My Mother’s Club went international. Yes, we headed off to New Zealand for Jonene Sarah’s BIG BIRTHDAY BASH. And it was so beautiful, lots of fun and a might big adventure with some of my favourite people.
A week before, a 7.5 earthquake hit the exact area we were heading for, but that did not deter us. For those of you not in the know, we’re a bunch of single Mums (and one Dad!) who lived in the same two streets, side by side. Every Friday night, we’d meet at someone’s house – with our small kids – to party till 8.30pm bed time. Now, some of us have re-partnered (not me, God forbid!), the kids are older and can go off to dads or grandparents, and we’ve spread out and moved on a bit. So, our adventures are no longer so home-based. And this mighty long weekend took us from the Aussie Gold Coast to New Zealand’s Christchurch and Hanmer Springs via a pub in Ashley.
Even the Air New Zealand flight was fun-filled with its quirky inflight safety announcements, a highly original air-steward with the twirled moustache who entertained us with crazy talk, and we were even introduced to the texting messaging facility between seats. What a giggle just sending messages to any random seat using the entertainment device and TV. We alighted to walk through the mobile passage into the Christchurch airport – to be met with colourful murals of a New Zealand beach scene along with sounds of chirping seabirds and crashing waves.
Yes, our holiday was off to a good start.
First stop, Christchurch aka Quake City, was a shock for those who remembered it before the devastating 2010/11 earthquakes which annihilated the city centre and killed 186 people. With the latest earthquake only days prior, and locals still talking about it, it was mind-blowing to see how damaged it remained. Once an elegant English-styled city with historic stone-built structures, it was still in ruins, slowly being built again from scratch. While tourist agents try to sell it as an eclectic mix of old and modern, in truth, the contemporary, creative look they are going for simply looks cheap and make-shift. The centre is now a dumping ground for recycled shipping containers, road cones, yellow construction tape, piles of steel and timber tresses and sky-scraping cranes. Yet, alarmingly, not that much drilling and banging nor active energy with talk of no funding and shoddy fly-by-night contractors. However, between were glorious pockets of beauty like the Avon River and the Botanical Gardens, and some colourful graffiti walls and crazy sculptures amongst the chaos.
Next up, the Ashley pub for two nights. The local (and only) entertainment for kilometres, it attracts a smorgasbord of farmers and interesting types. The night we went was pulsating with the toothless unwashed, a hip-thrusting jockey and his gyrating missus, more jelly-bellied old fellows stomping about than you could poke a stick at, and a startlingly drunk woman wearing the shortest skirt who tried to buy bed time with the only decent single man in town. While the rather decent band played old-style pub favourites, we felt free to sing along, dance like maniacs and let our hair down further and further as the drinks kept flowing. It was just plain old-fashioned country fun, the very best kind of good time.
As for Hanmer, our house was perfect, incredibly reasonably priced, and we soaked away two days immersed in the hot spas. Look, I admit to being a bit nervous of sharing water with the acne backs and the hairy backs, and hoped nobody was carrying some skin disease or fungus in their private bits, but at the end of the days, we felt incredibly relaxed, we shone with happiness and our worries certainly melted away.
But this is what remains with me – how incredibly thirsty I was for the subtle beauty of a gentle country with multiple shades of green, quietly chirping birds hop-hopping on the soft lawn, distant mountains topped by snow, hedges and oak trees, daisies and buttercups, idyllic pastoral scenes from a British picture book with meadows and cows and lambs frolicking.
I know Australia is “the Lucky Country” and I am grateful to live here, I am. But it is also the land of relentless sunshine, crows, scrubby bushes and the outback. More dangerous animals and insects live here than anywhere else, and let’s not even mention the boxed jellyfish, sharks and crocs lurking in the waters inland and seaside.
Sitting on soft grass making my first-ever daisy chain, I felt so happy that there were no swarms of attacking ants, no stinging ants, no bindies … and so I had a little roll around. And it felt fine!
Most startling part of the holiday? Meeting a blood-splattered man with an enormous wild bush pig on the back of his ute. The pig had been slashed with a massive hunting knife after his dogs hunted it down, and he had dried blood head to toe, even in his ears and hair. He told me the dogs loved hunting as much as he did, and he was going home to make rissoles.
I return in a month for a three week camper van holiday with my sons – and we cannot WAIT!!!
Where is the best place to go on South Island? Any good free camping spots? And feel free to share any good travel budgeting tips for New Zealand.