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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ode to my family

My family is like a tornado, a tsunami, a force of nature. Now hold on a minute, before you all reach for your umbrellas and raincoats and try to hightail it out of here... Let me explain, I mean this in the most positive way imaginable. I guess a more accurate description of my nearest and dearest would be not just a tornado but the result of rainbow hitting a tornado, the most beautiful and vivacious thing ever to be created. Each member with their own unique hue and their own ways of spinning the weather vain.
I was privileged enough to spend a month with these sparkly people and now that I’m no longer with them It’s pretty obvious that it's not just the chill of the wicked winter weather that makes my bones ache.
I look around at the people here, and granted February is not the best of feel good months, but still their faces are drawn and lifeless the chatter on the tram when it happens is negative and the silence that fills its void when it’s not around is deafening.
I’m not saying that my family are always chipper, but tornados have a habit of moving things, of getting things done. When I think about my sisters, my cousins, my nieces, and nephews, I feel an enormous sense of pride. Each and every one of them has a life that they can be proud of, a life that they created for themselves (those who can not tie their own shoelaces yet are exempt from this category but I’m the proudest aunty on earth anyway). I feel that I can confidently say that I would be friends with every single one of them even there was no DNA involved.
None of us come from extremely affluent roots, but I believe that our elders gave us everything they could possibly spare and in some cases even more than that. I’m not just talking about material things, I’m talking about the other things, the important things that help us when we’re down, or give us a nudge in the right direction. Sometimes, I would sit there in the metropolis that some of us call home (AKA Massey) and watch them. Watch the way they spoke to each other, the way they listened to each other, the way the rolled around on the grass with a bunch of four year olds, acting like a bunch of four year olds and having the times of their lives while doing so. They make it all look so easy (I know that it’s not) But I was once again reminded that it really is the simple things in life that count, maybe all we really do need is love…
Of course I’m not naive and I know that as catchy as that tune is there’s a lot more to it. I guess that if I were to go completely soppy on you (I’m pretending that, that hasn’t already happened… my blog, my rules) I would say that love is like super glue, the thing that keeps it all together, or a sticking plaster, the thing that makes it all better (well, to the ones in the can’t tie their own shoe lace category anyway).
When you sit down to dinner with my family, enjoy the silence it’s the only time it’s gonna happen while they’re awake; but while you're doing that check out what else is there… amongst the spaghetti sauce and the clinking cutlery there is …. LOVE.
I felt it all the time when I was in the big A (apple has been taken so I will have to settle for the first letter) and I guess this is just a really long winded way of saying thank you, I appreciate you, I love you. For those on the other side of the Tasman in little “b” (Things over there just seem much smaller…) I extend my sentiments to you too. I have such fond memories of you all, whether it be a day at Wynnum Beach, or a pizza laden Outrageous Fortune marathon on Halloween.
My family give me a sense of belonging and kindle the drive in me to succeed. They make me want to move things; they make me want to be that ant, that ant that can move the rubber tree plant. Even if I can’t do it on my own anyone who has ever left sugar on the table knows that ants are very seldom alone.
Kia ora guys. Ka kite ano….

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Weather With You

"It won't happen overnight but it will happen"...... Ah yes, It's New Zealand's favorite daughter Rachel Hunter. Yup, I watched New Zealand's got talent....Today we took the short trip from Havelock to Nelson.
After not too long on the road we approached "civilization".
"Civilization" is very easy to recognize; there are little machines on the sides of streets at measured intervals. The deeper you get into "civilization" the more frequent they are..... Yes, I'm talking about parking meters... It was the first and only time that we've come across them on this trip so far.
Anyway back to Rachel Hunter.....As I mentioned in my last entry camping has been given its marching orders and we are dead set on sleeping anywhere but the Bat Mobile. We stayed in the Admiral motel just outside of the CBD, which meant a kitchen, indoor plumbing and a TV (it would've been rude not to use it).
The bed was comfy, the room clean and the kitchen in good working order. I even got to use an old Kiwi favorite, the electric frying pan. We hit the shops in downtown Nelson.......first stop Countdown where we encountered a problem that we are not used to having in Europe.... Errrrm the portions of meat were too BIG!!!!!  After umming and ahhhing a bit we settled on roast beef; some tatties, carrots and pumpkin made for a very yummy dinner. Dodo got her first taste of another Kiwi favorite too.... "The  Warehouse" (where everyone gets a bargain) We had a great laugh and came away with some sunscreen, and other goodies, that we needed for our trip. I loved Nelson, just a few streets with small shops, a helping of local eateries, and a cinema. I really liked the architecture too, it was old colonial style with a just a dash of Art Deco. Definitely a place I'd like to visit again.

