The Truman Show (aka 24hours in Verona)

I’ve been nursing this one all week, carrying it around like a little warm egg to fend off what has otherwise been a fairly crappy week.  Now, week finally over and prosecco at hand, I think it’s time to rave about how great our flying trip to Verona was last weekend.

Maybe there was a special kind of alchemy at work because Marney and I had both come back  after Christmas full of determination, good intentions and New Year’s resolutions – the whole trip to Verona was just wonderful.  It powered us through accidentally getting on the wrong train and nearly getting run over by a homicidal beeping bus driver, and saw us walk under a beautiful Roman bridge to find ourselves still chipper (and discussing Jackie O at length) in the heart of Verona’s old town.  To be honest even at that point we had a bit of a suspicion that someone from the FBI or possibly the Matrix was watching us via our googlemaps – we just had time to say “gosh wouldn’t this be better if there was some Old Stuff to look at”, when *poof* there’s Verona’s Roman arena and as much Old Stuff as our eyes could eat.  The nice Matrix people had even put a picture of Jackie O on our B&B wall for later, how thoughtful.

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The arena by night. The star arrives close to Christmas, to guide you to the exhibition of nativity displays they put on inside!  Great first view of the city.

It worked on our treat night out too, despite how ridiculously capricious we were being.  Fancy a proper Italian dinner trying local specialities? Here’s a lovely restaurant where the only vegetarian options are exactly what you wanted (polenta with mushrooms, followed by pumpkin tortellini with pomegranate, in case anybody fancied a case of food envy.)  Decide you want to live it up in swanky bar for a bit? Stroll round the corner and someone will have conveniently left the poshest of all bars there for you, dripping with chic fairy lights and moody, black-clad Italians.   Get tired of being out-poshed really quickly and realise that what you REALLY want is a nice grimy bar and a pint?  Find that the only place left open is a wonderfully weird Cuban pub thing with a help-yourself beer fridge and a few dudes smoking cigars with the barman and listening to salsa.  There’s only so many times you can imagine something really niche and then stumble across that exact thing without getting suspicious that someone, somewhere, is setting you up a bit.

The next day we accepted that we were probably just guest stars in the Truman show, and decided just to go with it because in fairness whoever the producers were, they seemed pretty nice.   The plan was this – eat constantly all day, because it’s important to sample as much local food as possible and calories don’t follow you home anyway.  Then sightsee for a few hours, negotiate the bus to Primark, splurge on fun cheap things, return home triumphant.

A solid plan I must say, and it worked a treat.  We started with our first truly Italian coffee shop breakfast, involving standing at an orange marble counter with a cappuccino and a ridiculous coffee eclair pastry.  Aside from being delicious, it kick-started a day of genuinely fascinating people watching.  Italian pasticcerias are apparently where the well-heeled go to buy big trays of tiny tiny cakes, which you choose for yourself in the world’s most upmarket pick’n’mix type arrangement.  I liked to imagine all these stylish people off to immaculate coffee mornings with their artfully groomed dogs and pom-pommed children in tow.  Outside, we discovered a fabulous breed of Sunday-best Italians, with its own uniform.  For the under 50s it’s big designer sunglasses and sky high heels for the women, bomber jackets for the men.  Leather trousers for EVERYONE.  For the over 50s it’s even better – the women can now dye their hair amber, put on a full length real fur coat over their heels and head to church.  The men are now sporting swept back silver hair, cigarettes and dark glasses, and can generally be found leaning atmospherically on a wall, watching the fur coats go by.

Aside from the fashion show, Verona itself was also stunning.  You can loop through most of the old town in a couple of hours and take in churches, the Duomo,  the Roman gates to the city, the Ponte Pietra bridge and its accompanying views of the river, Juliet’s balcony and then finish at the arena again.

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“Juliet’s balcony” – not really hers but the house did belong to the Cappelletti family, which may be where the name Capulet came from. Close enough.
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Casual reminder that I need to re-read Shakespeare STAT.

