Well this is the last installment in my New Zealand adventure!
At the end of the last email I mentioned some philosophical thoughts as I sat and watched the sun rise over the beach at Kaikoura. There is something magical in the air as you sit alone watching the sun come up in the morning. With the edge of the world seeming to be at your feet and no one else around I felt a sense of complete perfectness – being exactly where I was meant to be at that moment in time. Watching the world wake up and watching your day start off with a brilliant array of vibrant colours. I was sitting at a T-intersection and there was an <<<>>> arrow sign behind which the sun was rising – I loved the symbolism of the image. A new day was beginning and I had many choices of what to do with it – to go one way or another so to speak..
Anyhow, I managed to find a really good t-shirt shop in which I finally got Darren a Harley shirt – I’d been searching for a nice one for the whole trip and came across this one almost by mistake. I got chatting to the shop assistant – she was from England – and we ended up exchanging email addresses as she might be heading to AU before she goes home. Another day, another contact. I love it! We had a short sunbake before we left, on rocks rather than sand. It was a beach but no sand. Weird. I was at the back of the van at one stage and a family of mum, dad and son came up and asked if I would mind putting the back of the van down so the son could take a photo as he was collecting photos of all the “Wicked” vans – I hesitated and asked the parents if they knew what was on the back of the van (you have to be careful with these things, I imagine that more than a few parents have had to explain what masturbate means to their kids, and to further explain that doing it does not kill kittens!) – anyway, the parents said they knew what was on the van and they still wanted a photo – so I happily obliged. That van has become a bit of an icon in its own right! We’re so used to it now we dont even think about it, but occasionally you’ll get a horrified look from someone and we’re quickly reminded of it – but all we can do is laugh. At least its a conversation point!
It was my turn to drive that day, so I clocked up 368 kms – from Kaikoura in the north of the island, back to the Peel Forest in the centre of the island – back to visit the boys from the original Rafting trip we took. We had decided that seeing as we only had a few days left and we were a bit tired after driving so many kms, that we’d just spend the last few days chilling out in the forest – it was a beautiful place and as we knew the boys we had somewhere to stay!
On the way there though, we needed a shower stop. We chose Methven – a place which is super busy in Winter (for the ski season) but in summer is fairly dead. The caravan park we went to was so desolate I figured we better ask to use their showers or we’d be noticed for sure. Adding to that decision was a sign on the gate stating that “Trespassers would be Prosecuted” – so we decided to take the safe option this time. Lucky we did because we were stared at by the whole park (maybe 6 people) as we entered the shower block – talk about feeling like an intruder – boy oh boy!
When we finally arrived at the boys’ house it was quite pretty – the house was a ramshackle, mis-shapen, quaint old building at the end of a rocky driveway, set amongst a spectacularly brilliant green scene of trees, bushes and various other plants I have no hope of naming.. The immediate area around the house was neatly mowed and all the plants and trees were obviously well cared for. Set well back from the road, you could be forgiven for thinking you were the only house on the road. I could just imagine a curl of smoke rising from the chimney and home baked bread on the window sill and it would have been a scene straight from a novel.. The funny thing was that they had no running water – they got their water from a neighbour’s tank up the hill, and some other neighbour had tapped into the water line and was pinching all their water! So even though it was a house, we were still living like in the van (ie squatting outside with a roll of toilet paper for the loo!). I have to admit though, it was one of the best views I’ve ever had whilst going to the toilet!!
We spent two nights there, not only were the boys quite funny and friendly, it was a nice way to wind down the last leg of the holiday, cementing newly formed friendships! On Thursday we had to drive back to Christchurch, as I had to be up at an awfully early hour on Friday to get my plane. Saying goodbye to the boys was hard, we almost felt like we lived there by then. I can keep my emotions in check (most times) but when someone else cries, so do I. From previous experience, I knew Lynsey hated saying goodbye and would avoid it as long as possible. I on the other hand, like to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. We went to the lodge to say goodbye to all the other rafting guides we’d gotten to know and exchanged all the usual pleasantries and email addresses. I conceded that I may just have to join Facebook (for those who dont know, [I think] its another way of keeping in touch with people over the internet – more so than just emailing). I’ve resisted joining thus far, as I’ve not been sure of the public access people have to your information, and I’ve stated that I dont have enough time to see people in person, let alone on the net. However, I think it might be a good way to keep in touch with friends overseas and when travelling I could put pics up etc etc.. Anyway, we said our final goodbyes and drove out. There was a group preparing to go rafting for the day, and Lynsey and I had a chuckle thinking about what the group must have thought of these two girls leaving – in the van with our now famous slogan – and who had all the rafting guides waving goodbye. We were famous in our own right, especially with that van!
Back to Christchurch it was. We cleaned the van, washed the linen and discovered another loophole in the caravan park system (not that it was much good to us this late in the holiday!) – we asked to use the laundry to wash the linen, and snuck into the showers while we waited for the washing to finish! Nice work! And they were the cleanest showers we’d been in which was an even bigger bonus! We had Thai for dinner, and sat for a while after dinner reminiscing and laughing about our trip. We’d had heaps of fun, and the times that were definately NOT funny at the time, now were. Neither of us wanted the holiday to end, but it had to. Obviously. We parked near the airport for the night and went to bed at about 9am (I had to get up at 4.30am to be at the airport by 5am!)
I realised, too late, how stingy Australia is in how much alcohol you can bring back into the country. I could have taken 3 bottles of spirits, 12 stubbies of beer and a few bottles of wine into NZ – yet going back to AU I could only take two litres of alcohol in total. Considering that Lynsey had given me a bottle of Scotch she bought over from Scotland, that was one litre to spare. I wanted to bring some of the beer I liked back home, but it would have only been three bottles. I ended up giving the two six packs I’d bought to the girl at the Air New Zealand counter as I bought a bottle of Baileys to take home instead. I spent my last few NZ dollars on a book by Bryce Courtenay – Tandia. Its the sequel to The Power of One, which is my very favourite book of all time! I read the whole flight home and arrived at 9am to a bright sunny Melbourne morning. Thankfully Darren came to the airport to pick me up and we headed home.
Its a weird feeling, returning from a long holiday. Good to be home, but sad at the same time. I called it my “returning to reality blues day” and spent it downloading my photos and unpacking. Keeping busy. I miss travelling and meeting new people and seeing new places, but I guess if you do it for a living, then its not really a holiday hey?! I do have plenty of future trips planned though, and I guess its nice to have a home to come back to and friends to catch up with and share stories with.
So, after 19 days in NZ, and a total of 3766 kms driven, a tattoo, and lots more contacts and friends made, my trip is over. I hope those of you who have managed the time to read each of these emails has enjoyed them, and anytime you want to catch up just give me a buzz.