more goodbyes…

the drive from Queenstown to Christchurch was amazing! I was completely alone, doing whatever I wanted (speeding, obviously), with no worries about having another life in the car to look after…
the weather, on the other hand, was not as pleasant… the closer I got to Christchurch, the worse the weather turned (Mother Nature seemed to be reading my mood change and putting it right on my face)… gloomy, rainy, windy…

482 km

482 km

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I wanted to stay with Mark and Kristo, but unfortunately they were hosting a German guy… I tried to get a couch with some of the couch surfers I met at the weekly meetings, no success… since I had to pay one more day for the car (because even by speeding I didn’t get on time to return it) I decided to call the YHA to see if they had parking and a bed for the night… they did, and so I drove there…

in the common room I met a very nice guy called Sam (UK/Australia), we were talking about the shitty movies they were playing on TV, then another guy called Scott (USA) and his friend Niklas (Germany) joined our sarcastic little talk… the four of us were making fun of everything on TV, so it was nice.

next morning I payed for another night in the hostel. I felt alone in Chch, I was supposed to have a lot of friends there, but I felt completely alone… I didn’t want to bother Mark and Lizzie again, I was going to see them one of this nights to catch up and pick up the stuff I left behind, and maybe that was enough for them… I didn’t want to push it. I had already contacted Mark and Kristo, and I didn’t want to be a pain. I didn’t feel like calling Claudio either because I thought that if he knew about my hostel and loneliness situation, he would have offered his house and all his attentions in order for me to feel better, and I think that would have made me feel like I’m using him or something. my friend Didier was not helping at all either, I didn’t feel any signs of a welcoming person towards me. and the other people I knew, I felt as if I didn’t know them THAT well as to call them and see if they wanted to have a coffee with me…

so, alone I was…

I saw Sam again during breakfast, and we took the car to go buy some groceries… drove back to the hostel to leave them… then I drove to return the car to the agency, and walked back to the hostel… there, while skyping with Citlalli, one of my friends from home, Scott appeared behind me with just a towel around his waist… he had left his key inside his room… so, my friend saw him, he got closer to chat and explain why he was almost naked, and, well… long story short… the three of us skyped all afternoon (Scott dressed of course), and we became: a family!

we skyped every day with Citlalli from that moment on. I got so attached to Scotty that I stayed in the hostel for two more nights. he became my Little Brother – as I called him.

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and we would hang every night until late with Nik and Phillip (another German) too.

I caught up with Mark, Lizzie, and Didier on Tuesday night. after having dinner in the hostel, Didier picked me up to go visit our friends, and then he and I went to a bar to have a beer and talk about my travels.

I sent a couch surfing request to Julia, one of the kiwi girls that go to the weekly meetings at Smash Palace. she usually doesn’t host during weekdays and not more than two or three nights, but since I’ve met her before, and she hosted Jon, she made an exception, and we settled that she would pick me up on Thursday night.

so Wednesday was my last night at the YHA… in the morning I went to deliver some CV’s and introduce myself in different architecture firms. no success, I couldn’t talk to any of the CEO’s in any of the three firms I visited. so I went back to the hostel. unfortunately, Scotty was working that night until late. so Phillip, Sandra (a German girl we met that morning) and I went to buy some beers to be prepared when Scott came home. when he did, we started playing happy king… when we were beyond soberness, we decided to call Citlalli via Skype…

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next morning I went to the other two firms I had yet to visit. the second one was my favourite of them all, and, lucky me, one of the CEO’s was actually the one to greet me the moment I entered. we then had a little chat about my background and why I was there. he told me they were not looking for anyone at the moment, but that I should give him a call when I come back from Australia to see how things are going!
I went back to the hostel with a great grin on my face!
I didn’t see Scott that evening, so sadly I couldn’t say goodbye to him properly, and at night Julia picked me up to take me to her house where she lives with her flatmate Jacek, from Poland.

after a little chat, a couple of cigarettes, and some wine, we went to a couch surfing meeting that she organises at Revival. there I met some of her expat friends, among them, a Spanish girl called Lucia.

her story and mine are very similar. we come from spanish speaking countries, we are around the same age, we both came to NZ to apply for the working holiday visa, both our countries only have 200 places and release them once a year, we both didn’t get it for the same reasons, we are both architects, and we are trying to apply for architecture jobs in Chch… the only thing I’m missing is a German boyfriend and then we would be identical.

Julia and I organised a Mexican night at her house for Friday night, so she invited some of this friends I met.

so next day I woke up, cleaned the house (here comes the Mexican maid again…), Julia then picked me up in the afternoon and we went to the supermarket to buy all we needed for the reunion that night. got back home and started cooking.

Julia’s friends started arriving. Lucia with Björn (her boyfriend), a girl from The States, Arjan from Holland, another guy from Iran, a French girl named Fleur (I think), and of course Jacek and Julia.

the night went smoothly and the food was a success – in case you are wondering, I prepared tinga de pollo and molletes! yum!

next day I went to the library to have some free wifi. I then ate at a place called Samurai Bowl (which btw is pretty good). I received a call from Yin telling me that she was in Chch, so we decided to see each other on Sunday and go to the beach.

I met with Arjan at the restart mall that evening. we went to the Earthquake City, an exhibition where they have some of the region’s history on earth tremors. we then walked to a bar to have a couple of beers. there we met two of his ex-coworkers, one from South Africa and the other one from The States called Albert.

Albert was born in The States, but his mom is Kiwi and his dad Mexican, so therefore he is a “chikiwi” (as in Chicano and Kiwi)… we were laughing all night! he’s such a FUN person. in the end he and his mate left to go to another bar near their hostel, but we exchanged numbers because he lives in Napier, and when I come back from Australia I will go there and I surely want to hang with him.

after that, Arjan and I went to Revival to meet up with Julia and some other friends. I then took Julia’s car back home because I was tired and she was taking a cab.

next morning I met with Yin at the library and we took the bus to Sumner. from there we hitchhiked (for the first time in our travels) to get to Taylor’s Mistake.