Because Juliet’s balcony is one of the big tourist draws of the city, they let you leave little messages on the walls in the archway into the balcony courtyard or fix a lovely little padlock onto the gates.  We didn’t go as far as a padlock but you can see our contribution to the love in blue.  Have suddenly realised we ballsed up the date – presumably a clever ploy to fool the Matrix people!  There was also some kind of historical parade going on in the town, which we managed to stumble on after breakfast.  It was surreal – everything from a brass band to a medieval knight.  No idea what was going on.

Fun selection of weird things we saw in the parade.  We followed it around for a while trying to work out what the theme was – no clue.  Answers on a postcard.

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The Torre Lamberti (the Tower of Love, reportedly) incongruously overlooking the festivities.
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Just get a load of everything going on here. We’ve got majorettes, a giant Christmas tree, frescos and beautiful old buildings. I couldn’t wrap my head round it AT ALL
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One of the Roman gates to the city.

By far the most beautiful church we saw, Sant’Anastasia.

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Popping out of the old town, we were faced with this lovely view over the river at the Ponte Pietra. On the other side, you can see the remains of the old Roman theatre behind the trees.
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Best view of the weekend?  This is from the middle of the Ponte Pietra looking back towards the town.
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Look it’s me!  I’m still alive Mum!
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The arena again.  It really is made of two parts – the older, complete amphitheatre, and then an extra section of wall that a different emperor had added later.
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Twice in one post!  I’m quite proud of myself.  Especially because in this one Marney and I are both gritting our teeth in fear of falling off the top of the arena.  It’s high, you guys.

REALLY high. Look at this beautiful view back to the Torre Lamberti. Worth nearly splatting ourselves for.

So there it is, Verona in a nutshell.  Not that it was a disaster-free experience (no hot water, for one thing, and one particularly unpleasant incident with a bus ticket inspector and a lost bus ticket) but even so an absolute highlight of Italy so far.  Hopefully we’ll be going back again, partly because we didn’t get anywhere near as much time to look around as we wanted, partly because the Primark there is bloody enormous, and partly because the Matrix people didn’t manage to organise us any arancini to eat this time, even though I popped into the nearest cafe as soon as we fancied them.  They must have been taking a coffee break.

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Christmas Adam

Aka 23rd December  (sorry all, this joke tickles me and I can’t stop.)

Two years ago, I spent Christmas Adam on a LOTR tour round Wellington, 12000 miles from home and trying to find a plan for “What now?”  12 months later, I spent it freezing my ass off working a 6-6 overtime shift making boxes for strawberry body shop Christmas gift sets, and having serious doubts about whether I had totally lost the plot in NZ and made a series of terrible mistakes.

This year, I was here –

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Which I think is a distinct improvement!  I decided to pop into Venice yesterday for a spontaneous last dollop of Italian fabulousness before coming home, and ended up on the north side of the island watching the sun set over the bridge.  It was incredible – for the first time I managed to get off the beaten track and wandered through a pocket of normal residential streets, before popping out onto a step in the north wall. I wasn’t the only one, you can just about see my step-neighbour soaking up the view too.

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The original plan had been to grab a coffee and then go stroll down to St Mark’s looking at the Christmas lights, and maybe see if there were any carol concerts going on that I could sneak into.  The universe had other plans though and a guy in a camel coloured overcoat plopped down next to me and we got to chatting.  It transpired my new buddy is a tour guide in the city and was just about to head off to synagogue in the Jewish Quarter for the end of Sabbath, so he invited me to tag along.  I squashed all my inner nervousness and said yes, but I’m fairly sure I didn’t manage to look as cool as I’d like about making spontaneous friends in quiet back streets.  More than once I found myself compulsively stopping dead just in case he was about to push me into the canal, and he looked at me like I’d grown another head. I mean really…..it’s so hard to be cool when you’ve got a nervous disposition.

Whatever. Anyway he didn’t push me into the canal (Why would he even do that? What a bizarre subconscious worry) and carried on just being a nice normal person, and I had a really nice couple of hours being shown around the Jewish Quarter.  He told me it started and as the first Jewish ghetto in Europe,  in 1516 when the Vatican first started flexing their muscles, and these days as well as the WW2 memorials there’s also a small but very active Orthodox community.