The next morning we got up feeling decidedly more chipper and after sleeping in a real bed we were raring to go. Using some of the roast beef from the night before and a large helping of cheddar, piccalilli, and various other items from the salad bin, I made sandwiches for the day's journey which, promised to be a little more challenging than the ones that we had done so far. The destination on the cards for the day was Takaka. It wasn't the distance that was the problem, but the fact that we had to cross the Takaka hill worried me just more than a little. The long and windy stretch of highway has steep drops on either side that threaten to swallow you up if you don't keep your eyes firmly on the road in front of you.  Luck was with us and apart from some strongish  winds the weather was on our side (coming back over however, would be another story altogether). The sun was shining, our spirits were high and we headed towards Abel Tasman Road.
In Dodo's guide book she'd read about a little inn, owned by a Swiss couple. The biggest selling point was that it backed right on to the beach. We couldn't see it from our room, but it was literally a 2 minute walk. As it is not yet high season, apart from a few dog walkers and some kite surf enthusiasts checking their equipment we were all alone; time to kick back relax and enjoy the sunshine. All this time waiting, hoping, praying for good weather and I had completely forgotten how harsh the New Zealand sun is and half an hour later we had to take cover. We did some food shopping and returned to our room with the intention of going back out. Yes, I'm that naive, things being as they are the weather turned to custard and were once again forced to use our inside voices. The one thing I have to say that was really special was watching a family of Pukekos ( collecting the worms that had been driven up to the surface by the afternoon rain right outside our windows. They really are beautiful birds and I really enjoyed their company on a rainy Monday afternoon.
Now, if we were to believe the weatherman the rain was supposed to stay away until Tuesday evening and Wednesday would really be a day to take cover....  You'd think I'd know better than to trust weather men.

Tuesday started slow and lazy and was followed up by a trip out to Farewell Spit.  The road out there was quite narrow but flanked by dark green streams leading to and from the ocean. The water was rough and where there weren't crashing waves, the wind blew large ripples that headed slowly, but in a breaking rhythm to towards the shore. The water was covered with an uncountable number of black swans, all with their heads tucked up tight between their majestic wings on their elegant bodies. I have never been partial to these temperamental birds and now, the sight of so many of them huddled together seemed downright ominous. We carried on to the end of the road where there was a cafe/lookout point. Up until now although, I have been shocked by the price of food, I feel that we have always spent our money well and gone away with full and happy tummies; today however, our stomachs and wallets were about to receive a rude awakening.....

The cafe looks quaint and inviting, run by a couple of kids (if I said they were clueless, and it wouldn't have hurt them if they jumped in the shower ,every now and then, I would be grossly misleading you.) I'd had a fabulous Seafood Chowder in Kaikoura and was eager for a repeat performance. Oh, I got one alright just not the way that I had hoped for, it was completely void of taste but somehow managed to upset my stomach so much that I felt it all afternoon.  The way Dodo's mussels were prepared was a complete travesty and I'm not even going to waste your time explaining what a waste of good shellfish and money they were. Please, please do not spend one red cent there, you'll only be disappointed.

As you may have already guessed shortly afterwards it started to rain... so we headed back to the inn to nurse our sore stomachs and smarting wallets.Sometime, many hours later driven by our tentative but grumbling tummies we headed back into "town". At  all the restaurant doors we turned up at, dripping wet and hungry we were told that they were no longer serving food at, the ripe old hour of, 8 pm. My Italian friends can feel my pain I just know it. As we were about to give up,  we saw the warm glow of lights in a cafe tucked behind some trees. At this stage I had given up all hope but surprise! They were open late! Hot food and cold pints; the light at the end of the tunnel.

The rain was really coming down by the time we left and when we awoke the next morning it was pelting the plexiglas window in the ceiling, so hard that I thought it was going to come through. We packed up our few belongs and headed back towards Christchurch, where the plane is waiting to take us to a big party on Saturday. We went back the same way as we came, as the Bat Mobile is not the most comfortable vehicle to drive in bad conditions and we decided it was better not to brave Arthurs Pass in that kind of rain. After finally making it to the other side of Tarkaka hill (not a moment to soon, as the petrol light was "screaming feed me, feed me, feed me") we took state highway 6 which runs right through the middle of the South Island until it veers off to the left towards Greymouth and the West Coast.
I have never seen so much native bush in my life. The tea trees, and ferns stretched from the roads edge up steep hill sides to the left and right of us for 100's of kilometers.  A fine mist was rising up from between the trees making this lonely place even more mysterious. Just when you thought that you couldn't look at it any more, the native bush gave way to rows and rows of trees that grew so tall that they blocked out all the light from above. All the while as we marveled at the scenery the rain pummeled down on us and the numerous animals we saw along the way. Some of them trying to take shelter under nearby trees and hedges, others resigned to their fate remained rooted in place and seemed not all bothered by the the cold afternoon "showers". We got to a point where fire had obviously ravaged through this quiet part of the country. Some trees lay in ruins, scattered around like uncared for toys, others stood tall and proud wearing their blackened bark like war wounds, determined to soldier on and fulfill their job of bringing beauty to this Southern paradise.
State highway 6 changed in to state highway 85 and then in to 7. Each with a different sense of beauty. As we hit state highway 7 and headed back towards Hanmer Springs the trees cleared and we could see the effect that the relentless precipitation was having on the river below; It was dark, swollen and angry. The rapid waters moved swiftly and threatened to carry with it anything that got in it's way. I guess I now understand the tiny Hobbits dislike of water.  This was Mother Nature, once again showing her power and that she was not to be messed with.  All of a sudden up ahead I could see a patch of blue sky, the dark clouds were turning a lighter, friendlier colour. The sun was trying to break free. I could almost feel the sublime effort she was making.

Driving along this windy road deep in the heart of New Zealand's largest island, I was reminded of a legend that I was told of at primary school; the Maori legend of  Rangi (the sky god) and Papa (mother earth) who were separated by Tane the god of wind many years ago. Rangi and Papa still feel this loss immensely and in times of great grief Rangi sheds tears upon Papa to show his love for her. The mist that you can see rising out of the bush is Papa sighing. The love of Rangi and Papa survives to this day and continues to nurture both us and earth on which we live.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Four Seasons in One Day

I think the thing I like best about the New Zealand bush is the smell: the dampness, the denseness, the silence. If you stand there in the bush and breathe really deeply, the smell of the decomposing leaves and the Punga trees will over power all the other smells, and I almost feel like it could be another time entirely.  A time where the world was a totally different place, where dinosaurs roamed the earth, and the internet had not yet been invented. This is how I felt walking up the well worn path, from a parking space on the side of State Highway 1, going north from Kiakoura. The only signs of people were the little bridge and the Department of Conservation (DOC) signs along the track.
10 minutes after stepping in to the Jurassic Park like surroundings, we approached a waterfall; in the pond at the bottom of this fern covered natural wonder, were half a dozen seal pups frolicking in the icy cold water. The DOC sign informed us that the baby seals played here while their mothers were out at sea collecting food. So I guess this was a marine version of a playgroup.  We walked down the path, crossed the road and sat on the rocks to watch the larger mammals at work. Seeing these animals in their natural habitat was amazing, the fact that it was next to the longest state highway in the country, was nothing short of a miracle.

We got this tip thanks to our pintsize friend Libby who we met over our flat whites that morning. She was sweeping the cafe next to our hotel dressed in purple pyjamas and mismatched pink socks, this was the same attire that she wore when she crossed the street to buy some carrots .....  and no she did not put on any shoes. Libby often goes to see the seal pubs on the way back from the swimming pools..... this is of course if she doesn't fall asleep..Libby is four years old, has one medium sized brother, a larger sister and a dog called Ellie. Libby's mum owns the Pot Bellied Pig cafe in Kiakoura. Libby's mum suggested that we stop and check out the seal colony that lies about 20 minutes outside of town. Cheers Libby's mum choice tip.