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this is a very beautiful beach, Mark and Lizzie’s favourite. we sat there for a moment, had our little picnic, and then walked up the hill following the trail… but we didn’t do the whole thing… we were to lazy so we just sat off the trail, near a cliff.

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we then walked down and started our way back to Sumner.

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back in the CBD we went to have something at the Samurai Bowl… and, like it always happens with Yin, we had food comma.

at night I received a message from Didier asking me if I want to have lunch with him on Monday.

so on Monday I took it easy, doing nothing really, and I went to meet him at a deli place 5 blocks from where I was staying.
we talked a little bit about my plans and what he was going to do next weekend. it was going to be Queen’s Birthday Weekend and we had said before my road trip that we might do something together, but in the end he was going with some friends to do some mountain biking, which was perfect because I really wanted to stay in Chch to sort everything for my departure to Wellington and then to Australia.

he offered me a ride to the CBD, and when we said goodbye he said “safe travels” when I still had a week or so in Chch… “fine!” I thought, and I just had to laugh inside my head… after all the time we spent together he says goodbye with a “safe travels” and almost putting his two thumbs up.

so, after that I went to the library… again (I know, I sound like a bookworm), and there I saw Yin, which was a very nice surprise. we talked a little bit, and said goodbye… she is travelling a bit more and then she goes to The States, so I was not going to see her again.

on Tuesday Joel told me that he was coming to Chch for the weekend.
at night I had planned to have dinner with the Latin American community. I had a few days left now that Joel was coming, so I had to say my goodbyes to my friends… so we went to this fantastic place where we had been before when I was staying with Claudio, Chopsticks!
some friends of this group were out of NZ, so only Javier (Mexico) and his brother Rodrigo, along with Claudio were able to come… still it was very nice to hang with them and speak some proper Spanish (with the Mexicans)!

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on Wednesday I did nothing interesting… at night I went to Mark and Kristo’s house to have dinner… Kristo made this BEAUTIFUL pizzas, with salmon and sweet chilli sauce… they were just amazing! we talked about what’s been happening in our lives, their jobs, my travels… they offered me to stay with them my last night in Chch, and Mark even offered me a ride to the airport! so I happily said yes!

the next day I stayed home all day reading The Alchemist, a book recommended by Jon, and that I borrowed from Lizzie… and honestly, I highly recommend it as well! it’s interesting, entertaining, easy to read… I finished it in one day…
later that day I said goodbye to my beautiful hosts… I will be moving to a hostel for the next three nights.

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Friday came, and with it laundry and Joel…

Saturday morning we had breakfast and went to the Farmers Market in Riccarton, went to the supermarket, and then we had lunch at a noodle place near by.

at night I took him to CBD Bar and Pizzeria (to not break the tradition), and after that we went to Revival to meet up with Julia, Jacek, and the rest of the gang… there I said goodbye to all, I will no longer see them unless I get a job offer in Chch and need to fly back after Australia…

next day we went to a town called Lyttelton, which is the port town of Chch and where the English disembarked when they started moving to NZ. it’s a cute little town, and there are several ways of getting there, one through the tunnel built under the mountain; the other is up the mountain (my favourite), where you can see Christchurch from above on one side, and the peninsula on the other.

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we got there, walked around and then stopped at a little caffe shop to have some dessert and coffee.

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then we headed back home through the tunnel, and we cooked a beautiful dinner!

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next morning we packed our stuff. Joel gave me a ride to Mark and Kristo’s house and we said goodbye for good… I honestly don’t think I will see him again, at least in NZ… but who knows, really.

I spent all day with Kristo, talking and watching TV. then in the evening Claudio picked me up and we went to have a cup of coffee to talk and say goodbye for good as well.

next day Mark took me to the airport at noon, where my flight was delayed almost two hours… and I was off to Wellington…

the great zigzag

my road trip with Jon started one Sunday evening.
we weren’t sure where to go first… we thought of passing through Akaroa and then drive towards Timaru to spend the night there, but the guy from the car rental company suggested we go towards the lakes (inland Canterbury) because it would take us 3 hours driving to and out of Akaroa and then a couple more hours to get to Timaru, when driving directly to Lake Tekapo would take us 3-4 hours.

so that’s what we did in the end, and since we needed to get to Queenstown to a party on Saturday, apparently we had a LOT of time to wander around before getting to our first final destination.

225 km

225 km

it would be my “second” time driving and Jon’s first. I had been in Chch for a little over a month which meant I knew the city a little bit better, so I was the one in charged of taking us out of it.

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I was so tense… and the steering wheel was not aligned so we had to hold on harder bending it a little bit to the right… the weather was not helping either, a storm had started so it was raining quite heavily.

we got to a small town called Ashburton where we filled up the food stack and switched places in the car… bad idea (Jon is going to hate me for this if he reads it)… I was panicking… not that I am Fittipaldi or anything, but a 23 year old KID driving for the first time on the wrong side of the car, and on the wrong side of the road, while it was raining was a terrible mistake: one hand on the wheel, looking at the scenery, stepping on the white lines of the left side (my side) every now and then, sort of afraid when another car came the other way… he actually drove out of the pavement a couple of times stepping on the roadside grass… he was just very confident and that’s what freaked me out the most! so on next stop I told him how I felt and I continued driving for the day… and yes, like an old woman!

we got to Lake Tekapo at around 7. we drove to a backpackers where we got a tween suite with two beds and a heater… we went to the kitchen to prepare dinner, sat to decide where our next stop would be, and then used the computer to send couch surfing requests to people in Oamaru, where we would be arriving on Tuesday.

next morning we took our time to leave the hostel. we went to the small village to have coffee with our new friend from Ireland, Rachel. she is travelling by bus through the South Island and was leaving soon towards Wanaka and then to Queenstown. we then went back to the hostel to grab our stuff and check the couch surfing requests before leaving. we had one reply from a girl that seemed very cool, but she said she could not host us those days but that we should ask her friend, whom we will call Ursula, and so we did! then we drove to the parking lot of the hot pools to make a small walk up the hill and “see” all the lake and its beautiful surroundings… but, the weather was still shitty so we couldn’t really see much…

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after this we drove towards Mount Cook.

