lake Matheson. Sometimes we think it will just appear after a bend in the track, but it did not.
When we arrived, the raindrops made ripples on the lake expanding infinitely, scattering the surface making it hard to see any reflections. We tried to imagine how the landscape must look like from all those pictures we saw before.
We were thoroughly disappointed. Looking in the cloud covered sky, it seemed like the rain was not going to stop anytime soon.
In New Zealand I learned to look at the weather forecast. The weather here has four seasons in a day and is easily one of the most important factors that affect your daily activities.
“Can we come back tomorrow?” I asked. “No, I’m driving south to another place, I have booked the next hostel already.” the Swiss girl sighed.
She drove me back to the hostel and as we spent some time afterwards, coincidentally, we found out that we booked the same hostel in the next location. New Zealand is small, isn’t it?
That evening, a Dutch girl stormed into the room, talking enthusiastically about and showing everyone the beautiful photos she took. It was Lake Matheson, with the sun shining and thousands of shades of red, from wine red to orange red to dark red – like all the different colors of a flamenco skirt, as more and more people came to see her photo. I wondered, is this how the lake really looks like? Is it like a girl putting on makeup to become so much more beautiful?
I was a little envious and watching the sunset I thought: I really want to see Lake Matheson without the rain. Perhaps going early in the morning would be a good idea.
Determined to see the makeup version of the lake, I decided to go again to see the sunrise the next morning. I thought that it must be even more amazing, seeing the sun slowly illuminating Mount Cook and then suddenly giving me the daylight view. A German girl, Christine, thought what I thought as well, and planned to join me for the trip.
5 am the next day the alarm sounded and waked me up, my head was still all drowsy. I was quickly getting ready to go. Christine has also been dressed and ready to go. The street was quiet, the lights still lit and the sky inked in a dark blue.
As we walked, with our footsteps echoing in the silence, the sky gradually turned more pale and bright, slowly revealing the glorious mountains of New Zealand. It seemed like the sun was about to rise.
I thought: This is not good, it seems that dawn is coming! I picked up the pace. Christine saw it as well and also started running. While running, we saw that the sunrise has already reached the summits, spreading down on the mountains. Seeing how fast the light illuminated the mountains, comparing it to our pace, it seemed that we were too late. I sighed.
Christine proposed: “Let’s go back to the hostel and get some more sleep until we have to catch the shuttle bus to Lake Matheson.”
I stopped running, my insides shaken.
She looked at me, as I was hesitating, and added: “We came here just for the sunrise. Since we can’t make it, why not go back now? .”
Go back? Keep going? I didn’t know. Hesitating to drag my feet on, my heart is still beating non-stop.
“Yes, we wanted to see the sunrise, and why do I still keep going?” I asked myself.
Christine is still actively trying to convince me to go back. Her words were like many iron balls chained on my feet, dragging me.
I suddenly stopped and turned to her: “I don’t want to stand here hesitating. Even if I miss it, I will still not regret going there. If you want to go back, you go back by yourself, I will continue.”
Then I turned around again and ran fast under adrenaline as she looked at me. Then she started to run as well. It is troubling for people when they have to make a decision, wasting time hesitating to choose A or B, but once a decision is made, it’s easy to just go for your goal without a second thought. We ran, not to make it for sunrise, but for ourselves, because we didn’t want to make any excuse for giving up.
After running for a while, I saw a car approaching behind and instantly lift my thumb in order to get a lift, but it didn’t stop.
“If we manage to hitchhike we might be lucky and still make it” I said breathlessly to Christine.
A short while later another car came up and I lifted my thumb again. It drove past us, then slowly stopped. We could not believe it, squealing and jumping when we ran towards it. It was a couple from China visiting New Zealand on their honeymoon, and they also wanted to see Lake Matheson in the sunrise, so they kindly gave us a lift. They helped us to make progress and we quickly reached the lake car park. Remembering the walk from the day before, we still would have to hike for a little bit to reach the lake.
When we arrived at the lake on foot, several people were standing at the lakeside, being very quiet, just like a TV that has been muted. I turned my head to where they looked.
My god, it was like a goddess descended on the lake. No wonder everyone was so quiet, as if a little noise disturbing this scene was a kind of blasphemy; if there really is a paradise, I think I am now in it.
I was really sweaty after running all the time and it made me feel really cold standing there, but the view I had just then made any kind of sweating worth it. Christine whispered into my ear quietly: “Thank you for persisting.”
I smiled and was very touched, without replying not to disturb the silence.