Leaving my family


  • Lake Tekapo – Christchurch

Dave the crazy bus driver was still in mad and mental spirits leaving Tekapo. Although we were well rested, all three of us still fell asleep on the bus pretty quickly.

We briefly stopped en route for coffee and the toilet, but in a little town with fabulous cheese and chutney shops. Whilst Puck and I were getting coffee, Matt walked in with a slice of Brie in hand. He’d had the idea that we have a cheese and wine evening for Puck’s last night which was awesome! So we went back to the cheese shop and purchased a Woodbury Blue and Peppered Gouda as well as some roast vegetable chutney.

Arriving in Queenstown, we were surprised how large the 4-bed YMCA dorm was. Puck didn’t want to pay for a bed as she was leaving at 3am so she dumped her stuff in our room too. After fueling up on food, and saying another hi and bye to Monique who was about to leave for the airport, we headed in to town. Christchurch is a little run-down following the 2012 earthquake. There’s a lot of construction work going on on pretty much every street and shops set up in containers (#containerlyf) for a hipster feel.

We wondered the containers so that Matt and Puck could pick up some souvenirs to take back to their families, went to the supermarket for wine to pair with our cheese and grabbed some dinner at a little food van. After Puck had packed, we crashed in the lounge area watching murder documentaries, disability hotel and master chef with cheese and wine in hand. Ahhh the travelling lifestyle!

Bed had our names on it about 10.30pm and Puck hopped in with me for the few hours she had left. We had chosen the snoring room. Matt was at it first, then the two other guys in our room, and the entire room shook when they turned over on the top bunks. All kinds of sucking, snorting and gurgling noises were coming from these 3 boys and we couldn’t stop laughing, but it did mean we only managed about an hours rest before the loudest alarm you’ve heard in your life (Puck’s) went off. Typically, everyone else was awake before she was too.

I waved her off crying on the inside yet again. She was another particularly hard goodbye having become simultaneously my crazy Dutch sister and child since joining the family and providing Em and I some of the funniest nights together.

Matt and I slept in until about 10.30am and since he had decided not to go rafting, we chose to explore some of the suburbs of Christchurch. I had another somber attitude that morning after realising it was time to make new friends when the family had been so great. But I also had some AMAZING news that Em had decided to fly over to Australia and meet me in Brisbane to do my birthday, Christmas and New Year with me!!! In addition, it was December 1st which meant advent day 1, the start of my years wait for any kind of personal celebrations and Christmas songs in their plenty (although I couldn’t feel less festive in the sun here)!

Off Matt and I went to the bus interchange to work out how the hell to get to Lyttleton – a port town that had been recommended by one of the container keepers (shop keeper but ya know, #containerlyf) the day before. We had to get on a red route bus which was the same route that the guy on the murder documentary the day before had met his victim on, so we worried what we had got ourselves in for!

However, arriving in Lyttleton we were surprised initially by how small, and then how industrial, it was.

After wondering up ‘Oxford Street’ with a little stop off at a tiny art gallery, to the “town” centre, we understood why it had been recommended. The place felt like it was about 40 years behind the rest of the world, with many cute nick-nack shops and cafes. We wondered in to one shop where I could have purchased everything and not actually needed any of it! It was full of re-worked drift wood, jewellery and poems in scrap books. The cafe we went to was super hippy and vegan, kind of like something you’d find in Stoke’s Croft in Bristol.

Our tour of Lyttleton was completed within the hour, so we then caught a yellow line bus to New Brighton (pier included). The yellow line bus was far scarier than the red line! One particular highlight came from a lovely Maori lady with eyebrow piercing and pants on show, asking to be dropped outside her house. When the bus driver refused, lines of “if I didn’t have my shopping with me right now” and “you f*cling c**t” ensured. Queue Matt: “ooh”. We were indeed amoungst the riff raff!

Eventually we got to New Brighton, with all our teeth and money in tact, and went in search of some lunch. We wanted fish and chips to really feel at home but choice was limited and we settled for a beachfront cafe instead, after which we wondered along the pier. New Brighton is recognised for its architecture of the pier but in truth, English Brighton is far more impressive. Still, it was nice to see the beach and a local fisherman insisted on a photo shoot of Matt and I and then greeted him in true Maori nose-touching style. So at least we were peacefully welcomed to the community of New Brighton even if our entrance was somewhat eventful.

Throughout the day I had been picking Matt’s brain for Australia tips and when we got back to the hostel, decided to sort some of my tours out and chill out for a few hours. During this time, we bumped in to the boys again who were flying out the next day and invited us out with them that evening. First though, we had to have a nice celebratory meal for Matt, who was actually heading back home after 14 months abroad.

We went in a new direction from the hostel, towards the botanical gardens and across the river, stumbling across the most adorable pub, ‘The Pegasus Arms’, playing live music. I’d liken it to the Old Mill at home with The Plough-style decor. I opted for a cheap quinoa and roast pear salad whilst Matt splashed the cash on beef wellington, yet my plate of food was huge and delicious! We sat and enjoyed our meal and gay date with glass of wine in hand. It was nice to have been a part of both Matt and Puck’s last evenings, knowning they enjoyed themselves.

Back at the hostel, Matt decided he didn’t want to go out as he was up at 4am and had things to pack. I got myself ready and head off down to the boys room to become, for the second time this trip, one of the lads for the night! Luckily they seemed happy to have me and promised not to go on the pull. It was nice to enjoy their company again after a week or so not going out with them.

After obligatory boy jokes, stories and girl chat (I threw myself in to being a lad for the evening), we went in search of ‘Empire’, a club recommended to the boys. Luckily I’d worn Tom’s rather than Adidas Originals that evening but was still very underdressed, clearly forgetting to pack my heels. It looked as though being a guy for the night was going to be forced upon me anyway.

The night continued with nasty wine, tequila, gin and tonics, and of course, dancing! The boys did as promised and did not go on the pull, and we had a really fun last evening for them too. Calling it early due to their flight times, we went in search for food about 1am, apparently losing Joe and Tom along the way. Rory and Jack eventually found somewhere to sell them a BLT whilst I tried to dry my shoes as they made me walk through a flood along the way.

The boys head off to bed and so I said a quick farewell but with the promise to catch back up in Sydney over Christmas. I quickly FaceTimed back to JHW and Charles at home and then head off to bed myself, woken up 2 hours later by Matt to say goodbye and then again another 2 hours later by my alarm to leave Christchurch and make some new friends.

Christchurch was a mixed bag of emotions. A lot of goodbyes were said, experience of a post-earthquake city, #containerlyf 2.0, city suburbs and another fun night out. I’d like to return when the city is re-built again though, this time with an earthquake-proof infrastructure.

So, 32 days in to ‘life from a bag’ and goodbye old friends, hello new. One thing I’ve definitely learnt here is that the people you meet are undoubtedly the cause of incredible life-long memories, teach you what you really value in all your friends, and also yourself :). Thanks pals.

Gabby x


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