The inauspicious start of my New Zealand trip should have warned me that there were more interesting episodes to come (Holiday from Hell series: Lunatic on Belmont Ave, Missing Flights, Wrong Country, The Missing Backpack).
The only thing we knew about the man was that he was Dutch. He had rented a car, and like nearly everyone else on our glacier hike, he was touring the South Island of New Zealand. We had seen him earlier during the hike on Fox Glacier. While the four of us split up loaves of bread, fruits, and cheese during our lunch break in a riotous operation, he sat quietly on a rock, munching on a sandwich and observing the rest of the group. All day, he had seemed eager to press on. To where, I don’t know. We hadn’t paid much attention to him earlier. He’d spoken briefly to my brother and his friend, inquiring where we were staying and what our plans were. They had told him, thinking nothing of it.
After we had finished tramping around the glacier, we had all piled into the rental car and driven out to the beach to watch the sunset. We stood on the beach in our warm coats, shivering in the New Zealand winter evening. We watched as the sun dipped down below the horizon, making Mt. Cook glow a vivid pink. Finally, when the cold became too much to bear, we ran back to the car for the return drive through the dusk.
When we arrived back at our cabin in Fox Glacier, we were surprised to see another car parked near it, but since there were many other cabins in the vicinity, we dismissed it. We went into the cabin, turned on the heater, and huddled around a table with a pack of cards, a bottle of wine, and a bag of exotic fruits. After an hour or so, one of the guys went out to use the bathroom in the main building. When he came back, he had news for us.
“I met the Dutch guy,” he said. We looked at him, puzzled. “He’s outside in the parking lot.” It took a few more minutes for us to understand what he meant. The Dutch man was not sitting outside in the cold, but he had been sitting in his car in the parking lot of the motel. When our friend had exited the cabin, the Dutch man had followed him into the main building and asked if he could spend the night in our room.
We put it to a vote. By that point, we were feeling the effects of imbibing good wine and our decision-making process was rather slow. On the one hand, it would be really cold in his car, and we felt bad for him. On the other hand, it was a little bit strange that he had just shown up at our motel and literally the only thing we knew about him was that he was Dutch. We didn’t even know his name. There was also no bed and limited floor space for him to sleep on.
By the time we came to a decision, we couldn’t find him, and he ended up spending the night in his car. It must have been cold because when I got up in the morning and went outside, it was freezing. All of his windows were fogged up, so we knew he was in there, but I still couldn’t figure out why his best sleeping option had been to spend the night in the parking lot of a motel.
I still don’t know what to make of him. There is something slightly unnerving about having someone show up and sleep outside your room. And I never found out his name.
Have you ever had a strange experience like this one?