New Zealand, Uncategorized

Hanmer Springs and Christchurch, New Zealand

We had been planning this little weekend away for months. Like, pretty much since we left Wanaka, and yet we were still so disorganised.

It was Irish Alan’s 30th birthday, the big 3-0, and he had arranged a meet-in-the-middle reunion to celebrate. After A LOT of indecision and date changing and questions of cost and who’s coming, we finally decided that Christchurch would be our best spot. But because the direct route to Christchurch has been pretty ruined because of the last earthquake it meant we had a loooong way to go get there. So we thought why not add a holiday to our holiday and stop off on the way down? So we did.

 We left Motueka late on the Friday night and drove the 3 and 1/2 hour drive to Hanmer Springs, where we parked up on a discrete road side to camp for the night next to Sarah – who had drive down from Picton – and her car George. The following morning we drove into central Hanmer and oh my word, it was too cute! Tall trees and little park benches and bakeries and cafes; it’s the town that dreams are made of. It actually felt very Canadian but I couldn’t explain why. Anyway, I’m just trying to
explain that it was an adorable place and I instantly wanted to move there.

We parked outside the ISITE and waited for the Hot Springs to open – a swimming area with natural thermal waters but that also has a spa and ‘waterpark’ area (a couple of big waterslides) which makes it the perfect day out for families, couples and groups of friends. There is such a variety of pools to choose from, my favourite of which was the smelly but relaxing sulphur pools that are heated to an average of 41 degrees. Mmm, sweaty. But for a price of $24 (£14-ish) it was actually really reasonable, or at least it would have been had we spent more than one hour there, but we were on a preeeetty tight schedule. So we had our soak, took full advantage of the showers and hit the road.

We decided to leave Nancy (our car) in Hanmer and all drive in George for the remainder of the journey. It was only a further 1 1/2 hours but being the great travel companion that I am I napped for most of the drive. Now we have all been to Christchurch once before but we didn’t really get to do or see much, so we were really eager to do a bit more exploring.

Alan and Karen had already arrived in Christchurch and had popped out for lunch (and beers), so it was our job to check into our room and begin putting up the birthday decorations. The hostel was called Kiwi Basecamp and it was GORG. Really modern, really clean with a cute garden area and relaxing lounge room. Oh and it’s important to note that the rooms had more than enough plug sockets, even next to the top bunks (!). The staff were very helpful, particularly in helping us execute Alan’s surprise… balloons and banners galore… all over his bed and around the hostel room. Sorry roommates. So for $31 (£18-ish)per person I thought the price was very good, although we didn’t get to sample the free fresh bread in the morning which was disappointing (our fault not theirs). Did I mention they also have free Wifi?

It was a hot day, the sun was shining and the sky was a gorgeous shade of blue, so once we’d finished scaring Alan and yelling ‘Surprise!’ at him we soaked up the last of the days rays with a few drinks in the garden, before heading down the road for dinner. We’d chosen a little Thai ‘Container’ place that seemed to be a bit hit and miss – nice enough food, just a little pricy for not a great deal of flavour. Anyway, with dinner eaten we all put on our glad rags and returned to the party with some card games and birthday cake; and then we headed out out.3

We went to an Irish bar called The Bog, and a place called Little Neighbourhood that seemed to think it was in Ibiza. Both of which were great bars with a heap of atmosphere, so we all had a few drinks and did a lot of wiggling before stopping off at the Z garage on the way home for some Lasagna toppers, cheese and onion rolls and salt and vinegar crisps. No, YOU are a party animal.

The next morning we met up with Elen and her boyfriend Douglas for brunch at the most civilised establishment I’ve seen for well over a year. It was called White House Black, which is about a ten minute drive from the centre of the city, but it had a princess garden with white roses and little white fences  and intricately detailed benches. It looked like the perfect brunch-ing spot and my throat did a little squeal with excitement. Although as we walked through the gardens all I could think about was seeing the menu and the bloomin price tag…. sigh of relief as each brunch meal was around the $20 mark. Not cheap, but we knew we would be paying for good quality. And we were on holiday, right? It definitely delivered with my super yummy pancakes with banana and ‘the most expensive Canadian syrup’ ever. Yuhuh. Everyone else had eggs benedict which looked equally as fancy and delish.

Post brunch, I decided to take the group to a little spot that I’d really wanted to visit whilst in Christchurch; it was the 185 White Chairs art work, placed in the centre of Christchurch to commemorate those who lost their lives in the 2011 earthquake. You can walk amongst the chairs and can even choose to sit on a seat that speaks to you, with each chair representing each life that was lost. There were wheelchairs and beanbags, and toddler chairs and baby baskets. So so so so sad. But also very beautiful, despite the surrounding areas still being debris. But Christchurch is regaining its confidence and returning to the vibrant city that it once was.

On Elen’s recommendation we headed over to Sumner, a little beachy area where we were hoping to be able to lounge around and ignore our round bellies and hangovers; when that didn’t work we grabbed an ice cream: salted caramel with white chocolate, and cookies and cream that had actual bits of Oreo in it. And THAT is how you ‘hangover’. The only issue was that we literally couldn’t eat fast enough as it kinda just melted straight away because of the ridiculous heat. Soooo worth it though. The beach area in Sumner was okay – I think we’ve been a bit spoilt with the level of beaches in the Abel Tasman so Sumner didn’t really stand a chance – but it was really busy and there was quite a lot of sea-debris lying around (seaweed, and wood) that meant that you couldn’t really lie down and just chill. Instead we sat on the rocks and reminisced and discussed future travel plans (of which there are LOTS) as this would be the last time the majority of the WPH (our Wanaka friends) would all be together for a really long time. Walking back to the cars we all said our goodbyes, which included lots of photo taking and hugging, before clambering into ours cars for the long journeys home.2

The whole weekend felt like a holiday. A really quick one, but a holiday nonetheless. And now it’s all beginning to feel real that we’ll actually be leaving New Zealand soon, and heading off on a new adventure…

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