Now correct me if I'm wrong but I'm pretty sure that a place that you go into to buy stuff is called a shop, like the "4 square" Libby's mums got her carrots from. Well here in the South it seems to be called a store. The first time I heard it was from our BFF Tania (see earlier entry) then from an assorted number of people from there onwards.Not that it really matters, I was just curious.... Anyway the next place we stopped at to top up on caffeine was a little shop/cafe called The Store. (see there it is again.... anyone else noticing a pattern) The spacious cafe with a massive selection of very naughty sweet treats almost made me want to run straight back to the Batmobile and high tail it out of there. We didn't and you wouldn't have either as soon as you looked out of the double glass doors that opened out on to the deck. We took a seat at an old round table which, had been rusted by the sea breezes that blew over the rugby field size verge of grass and wafted up to the cafe.
We gazed out on the ocean, sipped our coffees in silence and  guarded our treats from the various assortment of birds that were circling the table with one eye on our food and one on the competition.....until.... a jumbo sized bus of extra large people on a Lord of the Rings tour burst in to the roadside oasis and shattered the serenity. Holy tourists Batman, It's time to get out of here. After a quick costume change (i.e. goodbye jeans, hello shorts) We were on the road again, heading in the direction of Marlborough...  ahhhh wine country..... home to over 40 of NZ vineyards including the makers of my favourite drop.... Grove Mill......After a sweaty and slightly irritating tiki tour,* we arrived at Grove Mill's short gravel driveway, we drove up to the main building and........ you guessed it closed for the weekend.... Not cool guys, not cool.

We decided to cut our losses and kept heading north towards Nelson. We drove into Havlock and along the side of the road we saw the beautiful Queen Charlotte Sound. On a whim we decided to stop for a bit of a picnic. I say a bit of a picnic as the wind had really picked up and it was no longer really "outside weather". Whilst eating our fabulous sandwiches we consulted our trusty campers guide and found that there was a lovely seaside site just 20 minutes up the road.  We quickly polished off our sammys and headed off in search of the beach (in the hope that the weather would remain consistent and change again). The camping ground was quite empty and low and behold the weather did change again and we settled down on the grass to enjoy the late afternoon sun. Paradise! However, as dusk approached so did the mundane task of moving everything around from a seating to bedding area. Not quite tears before bedtime but the axe had well and truly fallen on camping. One chapter closed and another was about to begin...

*Kiwi for driving around. Sometimes with no particular goal in mind. Otherwise known as the long way (favoured by taxi drivers worldwide)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Baby it's cold outside

Camping's hard work, and it's sure as heck not romantic. Who knows maybe I'm just too old for this sh##. Truth is it's just not my thing. We tried it in a tent, and this time we "upgraded" to a camper van. The thing about camping is it's only fun if the weather's good and you have absolutely everything you need. So, I beg of you all next time I call you up to tell you about the fantastic camping holiday I'm planning, feel free to stop me, no I implore you to stop me and remind me that I just don't like camping!!!!!
In saying that I'm really glad that we did choose the camper van option. If we didn't there's no way that I would have been able to park next to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, drink a steaming hot mug of tea and immerse myself in my writing.

The weather is freezing cold outside, it's colder here than it was when we left Switzerland, and people it's winter there. I crawled out of bed this morning, dragged myself down the road to get my morning dose of java and was confronted with the sight of snow capped mountains and a biting breeze. Being outside was just out of the question, so we jumped in the B-Mobile and went for a drive. First stop was the supermarket to buy rope...What for??? We did some washing yesterday, and there is no drying room in the hotel.  One of the things that camping doesn't cater for if the weather isn't good... well bugger it... we bought some rope and hung it up in the back of the campervan to make an impromptu washing line.... and it's doing the trick nicely thank you very much.