1103 km

103 km

Jon was driving all the time, he was more concerned this time which made me very happy.

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we stopped on the iSite of Lake Pukaki to ask for info and admire the sort of turquoise colour of the lake… simply amazing!

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then took the road towards Mt. Cook Village, we got there around 5:30 pm and it was already dark.

the YHA hostel there is beautiful! it’s a huge log cabin with lots of rooms and an enormous kitchen and lounge area.
after having dinner we sat in the lounge next to the fire. there we met 3 girls that were working there, one German, one French and one Estonian; there were also two young people traveling together like Jon and me, Tin (21, Danish) and Freddy (23, Swedish); and in our room was a very nice Italian that I brought to the international meeting in the common room, Gian Lucca.

next morning, after a shitty weather, we woke up to this:

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we grabbed our stuff and got prepared to do the Hooker Valley Track. this track gets you to a lake on the skirts of Mount Cook, and it’s not really a track, it’s a walk… even my grandmother could do it, but it’s really nice.

we did the track with Gian Lucca. he is such a NICE person!!! I enjoyed every moment with him… great talks, good jokes, having fun taking pictures! I really, really liked him!

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at the end we just sat down and enjoyed the view…

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then we went back to the car with a new friend from the states, his name is Joe and he has been travelling all around the world… 43 years old, with a young spirit and mind, he doesn’t look his age AT ALL!

back in the hostel I checked my email and saw that Ursula had replied YES, but that she has no phone, no internet at home, and she forgot to give us her address. so I sent her another message with the hopes of her reading it on time asking for her address. we then said goodbye to our new friends, I was sad to let Gian go… he is travelling the opposite direction that we are, but we gave each other heads-up on what to see and we exchanged emails because we are both going p be in Melbourne the same dates! so hopefully I will see him again!

we then started our way towards Oamaru. I was driving this time.

210 km

210 km

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we took a small detour to the Clay Cliffs, place recommended by Gian. it’s a crazy place, where the mountains have been sort of carved out creating stalagmites of mud. the Clay Cliffs are the result of millions of years of erosion on layers of silt and gravel that were exposed by the Osler fault line.

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we didn’t stay there for a long time because we were afraid of the sun setting and not being able to see the elephant rocks near Oamaru.
so we continued our way…

when we got to the detour to go to the elephant rocks we started following the signposts… if there where any… and Jon was supposed to be the copilot, and read the map to get us to the different places we wanted to visit… after driving for a while we did a U-ey (U turn) because we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere and the signs were starting to get confusing, and then we got to a bigger road that seemed to be THE one, but now Jon was sleeping, the sun was setting and I was driving through the exit to the freaking elephant rocks because we were not going to be able to see anything, and I really wanted to get to Oamaru.

in Oamaru we stopped at the McDonald’s to have free wifi, and why not, a burger now that we were there… after all, accommodation was going to be free… or was it…
Ursula had NOT replied anything!!!
we texted the friend that recommended her to us, we sent several last-minute requests to hosts in the city, I even texted Lizzie because I knew that Mark’s family was from Oamaru, so maybe they could find us a place to stay? NOTHING… NADA… we were homeless… so we had to drive to a hostel and pay… after spending more than $10 in McDonald’s…

the hostel was nice, but I was gutted and tired, so I didn’t even try to socialise this time… everybody, including Jon, was watching a movie in one of the common rooms… antisocial karenula went to the empty common room upstairs.

next morning we got a message from one of the last-minute requests we sent. she asked us to come as soon as possible because she might have to go out… so we went to her house, which is quite near the centre, and saw this beautiful blue house with a garden that needed some care, but otherwise very pretty… we knocked on the door and waited for her to come open…

[here comes the good part (part one of the good part)]

she greeted us happily and with a big hug (I’m also a hugger so I found that really nice of her… kiwis don’t usually do that with strangers). she’s a nice lady with half her teeth missing, crooked nose, and what seemed to be her somewhat-fat belly was something else that has been hanging there for a looooong time (if you know what I mean)… we entered the house, the first thing I saw was a box of rotten apricots right next to the main entrance, the smell was intense but it didn’t only come from that box… it was the house’s smell, of humidity and dust and fungus… there were boxes with stuff everywhere, all kinds of stuff… this woman is a hoarder! every room, every corner had something… many things… papers, books, old things, new things, antiques, clothes, fabrics, boxes, boxes, and boxes… we had to jump over things to get to another place… I remembered that on her profile she mentions she’s got a cat… well, I was afraid that the cat might be under the pile of sh…tuff! maybe the smell was not of an old house, might be from the cat rotting somewhere!!! I sort of didn’t want to stay there, but she had kindly texted me and it would’ve been very rude to visit her house and say no in the end… so we toughened up!
we went to the car to get our things and we tried to tell her we wanted to go to the centre, walk around, go to the supermarket and all, but she started talking about so many things… I honestly missed half of the conversation… I just got certain key things like “the Chch earthquake was a terrorist attack”, ” I don’t know if the earthquake set off the bombs or the bombs set off the earthquake”… “aura”, “reiki”, “light”, and “healing”… and all this time getting a step closer to the door to go out and do our stuff in the city.
when we finally got out of the house… we met the cat!!! I was so relieved!

and off we were to walk around Oamaru…
the town is beautiful! the architecture is very old, the buildings are made out of stone, so it’s a big change from what I’ve been seeing all around New Zealand – except for the broken buildings of Christchurch.

