We’d arrived to Christchurch, New Zealand, frazzled by the failings of Quantas and having missed our first night at the hotel. I was stupefied by lack of sleep and could manage nothing more then a drop into bed, whatever time it was, although Husband, an expert flight sleeper, was determined to stride out and around the area closest to us, in spite of the long, tedious journey. It was a great thrill for him to spot our surname everywhere in the area!
I should say at this point that since we had booked our trip earlier in the year, New Zealand’s South Island had suffered a catastrophic earthquake, the epicentre of which was Christchurch. It had rendered the centre of the city unsafe and our original hotel was within the fenced off zone. We’d been relocated to a hotel outside the fenced area, which was fine except for the alarming forest of accro supports holding it up.
Arriving a day late meant less time to explore Christchurch, but much of it was off limits, horrendous cracks in the streets and tumbled down buildings visible through the fencing. Once we’d slept off our jet lag we walked across nearby Hagley Park to see as much as we were able. The plucky inhabitants of Christchurch were already planning the renaissance of the city and an exhibition of the ideas could be seen in the park.
After one more night we needed to go and collect the campervan we’d hired and set off on our travels. At the van depot we were treated to a tour, during which I fell completely in love with the beautiful van-a panel van with toilet and shower, fully equipped with bedding, kitchen untensils, wine glasses and everything you could think of [plus more that you couldn’t]. It was all stored in clever, customised ways. We also had electric and gas heating. Heaven!
Husband needed to collect the rugby tickets he’d reserved so we found the place and while he queued to verify things and sort it out I made my way to the Woolworths supermarket to stock us up with everything we’d need for the road. I was charmed that it was Woolworths, as the store will be familiar to anyone of my generation, although not as a supermarket. Inside I managed to find most things we needed, but not tomato puree. When I asked a fellow shopper if she knew where it might be she walked around the shop with me, helping me with everything, making me feel truly welcome.
We had the van. We were stocked up. We were raring to go. We stowed everything away and, using the map book thoughtfully provided in our van hire pack we set off towards the coast on the start of our magnificent odyssey. I couldn’t help smiling- a state that was to continue for three whole months…
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