So there I was in the snug as a bug in a Batmobile with a cup of cranberry tea, a washing line and an Ipad (sounds like the start of a bad joke) and I said that camping wasn't fun; truth is days like this are the ones that we remember forever. The wind howled around our little tin can with such force that the seagulls were stuck in midair beating their wings in vain but not moving forward at all. Sitting there with my tea cup warming my hands I couldn't have been happier... well... maybe camping isn't so bad after all... (this is where you guys start jumping up and down waving your hands in the air and refer me to the opening passage of this text)

So I mentioned crayfish in my last entry, for those of you who don't know Kaikoura is Maori for eat crayfish. At the end of the main street here, by the beach, there is a little food "caravan" not unlike my dad's Swiss Deli Roller ( the girls who work for my dad are way better looking though....) Here you can buy a BBQed crayfish and eat in on the beach (or in your camper with Crowded House rocking your Iphone) If I spent the rest of the day looking through the internet, I still wouldn't find a word that would adequately describe our lunch, so I'm going to go with an old favorite.... YUM.

Friday, November 30, 2012

November rain

Swiss coffee sucks. Italian coffee is excellent. New Zealand coffee will give Italian coffee a run for it’s money any day of the week!!
I had forgotten how fabulous a NZ flat white is (café latte). Strong coffee and milk that has a consistency that can only be described as luxurious.
Our second day Down Under started in a little café/dairy/post office. As it turns out the café is actually closed as it is “under new management and nothing has been decided on yet” warbled the lovely Tania from behind the coffee machine in the dairy/post office.
Never the less we were invited to sit down at a solitary table by the window which, had a spectacular view of the beach and of the bright red post boxes. A handy spot indeed if you were an undercover FBI agent waiting for an “unsub/perp” to come and clear their mail box. As we hadn’t eaten much for dinner the night before coupled by the fact that it was dinnertime in Europe, we were ravenous. We had a choice between pies and slices.
I of course went for the mince and cheese and Dodo had a bacon and egg pie. It was Dodo first pie in New Zealand.....pies are hot…. Dodo burnt her mouth……. what did we learn from this??? “You must always blow on the pie”
With 2 pies, 2 flat whites, orange juice and because we were feeling decadent a caramel slice we settled down to plan our day’s adventure. This is where the fun really began….. Dodo got her first taste of Kiwi hospitality……

Nothing was too much for our new BFF Tania.  She made us first class coffees, told us stories about the earthquakes , showed us pictures of her Cup Day dress  and looked up the addresses of campsites that she recommended that we checkout in Hanmer Springs the phonebook…. yes the phonebook…. remember those???
We ordered another coffee each and watched the show as the locals came in and out, buying the newspaper, collecting their mail, etc.
It was better than any of those cheesy reality shows followed by millions all over the world...... Finally we decided to move on, not before Tania buttered one of her homemade scones for us to take with us and once again produced the phone book to look up the address of the AA office in Christchurch (she even drew us a map!!!!).

We headed off back into the city to run various errands one of which was to get a car charger for our Tom Tom. We stumbled across a Bond and Bond outlet store and decided to try our luck. Once again we received stellar service. This time from an arachnophobic Cantabrian whose name I don’t recall. He served us swiftly and efficiently all the time cracking jokes that were right on the money.
Having achieved all the little things that we need to do jumped back in the Batmobile, and headed towards Hanmer Springs.
Im not kidding about the name of the camper….. check it out on the escape rentals site.

The drive was breath taking. As we drove along the road heading north, with more beauty on both sides than I've ever seen. I almost felt that we were intruding. Left and right there were hills and fields as far as the eye could see. The few houses and the number eight wire fences that made straight lines all the way out to the horizon were the only signs of life for kilometers around. I have always heard people referring to New Zealand as Godzone, and now for the first time I really understand why.  The landscape was both soft and rugged at the same time the rolling hills that turned into sharp cliff faces with rocks of all shapes and sizes poking out of the lush green grass that over time has grown around them.  Even the gorse bushes with their bright yellow flowers that blanketed the hills sides brought beauty to the table.
Hanmer Springs is famous for it thermal springs; well spring to be exact. I have to say we were a bit disappointed...Seeing so much beauty really takes its toll, we were completely exhausted by the time we got there and the arduous job of finding a campsite still lay before us. The one that our BFF had recommended was booked out and the others that we looked at were not what we were looking for, we had one last site to look at and it was pretty much do or die; we were too tired to look anywhere else and it was getting late...
We drove up to a little privately owned place, the TLC that the owners bestowed on it was immediately obvious, and the price was right. we parked our camper next to a tent that was smaller than a Porter Loo... but big enough for two sporty French people. It was freezing cold and we bunkered down in the Batmobile wearing loads of layers and all the blankets we had piled on top of us...... dreaming of warmer weather and the seafood paradise of Kiakoura....

