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Published: January 8th 2016
I arrived in New Zealand in Christchurch at 2 in the morning and straight away grabbed my jacket from my backpack. After 3 months of hot Australian summer weather it was nice to be cold. However I was tired and needing a bed to sleep and thank god I had pre booked a hostel earlier, which I had stopped doing whilst in Australia. I got dropped of at the YHA by a group taxi outside the front door and noticed that the 24 hour reception was closed! After banging on the door for a while, it was answered by a cleaner who tried his best to get me checked in and after 15 minutes of checking in, I was given a room key and directions to the room where I would be staying and obviously at 3 in the morning in a hostel room of 6 people, they were all asleep, but not for long. How dare they put all their bags on the floor for me to fall over! Good job I fell asleep quickly listening to german mutterings….
I was informed that I was to check out by 10 in the morning and I managed to do it while half asleep, dropping my backpacks off into the baggage room. My future plans for the next week or so was to be spent with Tim and Learna and children. Tim is the brother of one of my closest friends, who had mentioned earlier in my travels that it could be possible if I was to ever visit New Zealand that there was a chance that he would put me up. I was a lucky person that he agreed for me to stay and especially over the Xmas period. Tim had arranged for transportation to pick me up at 12:30 to take me to Methven, a small town that he lived on the outskirts of. So with an hour and a half spare to kill, I went on a walking tour of Queenstown, mainly to find a NZ Sim Card for my mobile and to see a bit of the city.
Queenstown was hit by major earthquakes in 2010/2011which devastated the city and 4 years on the place is like a massive building site with construction work going on all around. People were going about their daily business oblivious to all the scaffolding and I guess when you live there then it becomes the norm. It was interesting to hear from a guy I travelled up to Methuen with that most of the builders were Irish for some reason. I managed to find myself around the centre with ease and passed a shopping centre that was made entirely from Corimec fabricated containers. This was built not long after the earthquake so that normal day to day shopping could continue and it was still there and with the amount of people there, it seemed still popular.
I managed to get to the bus early and the driver was already to take me as I was the last passenger to go, and onwards we went to Methven which took about an hour and a half. Tim was there at the other side to meet me and drive me to my new home for the next week and a bit. Their house was an old farmhouse that was basically in the middle of nowhere, about 25 minutes drive from the town and surrounded by the most amazing natural beauty of mountains and scenery that would blow your mind. This was Lord of the Rings country!
I knew I would be staying there over the Xmas period with a planned departure of Boxing Day as the whole family were off on their summer holidays the next day. The family welcomed me into their house and looked after me, including going out shopping and meals. Tim had decided after a couple of days that I would have to climb a mountain that was nearby as the rest of the family was going! So off we went after dropping the car off in a carpark and started the steep climb. Although I have done loads of walking around cities and towns over the previous months, nothing prepared me for this and fitness was not good for me on that day! However the views that was there looking around as we got higher and higher were nothing short of spectacular. The rest of the mountains in the background surrounded by green fields, forests and a blue river that went on as far as the eye could see. This was mother nature at her best.
Xmas Day was a little difficult as obviously I was thousands of miles away from my family and it made it even harder that when I was woken up at 7 in the morning by 4 excitable kids wanting to know if Santa had been, it was still Xmas Eve in England. As the house was in the middle of nowhere, for me to get a decent mobile signal it was a 10 minute walk out to the cattle grid. I did manage to ring home that night, which was weird as we had done and finished Xmas Day and to see my family opening all their presents and seeing the excitement on their faces really struck me on how I missed them. Getting passed from each family member while I stood in darkness with a torch shining on my face, while in the background cows were gathering, as they’re nosey animals was a sad point of my travels.
Tim and his family really made their Xmas a special one. After presents were all opened and the kids were all happy and playing, then it was straight onto preparing Xmas dinner, which was done in a New Zealand way; outside in the sunshine. I even introduced them to Yorkshire Puddings which I had missed and Tim hadn’t had one in years since arriving. Jamie Oliver we salute you for your recipe. For all the time I was there, I was kept busy and entertained and couldn’t ask for a better introduction to New Zealand but it was time to go.
