Anyone who knows me really well, will know that this Disney tune is my pet hate. The sedate paced boat ride on the “seven seas” at Disneyland Paris which takes you through different countries with the song being sung by 289 nationally dressed-up dolls in 5 languages – French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and English, (info supplied by disneyquestions.com – I have not verified this, and actually can’t believe I googled that information) is the worst ride for me but it is still strangely fascinating. THANK GOODNESS they do not have that ride at Disney Shanghai. Anyway, I digress, Despite New Zealand being over 1,600 kilometres (990 mi) along its north-north-east axis with a maximum width of 400 kilometres (250 mi), of that it has about 15,000 km (9,300 mi) of coastline and a total land area of 268,000 square kilometres (103,500 sq mi). (thanks Wikipedia), we saw some people more than once, and that is because, despite not going on an organised tour, NZ has a finite number of things that are “must sees/dos”. As tourists usually don’t have an infinite amount of time or money, and as there was a major rugby tournament going on (British and Irish Lions tour – just in case you missed the first part or where unaware of rugby), it was therefore not surprising that we bumped into people.
We got into Picton in the darkness at 6pm, we stayed in a sweet but freezing cold youth hostel which was within walking distance of the ferry terminal and local supermarket. The youth hostel was to be the first of 9 YHAs. It was the only one to serve (in the winter) free Apple Crumble at 8pm. The main building was warm, it even had a hot tub outside, but the room we had, was no more than a glorified summer house, it had a small radiator to heat the room, but with 4 outside walls, it was never going to “cut it”. We were given plenty of blankets and thankfully I had packed two “hot” water bottles. It was only a stop over, but it was lovely little YHA, and would have made a great base to explore Marlborough.
Martin went to collect the car back at the ferry terminal, we loaded up and off we went. Next stop Nelson. We stopped at Blenheim for morning coffee, socks (thick pairs to go with my newly acquired fur lined snow boots), and a camera lens cap replacement since my old one is somewhere at the bottom of the Cook Straits.
Lunch was at the Captain’s Daughter in Havelock.
These were the most enormous green lipped mussels that I have ever seen. This was a lovely place to stop, a roaring fire, a view over the river, and a chance for Eleanor to say “Mum, those people by the fire were on the boat”. One of the children that was with the family was a girl that Eleanor had befriended on the boat.
Then onto Nelson YHA and a supermarket. Our first supermarket since China, we got a bit excited to find Applewood, smoked cheddar cheese (made near to where we used to live in Somerset).
Friends who we have talked to, have said that Nelson is lovely. We didn’t see a lot of it, but it was here that Eleanor wanted to cook dinner. On our first day in Wellington she had been a little taken aback that we had to wash our own breakfast dishes. So it was lovely that Eleanor wanted to make spaghetti bolognese. We had actually bought more than enough ingredients and so we gave these to another hosteller. In all the hostels Eleanor struck up conversations with fellow travellers while either washing dishes or cooking. In all of them, she made them believe that she does exactly the same at home (!)
Eleanor was wearing her Dulwich Suzhou FC hoodie in the YHA, and so a couple, who were Irish started talking to us as they to lived in Suzhou as well and were teachers at the other Suzhou international school, SSIS. Now we didn’t tell anyone about meeting David and Maryann, but the next day I got a message from my Aussie counselling colleague, Jim, who was in Australia (who married an Irish girl) asking me how David and Maryann were. Up until the day before I didn’t know who they were! But they had messaged Jim about us!
Two days later… sat in the YHA at Franz Josef, who walks in – David and Maryann. (left hand side) Also in the YHA, were again, people who Eleanor had met and played with on the ferry (different people to the ones met at the Captain’s Daughter). Also Lions supporters not at the second test, Max, Maria and their two children were travelling round NZ (and the rest of the world Round The World Eleanor and I watched the second test with them in the pub. Max had put a bet on the Lions winning. The bet paid out which bought them tickets to the 3rd test in Auckland where they had accommodation already booked! We agreed that we would meet them in Queenstown, as our last night there would coincide with their visit there.
The final incident of unplanned “its a small world” was when we were in Te Anau, we were at the local park beside the YHA and Eleanor began playing with a girl, she was a New Zealander and so we didn’t think anything of it, until we were on a small boat at Milford Sound the next day. A lady came up to me and said “Are you Eleanor’s mum?” it was the mother of the girl at the park the day before. Needless to say Eleanor was over the moon that there was someone of her own age on the boat.
Our planned reunions included; in Wellington and Queenstown Graham, a cousin; in Matamata (near Hobbiton) Campbell and his daughter, Campbell will be at our school from November; in Auckland we met up with Maia and Heather and their son, Kaiden. I first met Heather at Pax Lodge (a World Centre for WAGGGS – World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts), then Maia took over from her before moving onto CHQ (Girlguiding headquarters), we met them in at the Skytower for dinner – tip – if you book the restaurant at the top of the tower, The Sugar Club, you get up the tower earlier for “free”. They both now work in Auckland. Martin also met a school friend, Damian. They hadn’t seen each other since they were 16. And in Rotorua, we met with Heather. Heather was one of my first guides and young leaders when I guided in Sherborne (Girlguiding). She showed us a spot near Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland where two rivers meet, one cold, one hot – instant river bath/spa. (keep going on the loop road until you see a bridge, park there and take steps down)