We woke up early the next morning and the weather was nothing less than gorgeous; full of energy we hit State Highway One in search of sunshine and crayfish.
The drive was spectacular and the weather was on our side.... until we got our first glimpse of the ocean... all of a sudden clouds started to roll in... not fluffy white ones that remind you of cotton wool but the big black scary ones that you can almost hear screaming  "shows over folks".
After checking out a couple of camp grounds, there had been no change in the weather. The charcoal sky seemed to mirror the volcanic sand that was taking a merciless beating from the waves that were pounding relentlessly against the shoreline.
 We drove at snails pace down the "main-drag" trying not to lose hope when suddenly a blackboard that quite possibly fell from the heavens themselves caught my eye... double rooms $49... hmmm interesting... the hotel looked a little run down, quite possibly a remnant from a time when drovers herded sheep and cattle across this wild paradise. We snapped up the key to the room and plopped down on a bed that reminded me of a bouncy castle.  After hot shower and some intense chilling-out later we were starving. We bundled up against the elements and set out in search of something to quieten our rumbling bellies... and boy did we find it! A jumbo sized Porterhouse steak with hand-cut chips, (chups) a mushroom sauce and a side salad,for 15 bucks.... that and a pint of Speight's the world was right again. The heavens opened up but who cares? We had full bellies and cold beer. We got chatting to 2 Aussies at the same table and ending up becoming a team for the pub quiz.... If I said we were crap, it would be an understatement..... Dodo and George (the XY chromosome in our team) had to do a drink off to stop us being the wooden spoon holders of the evening...turns our the 4 of us were as thick as two short planks but D&G are fantastic drinkers....well done guys!!! That rounded off our third day Down Under...I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Every other time that I have paid copious amounts of hard earned cash to stuff myself into a pressurized tincan where I relinquish all hopes of sleep and reduce my culinary choices to, " fish or chicken madam",  I have flown directly in to the City of Sails. Don't get me wrong it's not that Mangere doesn't have its charms, but the images that that were flooded upon me yesterday morning are going to be my retinas screen saver of choice for a long time to come.

Yes, yes, I've seen Lord of the Rings.... I mean who hasn't? But even that couldn't prepare me for the stark beauty of the Southern Alps. Living in Switzerland I've seen my share of snow capped mountains, but these guys just took my breath away. The shear size and ruggedness of them was proof again what a force to be reckoned with Mother Nature really is. I watched in silence as the landscape ever so slowly changed from an untamed wilderness into something that the human race has harnessed for it's own use.

The taxi ride from Christchurch International Airport to pick up our camper, was both a comforting and sobering experience. The familiar wide streets and non European cars parked along them, and the lollipop girls stopping traffic so the children from a local primary school could traverse the street safely, brought back a sense of normality that was comforting and reminded me of days gone by. This however, was about to change...

We rounded a corner and passed Hagley park and just as promptly as I had felt comfortable, I felt horrified. I caught a tiny glimpse downtown of Christchurch. I can not even begin to imagine the fear that was felt by these people when the earthquake struck. I was in Italy when it happened and there's nothing like a natural disaster to make you feel far away from home. I got many kind phone calls that day from friends who wanted to check on the safety of my loved ones which, in a way helped to bridge the gap created by oceans and continents. Staring out that taxi window looking at the massive man made structures that had succumb to the angry battle being fought by the tectonic plates that are floating quietly beneath our feet. As I took in the wreckage, I felt a lump rise in my throat, I shuddered to think what I would do if the earth suddenly decided to rebel against Auckland, Zurich or any of the other beautiful places that I have been fortunate enough to visit or even call my home. I guess as melodramatic as it may sound what I felt was a little bit of heartbreak for the city of Christchurch, and my fellow landsmen that call this little slice of heaven home.

