2011. A Great Year for Travel.

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…

My brand new novel, the eco-thriller, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook

Best Trip to Date…

The words ‘holiday of a lifetime’ are strange and dispiriting, I feel, implying that future excursions are off the cards. How are we to know that a trip is a ‘holiday of a lifetime’? It is something you cannot say until the possibility of travel is no longer there for some reason. For the majority of us, this reason is only going to be extinction, or such catastrophic incapacity as to make travel impossible.

There are places and explorations, however that render all other trips insignificant, that if asked where are favourite holiday or travel experience was we would answer without hestitation. For me, that trip is our tour of New Zealand in 2011. And I will endeavour to write and show all the reasons why this experience tops everything else to date.

For a start, the idea was hatched [by Husband] as a grand retirement jaunt, both of us having turned in the towel on teaching that year. Then it happened to be New Zealand’s turn to host the rugby world cup, which was an obvious lure for Husband. Myself, I’m not as averse to rugby as I am to other sports and the watching of international games was to provide an extra frisson and reason to love these very special islands.

In order to take in as much of the rugby as possible whilst also seeing most of New Zealand we opted for campervan hire, and given that we were acccustomed to vans and camping this seemed the most suitable way for us to travel.

The expedition did not have a great start, since on arrival to Heathrow we queued up to be told that our Quantas flight to Brisbane was cancelled and we’d have to go next day, spending the night at an airport hotel. This meant that our onward connecting flight to New Zealand would no longer be possible. With no options, we gnashed teeth and went to the hotel, returning next day for a flight to Australia-but to Singapore, which we duly boarded, having been blithely assured we’d be ‘sorted out’ once we got there.

At Singapore it was about 2.00am and we queued up, bleary-eyed, at a Quantas desk, finding ourselves at the very end of a long, snaking line of disgruntled passengers. Much later, at the desk, the staff member seemed to be at a loss to know what to do with us, finally adding us to the next flight to Sidney, which is at least Australia, so we’d be nearer to our destination!

Who knows what time it was when we arrived to Sidney? It was late. Dark. We dragged ourselves to the airport hotel, to wake after what seemed no time at all for another flight-to Christchurch! At check-in I believed I was hallucinating when the woman at the desk asked us to open all our luggage for scrutiny, after which we barely made it on to the plane. By the time we touched down at Christchurch I was beyond calculating how many hours we’d travelled, or how many hours we’d missed or gained.

But arrival to the small, homely airport was like stepping out of a blizzard into a warm bath; the staff friendly, the arrival pain-free. Then we walked out into spring sunshine, to where a taxi driver waited, his door open ready for us to sink into a seat and we were off to see if the hotel that had expected us 24 hours ago still had our room available…

My brand new novel, the eco-thriller, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook