After our stop at Castle Rock, we had less than an hour to go to Arthur’s Pass Village and our rental house for the night.
My anticipation grew as we drove around each curve, the sight of the wide, rocky Waimakariri River carving out a flat path amidst towering mountains. The clouds intermitently lifted a bit and then descended again, and the tops of the highest peaks were shrouded in hanging gray mist. Huge swaths of white snow covered many of the hilltops, and trickling (and some pouring!) waterfalls skimmed their way down rock faces and into growing streams.
Passing a warning sign that kiwi live in the area, we finally entered the tiny town of Arthur’s Pass. With a couple small motels, a cafe, a general store, and a DOC visitor center, it’s barely a village. Most of the places to stay are small- and medium-sized baches owned by New Zealanders.
We had booked ours through a NZ home rental website, but as we pulled up the driveway it immediately became apparent that there was a problem.
Someone was already there…
A car was in the tiny driveway and keys were in the door. As I got out of our car I could hear music through the door. My mind was racing, trying to figure out the situation–could the owner be cleaning? is it possible the previous night’s guests were staying later than the checkout time? had the house been double-booked?
I knocked on the door. No answer. So I did what anyone would do: pushed open the door.
No one was inside but there was plenty of evidence of personal belongings, and the radio was on. Two glasses of wine sat expectantly on the table.
And my heart sank. Back in the car, we decided to drive down the road to figure out our next plan. Keep in mind that there are very few “beds” in this town; even in the off-season, it’s imperative to have a place to stay ahead of time.
I placed a call to the bach owner who had confirmed our booking the night before but only got voicemail.* What to do?!
We called the three motels and hostels; only one had accomodations big enough for our family, and the pricetag was nearly double what we had planned to spend. (A neighbor told us that most of the places in the village were booked for a major “This Is Your Life” type of event being held for a local couple.)
At that moment, James had the inspired idea of searching for another bach.
I placed the call to the owners of Rough Creek Cottage. At first the woman I spoke with said that the house wasn’t available because the water had been turned off… but after I turned on what I’m beginning to think of as the “emotional mother” performance (which in this case was completely authentic but also precisely timed…), she agreed to make an exception for us.
We found the charming two-story red house nestled between a river and a mountain glen. The inside felt like walking back in time to the early 80s… there was no television but there *was* a record turntable. And an outdoor spa. And Bananagrams. And an espresso machine in a kitchen looking out at mountains.
Yes, this would do quite nicely after all.
*Later that night we heard back from the owner of the first place we booked. It turns out that he had made a booking error involving another renter whose first name was one letter off from mine. He was profusely apologetic and insists that we book a weekend at the house another time soon, for free. We’ll happily take him up on the offer.