It is Monday afternoon here, and since I feel so tired after a busy weekend of seeing places, I thought I’d sit down to write a brief update on our time here in Sydenham, ChCh, NZ.
Since Valentine’s Day landed on a week night this year, we decided to grab a pizza from Domino’s ‘Cheaper Tuesdays’ range and postpone our ‘day of love’ til the weekend. Andy, our housemate who works for Apollo Campers, managed to get a used BBQ from a customer returning their van on Thursday so the boys spent Friday evening fanning the flames whilst I made a Kumara Potato Salad and Italian Dressed Tomatoes (damn, wish I’d taken pictures). We traded sausages for salads, which the guys didn’t think was very fair...until they were on their third helping of potatoes! What can I say, I take pride in my garnishes!
Martin suggested we take the bus from the city centre through the mountain tunnel to Lyteltton, Christchurch’s port, the next day. The weather was glorious so we took our time strolling along the deep slanting streets, taking in the improvised container drinking holes and local built community areas that hold ‘Bring and Share’ evenings every Wednesday afternoon, to share food, music and tales from the week. We ended up for an hour or so on a bench overlooking the harbour, where we started to think about everyone back home...
After a 15 minute bus ride, we were back in Sydenham and headed to the mall to take advantage of the late-afternoon reductions on Sushi! We ate our salmon and rice in the local oval, whilst the cricketers screamed about LBW. Such a hard life. We ended the day with a meal at a Chinese restaurant in Sydenham and a pint of Guinness in the Irish bar, The Craic, frequented by a horde of genuine Irishmen (funny that). When we got back to the house, our other housemates were sat in the living room watching Forest Gump, which one of the Kiwi’s had never seen before, so that was an experience!
We woke on Sunday after another night with hardly any sleep (our mattress is softer than kittens and we’ve been on at our landlord for a new one), feeling grouchy and a bit slobbish to say the least. We decided to take it easy, perhaps borrowing Tom and Gabby’s car to go to Westfield Mall in search of a practical pair of city shoes. Andy had a couple of days off and had decided to venture to Arthur’s Pass national park, about 1-2 hours drive away. After having set out, he sent us a text asking if we’d like to join him, and after a month of having very limited opportunities to see outside the city, we jumped on the chance. About half an hour out of Christchurch, the flat landscape starts to fatten out, gaining lumps and bumps and more diverse shrubs and wildlife. I was kicking myself for not taking my wildlife guide to identify the birds and trees I was seeing. After a while, we saw a sign for ‘Castle Hill’ and after explaining to our German Andy that this was the emblem of home, we stopped off to check it out. Not a real castle (if you can call Huddersfield’s castle a castle), but strange naturally formed limestone boulders dotted all over the hill side. I have to say, NZ’s version is much more breathtaking. I waited for the boy’s to have their fill of climbing and dangling their feet from dangerously high up places while I took photos of everything with my sadly neglected SLR.
Travelling on, we passed snow-capped mountains and crystal clear hillside lakes; the kind of sights which explain why Peter Jackson chose NZ for his LOTR location. Upon arriving in Arthur’s Pass village, we stopped for a ginger beer and a bag of chips - whilst watching the cheeky Kea's drink abandoned milk - before we took the 1.6km climb up the mountainside to see the Devil’s Punchbowl falls. The climb nearly killed me, but half way up I began to find the incline more bearable. And boy was it worth it. Rather than stand on the specially built viewing platform, I decided to climb past the sign marked ‘Dangerous: Falling Rocks’ into the midst of the river fall itself. It was wonderful to feel a part of the flow and see the water simmering beneath me. After being shaken from my reverie, we climbed down and began the drive home, welcomed by the sun emerging from the fog that had been following us all day. I read Andy’s Lonely Planet guide to New Zealand on the way back and was captivated by a section on the Maori interpretation of the formation of the country. I thought some of you would enjoy it too...
"In the Maori story of creation, first there was the void, then the night, then Rangi-nui and Papa-tu-a-nuku (sky father and earth mother) came into being, embracing with their children nurtured between them. But nurturing became something else. Their children were stifled in the darkness of their embrace. Unable to stretch out to their full dimensions and struggling to see clearly in the darkness, their children tried to separate them. Tawhiri-matea, the god of winds, raged against them; Tu-mata-uenga, the god of war, assaulted them. Each god child in turn tried to separate them, but still Rangi and Papa pressed against each other. And then Tane-mahuta, god of the great forests and of humanity, placed his feet against his father and his back against his mother and slowly, inexorably, began to move them apart. Then came the world of light, of demigods and humanity.
In this world of light Maui, the demigod ancestor, was cast out to sea at birth and was found floating in his mother’s topknot. He was a shape-shifter, becoming a pidgeon or a dog or an eel if it suited his purposes. He stole fire from the gods. Using his grandmother’s jawbone, he bashed the sun so that it could only limp slowly across the sky, so that people would have enough time during the day to get things done. Using the south island as a canoe, he used the jawbone as a hook to fish up Te Ika a Maui (the fish of Maui) – the north island. And, finally, he met his end trying to defeat death itself. The goddess of death, Hine Nui Te Po, had obsidian teeth in her vagina (obsidian is a volcanic glass that takes a razor edge when chipped). Maui attempted to reverse birth (and hence defeat death) by crawling into her birth canal to reach her heart as she slept. A small bird – a fantail – laughed at the absurd sight. Hine Nui Te Po awoke, and crushed Maui between her thighs. Death one, humanity nil."