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we stopped at the Salvation Army family store gym favourite stores in the world) to look for a cassette with cord to play our iPods in the car (yes… a car with cassette player)… and we couldn’t find one there, but we did find this (our new companion):

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after a walk and lunch Jon decided to go to the movies, but I didn’t feel like it, so I went to the library to use the computers and start sending more couch surfing requests for Dunedin, where we would be arriving the next day. I then went to get the car to pick Jon up and go to the supermarket.

we got home and cooked for ourselves because our host had already had dinner, she had two friends there, one using a computer, another one watching TV, and our host using another computer too… we asked her if we could use her kitchenware to cook and she said “yes, but only if you clean them… and if you can clean my dishes too would be great”… no comments… then we sat and started talking more with her, I then made some tea and asked her if I could use her milk, she said it was her friend’s milk (the one watching TV), that I should ask him… so I went to ask him, saw that he had already a cup of some hot drink, he said I could use some of his milk, and when I came back to the kitchen I got told off “you should’ve offered a cup of tea to him too”, and I said “yeah, but I saw he already has a cup of tea”, and she said “well, next time you should offer”… again, no comments… she was a very nice lady but somewhat patronising, she had great stories to tell, about herself and the imaginary world she lives in, but she could be a little pain now and then.
after this, we didn’t want to be there anymore, so at 9pm we said goodnight with the excuse that next morning we were going to get up very early to see the sunrise in the Koekohe Beach.

[and here comes the other good part (part two of the good part)]

we got into the room, it was a 2X3 room with a small bed and barely any place on the floor (due to all the collection of stuff)… Jon had a sleeping bag so it was I who had to sleep in the bed… I honestly didn’t want to do that! we took a mattress out from the pile of mattresses that were my bed, and put it on the remaining spot of floor for Jon. then, when Jon was already tugged in his bag, I lifted the covers of the bed to get in, and… well… the dead cat would’ve been better… it was full of dust, and PUBES!!! they were not chest hairs, nor any kind of facial hair because they were right in the middle of the mattress… I started laughing madly! Jon had to get up to see it for himself! I could NOT believe this…. who knows how long those sheets had been there without being thrown into the washing machine… if she ever does that… if she even has one! and again, the whole smell of humidity and fungus was all around the room and the blankets and sheets… call me pedigree girl if you want, but THOSE are not sanitary conditions to live in… I toughened up… again… and decided to grab another cover and sleep on top of the bed not getting in it… but it was so early!!! we would have to pass out for nine hours not to notice where we were… but NO! Jon (aka Mr. Pee-Pee) woke up at TWO am to go pee and woke me up… he came back and he started snoring!!! I could not believe it! I was not able to sleep at all! with his snores and my imagination going to places where I could see the spores in the atmosphere going into my system… it was just too much… I started snapping my fingers to make Jon stop, but I only woke him up and made him grumpy haha… it serves him right, I thought… after four hours of making friends with the spores I was asleep again…but, o shit… it was time to wake up!

I grabbed my stuff and ran out of the house… I couldn’t stay there another minute… got into the car and started coughing… I felt ill, like if I had smoked three packages of cigarettes the night before… my lungs were whistling, my head hurt… it was bad! when Jon came into the car he just said “you don’t really realise what you are breathing inside the house until you come out and breathe AIR!”.

Jon drove this time.

38 km

38 km

we got to see the sunrise next to the Moeraki boulders.
I started feeling very nauseous, I really wanted to throw up… this was not right, how can that lady live there?!
the sunrise was beautiful! lots of beautiful colours, and is very interesting to see the boulders, naturally made by the ocean more than 60 million years ago… so beautiful!

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we drove again and detoured to see Shag Point… oh yes, it exists, and no, we didn’t shag… it’s a beautiful drive next to the coast, and there were supposed to be penguins and seals, but we didn’t see any.

16 km

16 km

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again we drove taking now and then the scenic routes marked on the map or on signposts… on one of them, we saw the signs of the Orokonui Ecosanctuary so we decided to visit it and see what it was all about.
it turned out to be a beautiful place! the building was amazing, combining wood, and steel, and containers… it was brilliant! the light that came through the windows and the orientation of the building to have the view to the park… it was all perfect! so perfect that I asked the woman from reception if she knew who the architect was… she gave me his name, phone number, and even told me the office is in the centre of Dunedin… very accommodating!

we then drove to Port Chalmers, which is the port city of Dunedin.

61 km

61 km

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and then we got to the main city centre.

14 km

14 km

our first stop was the library to check our couch surfing requests… several people had replied that they couldn’t host us… we started sending requests to people in Queenstown, it was already Thursday and we were getting there on Saturday, so we’d better do it then.
while in the library I got two messages from two hosts in Dunedin. the first was from a girl named Maud telling us that she was able to host us, and gave us her address. the second one from a guy named Dan, a local kiwi that was willing to host us too, though he had a couple of surfers in his house at the moment. we said we already had a host but that we were in the library, so we asked him if he would like to join us for a coffee, and he accepted…
we met with him in the octagon, and he took us to one of his mates’ coffee shop. after that, he took us everywhere… he toured the city with us being a great guide! he would tell us curious facts, history facts, showed us his flat, inside the cathedral… he was awesome!

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after our little tour with Dan, we went to the supermarket, bought a little snack and some things for dinner, and headed towards Maud’s house…
since we arrived there early we went to the beach to sit, have our lunch, and watch the sunset…

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we then arrived to the house… it’s a beautiful little house on the hill with ocean view and an amazing garden. they grow their own veggies, have chickens, fruit trees… everything! I loved it!