In Brisbane the previous month I had made friends with a guy from one of the hostels who told me he was off to New Zealand too and would be staying in his aunts house and if I was in the area then I should pop in. Unfortunately for Joe, I asked a week before if I could stay instead and wanted to be there from Boxing Day until New Years. Thank god he said yes so after saying goodbye to Tim and Learna it was time to head off to Alexandra. After being on the road for 11 months this was to be the first time I was to hitch hike and I was amazed that the first person to pick me up was from my home city of Newcastle! He hadn’t heard his local accent on another person in months so we chatted away and it was a shame that he only drove me for about 20 minutes.The next person to pick me up was from Scotland and drove me the majority of the 3 hours it took to get where I was going. The drive itself was amazing going through valleys surrounded by the most beautiful scenery from mountains that still had snow on its peak to the most greenest of lakes and even going past Mount Cook the highest mountain in New Zealand. The guy was in a hurry to get back home so wasn’t really keen on slowing down but did give me a running commentary of where we were and what was around us. My last lift was from a Chinese couple with 2 Koreans. Do Kiwis not give lifts to anyone? It was only a short drive but they drove me to the front door and said their farewells.
Arriving at the house, I saw Joe for the first time since Australia and was introduced to Tristan, a Mauri, who was the lodger. For the next few days Joe showed me around Alexandra which is slap bang in the middle of New Zealand’s South Island. Although it should be surrounded by desert/outback land, there is enough water and irrigation brought in to make the surrounding areas farming land. The town can be walked around in an hour and a half and is not the biggest place but it has a warm friendly feel about it, and surprisingly has a lot of hotels and hostels in the place. The weather as it was in Methven, was hit and miss with one day it being hot and sunny and the next cloudy and cold. With plenty of walks to do along the river bank or to the hills where the town has a ‘famous’ clock on the side of the hill, there is plenty of places to go and see. The next door neighbour Lindsay, even took us out for a drive around the local nearby towns to see more of the area, from Queenstown and Wanaka, stopping along the way at some well known pubs which Lindsay called his short cuts. Time in Alexandra was a nice diversion to knowing I would be travelling again and staying in hostels and spending time with some awesome, friendly people. Two houses in a row where I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself in 2 different type of areas and I’ve loved it.
The house in Alexandra was owned by Joe’s Auntie who had decided to go to Australia for the Xmas period and returned on New Years Eve. For Joe it was good to see him with family and after being introduced to Moy, it was going to be hard to leave as she made me feel so welcome into her house, even though I had been there for 4/5 days already. After Joe and Moy had a catch up with them getting me involved in the conversation, it was time to go and celebrate New Years Eve in Queenstown. The only way to get there was to hitch hike the hour and a half drive, which we got with no problems with 2 different Kiwi boy racers, who felt that they had to show off their speed to the Poms in their cars. We got into Queenstown with no injury, although the alcohol that we had been offered probably helped us relax a bit while holding for dear life.
Queenstown is known on the South Island as a backpackers/tourist place, which means plenty of activities during the day and even more during the night so perfect for New Years Eve. The town was packed with so many police checking people for alcohol in their hands and removing it if there was any sniff of it in their coffee cups or coke cans. I can definitely say that it was an expensive night in terms of the budget we were both individually surviving on and lets just say that we had a good night, which included watching impressive fireworks going off on the lake at midnight. We managed to last till about 3 which was about the time when a bouncer looked at Joe, who was still standing and having a conversation, and told him he was intoxicated and was asked very politely to leave. It seems that New Zealand has a no tolerance to alcohol and drunkeness and as soon as anyone looks a little bit drunk they have to leave! This was New Years Eve after all and we were British trying to go through all the way to uk new Year at 1 in the afternoon, however bouncers weren’t allowing it. So we had to leave and instead of going to the beach on the lake to sleep which had been our original plan. We thought as it was busy with other people with the same idea we would head for the bushes as it gave a little bit warmth against the cold. We managed to get about 3 hours sleep and then grabbing a pie from the only shop that was open at 6 in the morning on New Years Day, we started the long long process of hitching back. No cars were stopping for us and until after walking for 2 hours, then we managed to grab a couple of lifts back into Alexandra and straight into bed to carry the sleeping on.
Walking up just before UK New Years, Me and Moy did a traditional Auld Lang Syne in the kitchen with Joe waking up a few hours later! It was my last day and night in Alexandra and so we all sat outside on the night playing games and talking. It was going to be hard to leave but I knew if I was to carry on travelling I had to make the move, so the next day I packed my stuff, backpack on my back and said my goodbyes. It was time to go back to hostel life……
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