Day 6: Wanaka to Te Anau

by Mary Beth

It was time for another day of travel. The day started with children crawling into bed with us, as days often do. The alternative – getting out of bed and starting the day, at whatever ungodly hour they choose to wake up – is much less appealing. It was very dark. At this time of year, daylight hours are short, and the sun didn’t come up until almost 8 am. Annie lay there, huddled under the blankets, and stared out the massive window at the night sky. She was quiet for a few minutes and very thoughtful, so I asked her what she was looking at. “I am gathering stories of the moon and stars for the winter, when it’s cold,” Annie explained solemnly. Then she went back to staring at the moon without any further explanation. “Oh, huh,” I said, and the rest of us went on with our conversation, which centered around the question of whether Coco had a nose, and where it was.

We had a three-hour drive, so naturally it took all day.

We started out by visiting That Wanaka Tree (actual name of tree), a much-photographed twisted tree growing in the waters of Lake Wanaka, and situated just in front of picturesque snow-capped mountains. We followed the rules and took lots of pictures of it.

Cora splashed in some puddles and then decided that she needed to tackle something larger – the lake itself. She and Annie both entered the lake, wearing their gumboots (Cora refuses to wear anything else, which is lucky because she never knows when she will encounter a puddle that needs to be jumped into). Annie walked in hesitantly but Cora walked in confidently. She immediately fell face-first into the water. And so the excursion to That Wanaka Tree was cut short.

Soaking wet but resigned to her fate

In the car there was some music, and some napping (but not enough), and some Twenty Questions. Peter tentatively requested non-pirate music, but this was outvoted by the children, who both immediately started shouting “Yo ho ho!” (Annie) and “Bottoo rum!” (Cora). And then Twenty Questions devolved into chaos when Peter was thinking of something, and we learned it was an animal, and then we learned it was a large mammal, and Annie asked, “Is it grass?” and Peter said, “No,” and then Annie said, “IT IS GRASS. IT IS GRASS. IT IS GRASS. IT IS GRASS,” at the top of her lungs, over and over and over, until everyone gave up talking. Cars make us all a little crazy.

We stopped once for a run-around break, when we saw some suspension walking-bridges over some little rivers that sparkled in the sunshine. These were wonderful bridges, because they were fenced in by high chain-link fences so there was no way for an 18-month-old to fling herself off, no matter how hard she tried.

Cora, investigating the small crack at the base of the chain-link fencing, to see if she can squeeze through.

The new house had a trampoline and bunk beds. The girls made a beeline for the trampoline. While they bounced up and down, I told stories of all the children I had taken care of in the office with broken bones from trampoline injuries. They ignored me. I was basically telling the stories to myself.

Eventually it got too dark and so I dragged them inside, where they found bunk beds. Cora climbed up the ladder without hesitation. We were so shocked that she was able to successfully ascend to the top bunk that she had time to stand up on the mattress and start to climb over the rails, evidently intending to jump off. At this point we grabbed her and put her on the ground, and wondered how we ever survived as a species.

We feasted on peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches and tried to go to bed early. Except that Cora found it hard to sleep, because there were many things that needed to be communicated with her parents before she could sleep, such as the fact that her hands needed to be washed (I disagreed), or that her bear Baby was sad and needed a hug from me (I also disagreed with this statement, as he didn’t look any sadder than usual to me), or that she bonked her head after repeatedly standing up and hurling herself back down, and needed a kiss. I gave her the kiss, but we eventually had to agree to disagree on the other issues.

“Fireworks” discovered by Annie, shining through the bathroom window in our new house at nighttime.

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