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and Maud is just awesome! she is a beautiful person in every aspect, I felt as though I’ve known her for a long time and that was a very nice feeling!
she prepared dinner for us with Jon as a helper… I didn’t do anything to be honest, but because I was told that everything was ok…
after dinner one of her flatmates came home, Dave. he sat with us and we were all chatting and drinking together all night!
they are both very pleasant people, warm, caring… it’s just delightful to be with them!

the next day we went to the city centre again…I called the architect’s office, and I was told that he was in a meeting but they took my name and number and said that HE will call me back. Jon wanted to be in the library all day so we went there. at around three pm I got the call from the architect… karenula had a date!
so then we had a quick lunch and Jon went back to the library and I walked to meet with Architect Tim Heath in his office.

I knocked on the door and the architect himself opened it. he greeted me shaking hands, and invited me to sit down… it was a very small but cosy office, apparently the only people working there are the architect, Hannah who was in the office too, and someone else that was not there for the moment. the three of us sat down to talk. Tim said “Hannah, this might be the closest we’ll ever get to Luis Barragan” I wanted to hug him!!! we started talking about a lot of things… I wanted to ask them so much of what they do and how they do it, but mainly I was the one being asked questions, about my travels, my life as an architect back home, what my plans were… they seemed to be very interested in this peculiar being from an exotic land that could speak their both languages: English and architecture. they started giving me advise on what to visit and where to stop in this trip with Jon. they even gave me a map where they highlighted all the routes I should take! they were very nice and I was very grateful for that. in the end we talked little about architecture, but enough to understand their design process and ideas… I REALLY liked them and what they do!

I met with Jon again. we went to the supermarket to buy dinner, it was our time to cook for Maud. we were going to make a typical kiwi dinner (and my favourite): stake with a side dish of pumpkin, kumara, and potatoes!

after dinner we grabbed the car with Maud and went to a bar where a local band was playing, it was the last gig of the band because the lead singer was going back to The States to live. the band was amazing! and the lead singer was sooooo cute! I fell in love a little bit… he had it all (even wife and kids)!!

with Maud (and my love on the back)

with Maud (and my love on the back)

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after that we went to another bar where they had a Latin Night… so of course I was singing with all my strength “la vida es un carnaval” and all the Juan Luis Guerra y sus 4/40 songs… after dancing, and singing, and drinking Corona, we went back to the house to sleep.

next morning we said goodbye to our wonderful hosts! I didn’t want to leave, though Dunedin is not my favourite city (maybe because of the weather we had all the time: cold, windy, and cloudy), I did love what I lived and saw there for two days! I guess I would need to give it a chance… and, we drove to Queenstown to get to the party…

316 km

316 km

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overall, this is how we moved in seven days:

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983 km

 

chch-changes

after a little more than a month, I’ve finally decided to leave Christchurch (aka Chch).

it took me a while, not because I was working or because life is so busy that there’s always something to do… no, in fact Christchurch is now something like a huge ghost town – and I’m sorry if any Christchurchean is reading this, I say it with a lot of love and respect – the CBD, now called The Red Zone, is closed because of the earthquake that took place here TWO years ago… I know, shocking… so everything that used to be in the CBD is now distributed all around the city, making something like small centres in different suburbs. this causes the city to look a wee bit empty most of the time. so, that and the fact that they are still working on demolishing or holding old buildings together gives you a feeling of being in a planet of the apes movie.

just for you to know why the city has not been completed after two years (which is something I didn’t understand until I was here): apparently there’s a huge conflict of interests between civilians, government, owners, and insurance companies… they just can’t decide what goes, what stays, who pays and all that stuff, and this makes the city look like it does… the saddest thing of this, is that people don’t have a reunion and/or social spot anymore, like Cathedral Square used to be back in the days… like Il Duomo in Florence, a lot of people told me this “I used to go and just sit down to enjoy a coffee and watch people pass by”… it’s also very sad that it has turned into a morbid freak show. you can actually pay a tour guide to show you around and say very dramatically in every destroyed spot or corner “can you see the damage done to this shop… look at the hair dryers left on the floor… people just ran and left everything as you see it now”… pretty sad, they are making profit out of a tragedy… the whole CBD feels like when you go to the zoo: you can’t get close enough to the buildings, but they give you enough “windows” for you to see the content.

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the red zone “museum”

cathedral

cathedral

back to the first point… it took me a while to leave Christchurch because it did captivated me. this is one of the two cities that I was able to visit ten years ago, back then I immediately fell in love with it… my memories take me back to a place where people were happy sitting next to the river and walking by Cathedral Square, a place where the sun was shining, the trees were green, and the air was smooth. and though I didn’t get the same sensation this time, I started liking the idea of staying and contributing with the rebuild of the city, I felt as if this is a place I could someday call home (when the work is finished and the birds sing again).

I stayed with Mark and Lizzie the first week, they are friends of my Kiwi mom, Ali. I felt at home right away! they are near my age, so it was easy to be around them. they too gave me my own room, own key, and invited me to have dinner with them every night! we had good talks about almost any subject too… they made my stay easy and pleasant.

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Lizzie introduced me to many new fruits and edible plants I had no idea existed or how to cook them, and to some other things that I will describe next.
first mention goes to: rhubarb. looks like a red celery but tastes completely different. I had tried rhubarb before when Ali’s mom made a cake with it, baked like that tastes like a sour apple, very yummy!! Lizzie cooks the rhubarb in a pot with water and sugar, the result is something I cannot describe with words (I have tried and erased many lines), so I decided to put a picture:

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ruhbarb in its natural state

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cooked ruhbarb

second mention goes to a fabulous kiwi invention: easiyo. this marvellous thing makes one litre of the yogurt of your choice (from the packages they sell, obviously). all you need to do is mix the yogurt powder with water in a container, put the container in another container with more water, leave it for 12 hours and you are done! my favourite flavour (actually the only one I’ve tried), was the Greek style yogurt!

