Chameleon Chapter 15 - LaLa Land

After leaving Aunt Deb, Sara and I drove our Japanese-imported, tiny, pink car from Queenstown to Wanaka. Our car, nicknamed Frenchie (from the Pink Ladies) had tiny wheels, tiny frame, but a big heart! The biggest problem was that there was no radio.  The budget rental company we used did not have the “cd” that Frenchie needed to make her GPS and/or the radio work.  And she only spoke Japanese, so it was difficult to know what she needed.  But every time she started up she would provide us instructions in Japanese we got to recognize the cadence but had no idea what she was saying.  Wanaka is a small town in the middle of the South Island in New Zealand.  It’s around a beautiful lake and is only an hour drive from Rob Roy glacier.  There are also lots of things to do and see right around the lake, including a solitary tree that is surrounded by the water.  It’s famous I was told. 

We stayed at an Airbnb near the town center where we got to know the house “managers,” a couple who were foragers.  Another thing about New Zealand that for whatever I reason I couldn’t get over was that there were all these plentiful trees and plants that you could forage from public places.  Apples, walnuts, almonds, etc. could all be collected from parks.  The couple had huge quantities of apples and walnuts that they had collected. I was amazed. 


Sara and I went out that night and ended up at a local bar with live music.  We befriended the owner of a restaurant in town who was out celebrating with her staff.  Sara was chatting with one of the chefs, who happened to be German and who also loved 80’s pop music.  We met a funky lady who was the manager of the Rippon Winery where we would go the next day.  This night, the staff were going hard and Sara and I jumped right in.  At about 1 am we left the bar and headed to another spot called LaLa Land, which was a loungey dive.  It had wall-to-wall carpet and random old couches and lounge chairs shoved into a small space.  When we arrived as a group of 8, we tripled the amount of people in the bar.  Our German friend took over the music and we started dancing.  After about 20 minutes we looked around and the bar had filled with more people, but Sara and I were the only ones still dancing.  Then, an incredible thing happened.  Our friend put on “Mambo #5.” You know that song that used to get played at middle school dances 17 years ago? Well, unbelievably, as soon as that song came on, literally everyone in the bar who had just been sitting and quietly talking, jumped up and started dancing.  People who had been basically laying around on couches were suddenly moving their feet and hips and singing along. Sara and I just looked at each other incredulously and kept it moving. 

The overall enthusiasm only lasted for one song.  Once it was over, everyone went back to what they had been doing previously, like nothing had happened.  We ducked out soon after and walked home in the middle of the empty street, dancing to Rhianna and other songs from Sara’s phone that we couldn’t get them to play at the bar.  It was chilly out.  The first wisps of fall were in the air and the numerous streetlights lining the road lit our way all the way home.  I was completely and utterly happy.