In December we finally reached the end of the first leg of our travels, and arrived in Christchurch (on New Zealand’s South Island) where we plan to live for the next year or two. It’s been a long old journey to get here — longer than we planned in both time and distance. So all in all we were ready to hang up our backpacks for a bit.
Except that we had a family Christmas to be at, 1400 km away.
More on that below… for the moment suffice to say we’re back in Christchurch now, we’ve got nothing more ambitious than a weekend trip planned, and frankly that feels wonderful. I’ve been enjoying going to the swimming pool regularly, eating lots of home cooked food, volunteering at a community garden, catching some live music, hanging out with friends. Re-iniviting a modicum of routine into my life.
I’d become so sick of being one dimensional: travelling, talking about travel, writing about travel, reading about travel. It’s a joy for me to be adding other things back into the mix.
But already, after a few weeks of staying still, I’m feeling enthusiasm building for travel again. This makes me marvel even more at how low my travel motivation had got. Which was you know, really, really low. Put it this way, at one point in November I started crying because I had to check out of a hostel before I’d had time for a shower. I may also have cried at having no milk to put in my tea.
Reaching breaking point with travel is not something I expected to happen to me, but there it is. Being a permanent nomad is clearly not my thing. But these twinges of returning enthusiasm for future trips suggest I’m not turning into a homebody either. I guess we’ll have to find a way to be both: travellers with a home. Further thought needed on that one!
For the moment though, here’s how we spent our last month as semi-nomads. Lap it up — next month with be gloriously dull by comparison. Sorry (not sorry).
Where have we been?
1 day in Sydney
The first day of December was our last full day on Australian soil. Obviously we spent it on the beach. So not really soil…
We were staying in a car parked near Bondi beach (don’t ask), and also made it across to another beach to meet up with some friends and their very new baby, who had her very first swim.
It would have been nice to spend more time with friends in Australia, but by this point we had well and truly had enough of backpacking, so getting to NZ to have some chilled out family time was exactly what we wanted to do. And we did.
10 days in Christchurch
It’s been pretty strange coming back to Christchurch, where I previously lived about seven years ago. It still kind of feels just like home, but then not. Lots of my friends have moved away, and the centre of town is almost unrecognisable, following the 2010/11 earthquakes (over 1200 buildings have been demolished in the very centre). I’ve had to find my way around all over again. But I still think it’s a great place to live if you like getting into the hills, and I think the city centre is already nicer than it was before all the destruction. (I’m well aware that it’s easy for me to think this, having missed all the chaos and heartbreak of living through the earthquakes and the years immediately following them. But I am really excited about what Christchurch is beginning to become.)
1 day in Akaroa
For my birthday we spent a happy afternoon pottering around Akaroa, a small seaside town about an hour and a half away from Christchurch. My favourite bit was the local museum, which completely charmed me. It’s full of the stories and household objects of the earliest settlers of the area. I’m fascinated in the history of early immigration to New Zealand, so it was right up my street.
5 days on the road
In the middle of December we bagged another campervan relocation to get from Christchurch to Auckland, so that we could make our way to a family Christmas north of Auckland, a little way south of the Bay of Islands. Spectacular scenery ensued. Except when it was hidden by low cloud and sheeting rain…
We stayed at some pretty camp spots, had a BBQ on our van’s fancy slide out grill, and went on an unexpectedly adrenaline filled scenic detour on a narrow windy road just north of Wellington. It was indeed scenic, but I was very glad there was almost no traffic coming the other way. My favourite bit of our road trip was whiling away most of an afternoon soaking in some free natural hot springs in Taupō (read tow-paw), then finding a free camp a little way upstream where we had a so-beautiful-it’s-kind-of-unreal river view. And a cold beer.
11 days in Northland
This bit of the month was all about having our first family Christmas in three years! Cake was eaten. Wine was drunk. We had the traditional Christmas day swim without probable hypothermia for a change, and then we played a game where you smash plates of squirty cream into your own face. Yup.
We even managed to do a bit of exploring in between cake eating sessions, and had a Christmas eve hike featuring the slightly terrifying pinnacle pictured above. It was really lovely seeing everyone after so long apart, and also strange, how much has changed, and how little.
1 day in Auckland
This was really more like a couple of half days passing through New Zealand’s big smoke (which isn’t that big, or smoky). Both times we were pretty tired, so we didn’t see much. Hopefully we’ll be back up this way at some point, there are a few things I’d like to check out, like a public swimming pool that’s been open since 1914. Also micro breweries — the NZ beer scene seems to have vastly improved in the six and a half years since I was last here!
2 days in Wellington and Picton
We got the bus back from Northland to Christchurch, and didn’t book it far enough in advance (classic). When I say ‘the bus’, it’s actually at least two buses and a ferry, and there were no sensible connections left when we went to book our tickets. Thus we had to break the journey in Wellington (NZ’s capital) before getting on the Cook strait ferry (that’s the service between NZ’s North and South Islands), and also spend a night in Picton on the other side of the strait.
This meant we got to spend a joyful rainy day exploring Te Papa — the Museum of New Zealand, which is full of fascinating snatches of NZ social history. And also a joyful sunny day wandering around Wellington, cruising across the Cook strait, and eating battered mussels and chips by the bay in Picton.
Yeah, uh. Nothing?
But seriously. Right now our main focus is looking for work. Fun times. I’m really looking forward to getting back to work, but the process of getting there? Not a fan.
So we’ve been breaking up that travail with some day trips around Christchurch, and even a weekend hiking to a cute little hut in Lewis pass, a couple of hours west of Christchurch. More on these joys in next month’s update, but here’s a glimpse of last weekend’s trip: Saturday night in a hut in the woods, playing trivial pursuit in front of the fire.
We’ve got lots more ideas for places we want to explore while we’re in New Zealand, but our plans are still pretty vague. We think they might involve bicycles… But more on that next month!
Any suggestions for what we should get up to in New Zealand? Thoughts on how to balance travel and making a home?
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