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now, a little parenthesis… this two discoveries have changed me completely… this two things mixed with some muesli (preferably toasted with dried fruits and nuts) have made breakfast my FAVOURITE meal of the day… when I go to sleep all I can think of is that breakfast will be the meal I will have when I wake up, and that thought makes me very happy! back home I would just have a package of biscuits (cookies) and coffee… not healthy at all… now breakfast is healthy, and beyond delicious!

third mention: feijoas. this things have a weeeeird but amazing flavour… if rhubarb cooked the way Lizzie does is not within my reach, feijoas are my second option as a complementary fruit for the muesli… of course that rhubarb AND feijoas together are THE best option for breakfast… but I can’t be greedy, can’t always get what I want…

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fourth mention: pumpkin (squash). I had never tried that! and just baked with a little oil is fantastic!!! here they mixed it with pumpkin seeds and red capsicum (bell peppers).. pretty amazing the mix of flavours and the simple way of doing it!

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fifth mention goes to two fruits that I only tried once just to see what they were all about: quinces and tamarillos

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and of course kumara is on this list, although Ali was the first one to introduce me to it… this is an endemic sweet potato, which also baked with a little bit of oil (and with potatoes) is a delicious side dish for dinner!

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I’m starting to think this will be a LONG entry (makes sense after a month) but I’ll try not to expand so much…

ok… so, remember how my body ached after Avalanche Peak? well, guess what? it was sore for SIX complete days! but that did not stop me (much) from tramping a little bit more… so one day Lizzie and Mark took me with a group of their friends to do a small walk on a hill near Christchurch: Kaituna Valley/Packhorse Hut. they are all VERY outdoorsy and sporty people, so it was a little bit difficult to catch up, specially because I had a sore body.

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on that week I also went to the Couch Surfing weekly meeting that takes place every Wednesday at a very cool place called The Smash Palace. there I met a pair of locals, some travellers, and some expats, all of whom were very friendly! on the table next to us were sitting two guys, and one of them looked like someone from my country… so I approached them and just told this guy straight forward “you look like somebody who speaks my language”, and so it turned out that he does speak my language, but he is Chilean. we had such a great time that night that he even offered me his couch to stay the next week with him… and so, I accepted.

so I stayed with Mark and Lizzie for two more nights, and on Friday they gave me a ride to Claudio’s (the Chilean) house. we said goodbye but with the promise of doing something again soon.

Claudio is a chef that now works at the Mexican restaurant in Christchurch… since I stayed with him in his transition from one job to the next, he had almost all days free… so we did several things. he introduced me to the Latin American community, we had a BBQ at Mika’s (French friend) house, we went to the beach, we walked along the city, went out at night, etc…

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Claudio tasting the air

the day he started his new job I went out with Cameron, remember him? the guy I met in the ferry… well, I went with him and his cousin out for a couple of beers and to have dinner… so much fun!

and the next day (Friday) I went with Lizzie, Mark and some of their friends to Hanmer Springs to a bike race they were doing on Saturday, so we slept at a house on Friday, socialising a little bit… and next day we were at a gazebo (riders and cheerleaders) socialising a lot!
we were eating, and drinking (water), and soooo cold!!! but it was very entertaining, and I met some nice Kiwis!
Didier is one of this nice Kiwi friends, he’s also an engineer working in the same company as Mark. of course we had the architect vs. engineer jokes, and we even took them to a party we went later at night in Christchurch. I had a great time with him! we said we would meet again to go out and do something…

Lizzie and Didier

Lizzie and Didier

Mark

Mark

the next week I stayed with a couple I met at the Couch Surfing meeting: Luke from the States and Aletta from NZ… they were really nice, also with a spare bedroom.
while staying with them the weather was really shitty, so I practically stayed in the house all day not even wanting to leave the bed!
at night I would try to go out and catchup with friends, so I saw Claudio a couple of times to have beers. I went out with Didier to have pizza and beers at the CBD Bar and Pizzeria. on Friday I saw Amit (Israeli guy from Punakaiki), we met for beers at the Smash Palace and then went to celebrate Aletta’s birthday at the Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn, a bar with great live music (one-man-band) and great beers! that night

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Luke, Aletta, me, and Amit

Aletta and Luke were a little bit over the alcohol limit, so I had to drive… oh yeah! scary shit! but it was great and fun. it was a manual car and I was struggling with the stick (TWSS), so Luke was changing gear, and I was doing the pedal and wheel job!

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on Saturday I saw Amit again, we went to the movies and then to have dinner at the CBD Bar and Pizzeria (yes… I love the place), and then on Sunday I had to change house… again… so my new host picked me up and took me to my new home!

Kristo and Mark were my new family, and for four days I felt ABSOLUTELY at home. they gave me my own room and my key to the house. they are one of the most amazing couples I’ve met!
Kristo is from Estonia and Mark from NZ, they met in Ireland while they both lived and work there. they’ve been living in NZ for five years now in a small and beautiful house located in the “snobby” area of Christchurch.
I could talk with them about anything, and I immediately felt like I could confide anything to them, so this was a nice feeling for a change… not just the usual host-surfer relation… this was more, this was family and friendship…

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Wednesday was my last day there, and that actually made me very sad… I had gone with Didier for dinner on Sunday, and we decided to do a little trip for the ANZAC long weekend… so, we went to Kaikoura from Thursday morning to Saturday.

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I thought I was not going to be able to see Kaikoura because it’s located between Christchurch and Picton, and since I came down from the west and I’m flying back to Wellington, I thought I was going to skip it for sure!
Kaikoura is where the whale watching takes place all year round. beautiful little town with snowy mountains (in winter) and surfing beaches… it’s weird to see all that in one place.