We arrived at Escape Rentals and retrieved the keys to what will be our home for the next eleven days. It all went down in typical Kiwi style with lots of smiles and a liberal helping of the word "mate". Dodo jumped up into the driver's seat (I, to be honest had to climb up using the arm rest on the door as a boost) and we drove of with a slight amount of trepidation... ahhhhh, driving on the left hand side of the road... fun will be had by all...
We stopped off at the first supermarket that we found to stock up on supplies for our first night on the road (remember how I told you I had to climb up into the van? Good for you! I forgot, and just about face planted in to the car full of grinning kids parked next to us.)
The supermarket was as cold and large as I remember New Zealand supermarkets to be and for a little bit I think I know how Charlie and those other kids felt the first time they went into the chocolate factory. I resisted the urge to pick up a basket and skip down the aisles, collecting as much as I could carry while humming the tune to the Smurfs.
We got the basics: wine, Vogel's bread, cheddar cheese and garlic mussels, gassed up our home on wheels and headed off to discover New Zealand's South Island in a way that it has never been discovered before.

Dodo is quite handy for the fact that she can spend hours online, reading guide books, researching and compiling information on some of the beautiful places that we are going to see. I however, am fairly useless in this respect... My preparation for the trip was composed of buying the guide book for Dodo, calling Rebecca to let her know, that that we'd be swinging by and throwing some undies and t-shirts in my suitcase. The first place that Dodo's research has led us to is Akaroa, and it has a charm that only rural New  Zealand can. The roads are narrow and winding, the hills are majestic and yessssssss, there are beaches... One of which I'm sitting on right now, in my pajamas, writing this!

The first campground we found was... well, a rip-off and we didn't feel comfortable at all. I've never been to Florida before but on T.V. I have seen all the people, of a certain age, sitting around drinking Mojitos and getting a tan... It was a bit like this but swap the Mojitos for ridiculously large motor homes. Our fatigue got the better of us and we decided to stay there anyway...then we changed our minds... we went out for a bit of a drive and saw the most beautiful little campground, flanked by a little rocky beach. We pulled in and had a chat with the manager, 15 mins later we were unpacking enjoying the sounds of the tiny waves rolling up along the shoreline, and the native birds piping out a concert that Justin Bieber could only dream of.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Leaving on a jet plane

It's my first time in an A360 and I have to say I'm not unimpressed. This thing is massive, to be honest I'm surprised that it doesn't have it's own area code.
We were lucky enough to be able to choose our own seats and of course my eyes searched in vain for seats on the emergency exit row which, of course where all already taken. We settled for the last row on the right hand side of our monster transporter. There were a couple of reasons for this; the first and for anyone who's ever spent more than half an hour with me, the most's really close to the toilets! The second was a bit more of a gamble but I figured that as there were only three seats, there might be a chance that no one would choose the solitary seat to our left. I put all of our collective chips on 62 J and K and as chance would have it we were able to claim all 3 seats as our own.

Every cloud has a silver lining they say, but clouds themselves are usually there for one of two things, to block the sun or to rain on your parade - and the very loud German man located about a kilometer away from us is trying very hard to make sure that not only our parade sees moisture but the passengers in the rows in front of us also look like they are about to reach for their umbrellas...

As far as airline food goes, lunch wasn't too bad. It would seem that Lady Luck, although on our side so far has a sense of humor...Today is the 25th of November...... and on this very day in 1995 I left home and headed for the land of cheese and chocolate. On the way to the airport I promised myself something...Not, I will save my pennies for a rainy day or anything quite so profound..... But, I will never eat mashed potatoes ever again... (Childhood trauma... Don't ask ) So I'm offering 10 free points to anyone who can guess what was on the menu... "Yes, you in the back with the red hoodie"... "Speak up please I can't hear you over the German guy"... "Correct MASHED BLOODY POTATOES..."
Everything else was great and even if the gingerbread cake didn't put visions of sugar plum fairies in my head the couple of glasses of red wine that I needed to wash it down, will probably do so soon.

Time to start flipping through the entertainment choices, of which there are many. My love
of the Cape Crusader will most likely win but a Big Bang Theory marathon to send me into the land of nod also has its appeals (Sheldon for president).