Friday the 13th? The spoopiest of days to explore post earthquake Christchurch. Still, I’ve woken up early so *pulls a chair around and sits down with the back part facing the front* let me rap with you kids. Waking up in Blenheim was a pretty quick and efficient matter. We showered, we ate, we shat. Eat your heart out, Alexander. In our haste (and perhaps negligence), we forgot one of our party’s bottles of pinot noir, purchased during the wine tour. Thing is, we each did a final sweep of the place and all missed it. I hope we’re not challenged to a Where’s Wally by a monstrous sphinx who stakes our lives upon our observation skills. Roadchip took its first victim. So it goes. A brief stop at the warewhare garnered us cheap pillows and we were off, chased out of the carpark by a renegade trolley, animated by some vengeful spirit.
Once we got out of Blenheim, things took a downturn. Or downpour, to be more accurate. A storm front rolled through and an area known for its annual hours of sun faced rain coming down in sheets. Disappointed but undeterred, we slowed our pace and found ourselves trapped behind truck after truck. Knowing that we were on our initial night of camping, visions of setting up our tent for the first time held a nightmarish hue. We laughed our fears away and kept the music playing. My unstoppable lust for bakeries and the group’s collective bladders had us stopping at a little tea room as we chilled out and took stock of the afternoon. We had a lot of driving to do in order to get to the outskirts of Chchch before nightfall (admittedly, nightfall in summer is closer to 10pm. We had a lot of time). The tea room was packed. Food was a little expensive and service was slow, but everything tasted pretty damn good. The teenage boy behind the counter was clearly pretty frazzled and it was putting strain on their operation. We got out into the storm and drove off into further rain.
Magically 10-15 minutes later it cleared up. Suddenly the scenery went from pleasant to majestic as fuck. Massive misty mountainsides blanketed with forestry. Waterfalls and burbling creeks, rushing water and sandy shores. We drove through steep cliffs (I looked down) with tight corners, crammed alongside large trucks. Sheep dotted the countryside in varying states of sheared-ocity. The wind whipped through their lush grassy meadows, causing the grass to ripple in a watery manner. Other tussocky paddocks held a long white crop, some alternative form of sheep feed. It billowed as clouds descended to the loamy floor. Quite the sight. I’m still not sure if the South Island is a different planet altogether.
We took an hour’s sojourn in Hanmer Springs, famed for its natural thermal pools. It was way too hot for hot pools so we ate instead. I followed a local’s suggestion to yet another disappointing bakery (Matamata, how you ruined me), then followed it up with a colossal two scoop ice cream cone (my tears over their lack of goody goody gumdrops flavour mitigated by sheer mass of dairy). My girlfriend managed to find gluten free fish and chips and some confusing sauce dispensers. If New Zealand was to innovate anything, it’d be tomato sauce technology. Farewell Hanmer Springs, your bakery was shit, but you compensated with ice cream.
We rolled into our beach holiday park camping ground just after 6pm. The woman behind the counter, oddly assuming we were Americans, Canadians, Australians or some combination of the above (Aucklanders aren’t well liked outside of Auckland. Same idea as Torontonians or New Yorkers. Non city folk aren’t the biggest fans of city folk. We prefer not to mention that we’re Aucklanders unless unduly pressed). This was mostly lovely and especially hilarious (her being Arkansas born and raised) when she told us all about how New Zealand downsized its coin sizes in the mid 2000s. We played along and marveled at the massive former 20c piece. In any case, she was a gem and basically let us choose where we wanted to be, suggesting us a spot handy to amenities, power (even through we hadn’t paid for a powered site) and most importantly, away from children.
We set up our tent (in the evening sun, not wretched rain), took a stroll along the beach then enjoyed an extensive tapas and wine before crashing out. Oh, we fancy campers here.
Happy Friday the 13th erryone, post quake Chchch update tomorrow.