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there we did a little bit of tramping on a track called Mount Fyffe. it was VERY steep but Didier, knowing about my horrible experience in Avalanche Peak, took all precautions to make it easy and pleasant… so as we walked we took lots of breaks to take pictures, and to have food and water too… so nice!
the track is beautiful, it takes you zigzagging up the mountain changing the view constantly from ocean to Southern Alps.

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we got to the Hut on the top and had lunch there… we decided not to continue to the peak because it would take longer and we didn’t want to come back down in darkness… so we came down and got to the hostel after buying some beers and got into the hot pool to relax!

on Saturday we started returning to Christchurch through another route and we stopped to have lunch next to a river on a road called Lake Sumner Rd which takes you to a couple of lakes, which we didn’t visit… maybe next time.

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on Sunday we were back in Christchurch and went to do another walk just outside of the city on the Crater Rim Walk. from there you can see the city from above, Littleton, and the other side of the valley near Christchurch.

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after this small vacation in the vacation I went back to live with Lizzie and Mark for another week. there was really not much to do in the city anymore, so I kinda dedicated my time to arrange my CV and make some cover letters to start knocking on architectural doors, all with the help of Lizzie, Mark, and Didier.

one of those days I received a text message from my friend Jon (who I met in Picton), saying that he will be coming to Christchurch very soon. on May first, I received another message from him saying that he had arrived in the city.

for those of you who do not know, May First is my birthday… so it was a pretty nice surprise to have my friend Jon here. I was kind of alone that day because all my friends were working and they wouldn’t be home until late. so, having Jon by my side changed things!
we were walking around the city, and since it was Wednesday we decided to go to the weekly Couch Surfing Meeting at Smash Palace.
it was fun to celebrate a birthday with a bunch of unknown people from all around the world!

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i’m not being rude… it’s a 31
toru tekau ma tahi

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Jon

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Julia and Sebastian

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the Swiss gang and an excentric Chinese

the next couple of days we walked around the city and went shopping to the outdoors stuff stores. we talked about renting a car together and go travel to the rest of the South Island (the southern half: Otago, Southland, Fiordland…)

on Friday I had a small birthday dinner with Lizzie, Mark, and Didier… I stayed home cooking a Mexican dish called tinga de pollo and a chocolate cake (Betty Crocker, of course). it was also a sort of goodbye and thank you dinner because the road trip with Jon seemed to be becoming more and more real every day, and Saturday night Lizzie and Mark had already plans, so it was now or never!

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on Saturday night I went with Didier to have a couple of beers and then to a show called The Scared Scriptless. this is an improv show, a variation of Who’s Line Is It Anyway where there’s a moderator, and the audience participates too… REALLY funny!

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next day I packed my winter clothes, met Jon at the Restart Mall, and walked towards the car rental company… it was a fact, we were leaving that afternoon towards a new adventure on the south… on this baby…

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road trippin’

I’ve been road tripping with my new best friend for the last four days… meet Thomas:

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my days with him have been happy and busy days! we’ve done a lot of stuff together and I honestly think this has turned into a long and lasting friendship!

Thomas picked me up at Donna’s house on “tragic Tuesday (I didn’t get the visa Tuesday)”… we drove – actually he drove all the time, so I cannot give myself any driving credit… but still, I’ll write in plural… sounds better -… we drove from Nelson to Westport nonstop, there we went to the supermarket to buy our snacks and supplies for the hostel, we were told when we phoned the backpackers place that there would not be any shops or petrol stations once we left Westport behind… so we went, and then arrived to Punakaiki exactly at sunset, this is how we were welcomed to the small village:

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250 km

250 km

in the hostel I met my first Israeli in NZ, he reminded me so much of my dear friend Nadav! and he also reminded me why I want to get to Israel someday… we had fun talking to him and his three German friends… the other ten Germans that were in the hostel were not of our interest – the truth is that they were not on our table so we didn’t interact with them. Amit (Israel) met Stefan (Germany) somewhere in the south and they’ve been traveling together ever since… fun couple!

next day Thomas woke me up EARLY… we wanted to do the Pororari River Track, visit the Pancake Rocks and leave to get to Arthur’s Pass not too late… and so, we did.

the whole loop of the Pororari River took us around four hours counting the visit to the Pancake Rocks. it’s a lovely walk, it’s good to start the day early tramping in the forest, breathing fresh air… just amazing! it’s not a difficult walk at all, it goes up a small mountain just once, taking you to different ecosystems from one moment to the next… there’s another big inland track – which we obviously didn’t do – that seems pretty cool and might do someday.

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after the river track we went to the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Park, FYI this is a heavily eroded limestone area where the sea bursts through several vertical blowholes during high tides. the ‘pancake’-layering of the limestone is created by immense pressure on alternating hard and soft layers of marine creatures and plant sediments. here I met my second Israeli, reinforcing once more my desire to go to Israel someday… I just love them! friendly, smart, funny and interesting guys… two in a row…

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we then walked back to the hostel, grabbed our stuff and hit the road once more…

we made a pitstop in Greymouth to have lunch and buy more supplies for the next couple of days… we didn’t know how long we would stay in Arthur’s Pass, but we did know that there are no supermarkets there.

we decided to take the scenic path to Arthur’s Pass… this road took us through a little town that I absolutely loved and where I would like to live when I’m old and wrinkled: Moana. it’s right next to Lake Brunner, I think there are only three streets, it’s calm, green, and just beautiful! we stopped there for a few minutes just to look around, take photos and to imagine myself living there!

79.7 km

79.7 km

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we continued driving until we got to Arthur’s Pass Village.
population: 54
elevation: 740 m ASL
temperature: fucking cold!

