Bloody Freezing! Our reaction on arrival in New Zealand was to be expected. After Fijian island sun being confronted with a large yellow warning sign outside the airport terminal announcing ICE was a rude awakening to our change of climate – that and the fact that it was, as I’ve already announced, bloody freezing.
We hopped on a bus bound for the centre and managed to get dropped off somewhere near the Youth Hostel in town. We checked in and were quite happy with our basic but comfortable digs. We were also hungry. A quick chat with the front desk suggested a pub nearby may still be serving grub at this late hour on a Sunday night so we ventured forth. We found said pub – oh, sorry I’ve failed to suitably emphasise this – PUB!!! – there, that’s better. We found said pub and felt instantly warm and comfortable – this was as close to walking into a UK boozer that we’d experienced since departing. A quick rustle through the menu and we found an unexpected surprise – the food of champions – THE CHIP BUTTY. Bought and paid for without a second thought and accompanied by a fine pint – PINT – of Tui East India Pale Ale (our Fijian beer experience had really worn us down here). It arrived and I could have almost shed a tear. Massive chunky chips in thick white sliced buttered bread…I appear to be drooling on my laptop. We’d missed good ol’ hearty British grub and this here was of a standard ol’ Blighty would be proud of. It quickly vanished and there was much rejoicing.
We awoke the next day, dumped our main bags in the luggage room and took a bus back out the airport to court the camper van rental places in the hopes of a good deal. As is often the case with these while other travellers tell tales of discounts that almost seem like the rental places are paying them to take the van we had much less success. We’d have rather have stood still for a month than even talk to Apollo while Britz (whom had been good to us in Oz and whom Rob & Gilly currently had a van with) were talking silly. In Oz we’d been impressed by Colin & Julie’s Jucy van so we wandered over to take a look at their hi-top’s. After a little manoeuvring we managed to get a good deal on a great van that included the full insurance cover and all the accessories. It wasn’t cheap but it was good value for what we were getting and looking back now was well worth it.
Happy with our new wheels it was off for a spot of shopping for warmer clothes and some supplies. After that we rolled to the Youth Hostel, picked up all our bags and then found a pretty ropey camp site on the edge of town to crash at for the night.
A bit of back and forth on our new NZ mobile arranged a rendezvous with our fellow Miltonian travellers Robert Indiana Kershaw and Gillian Burlesque Pennack which is, as is well known to those who know it well, always a pleasure. We hit the road after breakfast and reached Hanmer Springs right about the same time as the afore-mentioned superheroes and prepared to remove the majority of our clothing in the mid-winter weather for some Hot Spring frolics. The place proved nice enough and reminded us precisely what ‘heat’ was after we’d become only too well acquainted with the low temperatures in NZ. We Charlie’d about for some time before reluctantly drying off and leaving the place. That night we stayed on the outskirts of town and enjoyed food & wine as we always do when together.