64.4 km

64.4 km

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on the first night we relaxed, drank beer, had dinner, and talked a lot! we knew we wanted to go tramping, but we weren’t sure if we wanted to do the whole Avalanche Peak Track that takes from 6 to 8 hours round trip. we thought we might just do the waterfalls and some other small track to go easy and not get too tired to leave for Christchurch that same evening… well, at least that’s what I wanted… I was pretty tired of tramping all the time… but, oh surprise! next morning Thomas was convinced by two other Germans – young and dynamic – that the Avalanche Peak was not so bad: vee did ze o-ll sing in sree a-wers (translation: we did the whole thing in three hours)… fuckers!!!

we decided to go… but we did it all WRONG… because of this being a last minute decision, we didn’t think of caps, sunblock, enough water, sunglasses, FOOD… nothing… we just started climbing…

at the beginning all was good and pretty, going up, and up, and up… climbing and holding from trees, and roots and rocks… this wasn’t bad at all!!! I was actually having fun… this was way better than the Abel Tasman, there I had to endure the steepness of the track by just walking and concentrating on my breathing (which was actually more like a hyperventilation)… but, here! here I had to move every muscle, I had to think where to put my feet and hands, I had to feel my knees crack every time I bent them… my brain was working, my heart was pounding nicely, and my breathing was never uneven!

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it was all great, perfect timing too! after an hour and a half we reached the line where the forest disappears and it all changes into dry thick grass and rocks… and there we saw it: the peak… we were getting soooo good at tramping! we were like those German kids back at the hostel, fast, young, and dynamic… so we continued climbing/walking to reach the top and see the beautiful view Avalanche Peak had for us…

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now… here’s where karenula turns into a party pooper… if you are reading this because you really want to do the Avalanche Peak stop reading now because this part of the story contains spoilers and probably a lot of cursing… you’ve been warned…

when we got to “the top” we were really impressed with the beautiful view that we had, everything looked amazing! and we were absolutely shocked because THAT was not the top… there was another top, on top of “the top”… so we had to continue climbing. it didn’t look that bad to be honest, it appeared to be “near” and besides, I’m more than halfway through so I’d better toughen up and finish the damn thing…

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crap!

crap!

so, we kept going… this time I was not having so much fun. the sun was burning my face, I was panting and starting to get hungry… but we were close… or so we though, because when we reached the second “top” we experienced a déjà vu… there was ANOTHER top on top of “the top”… I wanted to cry! I remember saying to Thomas “I really don’t want to continue, I’ll wait for you here”… but we were not sure if we could come down the same way we were going up, and to be honest, looking at what appeared to be “the real peak” – because this time we could see tiny people moving around – hit my pride and just made me think “I’m almost there… don’t be a cry baby!!! come oooon! the view might be really worth seeing!”…

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nope! this is not it!

and so, I continued… struggling, and stopping every five minutes, cursing and wanting to spit on the shitty track… I was just complaining and complaining all the time… it looked sooooo far away!!! the people moving on the top were still looking so tiny… I thought I was never going to get there, I just wanted to sit and wait for Thomas. but I couldn’t… between Thomas telling me that I could do it and my damn pride hurting and complaining, I had to keep on moving…

tiny people on the top

tiny people on the top

we finally reached the peak – four hours later – if that peak had another little surprise, I think I would have thrown myself over the cliff… I was tired, angry, hungry, unhappy, sweaty, smelly, thirsty, sunburned… just experiencing a very bad moment in my life… there was another little path to get to another part of the peak which I totally refused to walk… so then I sat and waited for Thomas…the view wasn’t fantastic after all… it was the same fucking mountains that we had been looking at all along, nothing changed except the scale of the huts in the village… I hated it…

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cranky karenula

cranky karenula

my advise on this track: stay where the forest ends!

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when we started coming down I was literally moving by inertia… I deeply desired to become a ball of something, anything, and just roll all the way down to the bottom of the mountain. I was just thinking of food, a shower and a good sleep, that’s all I could do… every step down was that: food-shower-sleep-food-shower-sleep… I was cranky, and the shittiest part of all was that we came down the same way we went up… we did not do the loop because we were told on the peak – the real one – that the other way was steeper, so we decided we did not want another adventure for the day… and to think I could’ve sat where I first said this to Thomas…

it took us two hours or so to come down, so in the end we did the 6 hours that people usually do… not bad timing after all… fucking Avalanche Peak!!!

back at the hostel we took a shower, had dinner and sat for hours in the (Gryffindor) Common Room next to the fire and unable to move… all my body was already sore, I didn’t have to wait for next day to feel every inch of my body aching… and I wasn’t looking forward to see what the following days would feel like… turns out we went up something like 1100 meters vertically and 3000 meters horizontally… you do the math… I’m too tired…

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next morning, unable to move much, we went to see the waterfalls that are near the village… like a 45 minute round trip walk… pretty… next please, I’m not in the mood…

we packed our things and drove the rest of Arthur’s pass towards Christchurch… coming down from the village we were able to see where we had climbed the day before:

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yes… right where the arrow is… I still hate it…

we stopped in Castle Hill to walk just a little bit… this is a LOTR and Narnia film location… BEAUTIFUL!!! this rocks are simply amazing… we just walked around a little bit – on the flattest paths of course – and took some pictures. we then continued our way to Christchurch… still not in the mood to do a lot of sightseeing…

54.2 km

54.2 km

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when we arrived in Christchurch we went directly to Thomas’ hostel to park the car and go find something to eat… but, being Good Friday and in the Red Zone of Chch, it wasn’t likely we would find anything… we ended up walking, and walking, and waking to a McDonald’s we saw when we arrived in the city… after this I was picked up by Lizzie and Mark who will be my hosts in Chch for a couple of days (Lizzie is friends with my Wellington Mom and she kindly agreed in having me in their house… this is the first time I will be hanging with people my age, so I’m guessing it will be fun!)… so this was goodbye to Thomas, I’ll miss him a lot, he’s good company and a great friend!!!

96.1 km

96.1 km

total km: 544.4