 

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Honestly it was fascinating.  And a really lovely way to spend a couple of hours.  I’m sitting in Venice airport at the moment with a view out over the lagoon, and it’s lovely to be reminded that this is a really cool place to live.

Conegliano (and some normal life)

Thought I’d throw you all off by NOT opening with a grainy landscape photo.  Sometimes I take pictures of other things!  This is a ska band we saw last night at the 20th anniversary party of the local brewery.   It’s probably about as peak local as I’ll ever feel I think – we found out about the event when we got to talking with a couple of brewery staff at the food festival in town a couple of weeks ago.  I was supposed to be saving money but all the sunshine and macaron samples went to my head, and I ended up buying myself some fancy local beer.  They gave me a leaflet for the party and said we should go, famous ska band etc etc.  We had been a bit daunted by getting there and back in one piece – it’s in another town, and usually nights out here either have to be within walking distance or with a 7pm curfew to get the last bus home.  This time we decided just to risk it and caught the last bus out of town, and somehow lived to tell the tale in spite of such RECKLESSNESS.  I think we must give off an air of being totally inept actually.  The bus driver who took us out didn’t charge us, dropped us directly opposite the brewery, and collared some teenager off the bus to show us where to cross the road to get to it.  If this is what being a grandma feels like, I’M READY.  Cue fabulous evening chatting to lovely locals, having a little dance, and drinking wonderful beer.  Later on, we got to talking to a friend of a colleague who ended up giving us a lift back home, thus saving us from sleeping on the brewery floor.  We even bumped into a colleague and organised a plan to go to some other festival next weekend – she couldn’t really translate what a “sagra” is in English, but apparently it involves “polenta…and mushrooms….and stuff.”  I’m all over it.

I’ve also been flexing my tour guide muscles a little bit.  I’ve had a couple of visitors in the last few weeks, both backpacking friends from NZ.  It’s been SO GOOD catching up with them, plus have been able to practise showing people around without getting myself lost.   Predictably, my two new favourite things to do with people are both alcohol based.  The flash one is to go to Conegliano, aka prosecco-mecca, and stroll up the hill to the castle for an achingly beautiful view all the way to the Dolomites.

 

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The local one is to go to the cantina in town to blag a spot of wine tasting and ogle at the petrol-pump wine stations.  They price it around 1.20 per litre, you pick which one you want, grab a big old bottle and they fill it up for you.  Here’s my friend Chris not quite able to believe what’s happening.

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Aside from swanning around, though, life does go on with work etc.  I imagine my mum is a bit worried about how much it seems like I’ve given up on having a job in favour of being an alcoholic, but I swear it’s not what it looks like.  I’ve got a full teaching timetable now, with students ranging from 2 year olds at nursery (!!!!!!) up to a fab guy called Sandro who has intense questions about advanced grammar and a passion for French philosophy.  Haven’t quite worked out yet whether I find it easier to shout “MASH, banana, MASH MASH banana” at a roomful of giggling Italian parents and toddlers first thing on Saturday, or to come up with smart comments about the death of the author theory last thing on Friday night.  It’s no wonder I fancy a drink sometimes.

Treviso

I can’t believe this is the start of my third week here already.  Life seems to have found a rhythm for now – school is afternoons and evenings, roughly 12-9, and Saturday mornings.  Breaks in the work day are spent in the piazza cafe downstairs, drinking cappuccinos and having baby-steps Italian lessons from Mario the lovely barista.  Home is actually a WiFi free zone, so free time is necessarily a little creative – I even do the crossword.  Skype dates and advance TV downloading happen at work.  I tend to do a big batch of cooking on a Monday morning because after finishing late I can’t be bothered with coming home and cooking again.  Saturday means day trip day, before alarming domesticity on Sundays (like, communal cleaning, naps on the sofa, Father Brown on TV, house roast dinner in the evening…don’t laugh)  At pretty much any  time, it’s appropriate to say “….cheeky pint?” and then try to stop before hitting 10 pints.

This weekend just gone we daytripped to Treviso, the nearest big proper town.  I think because it’s the town where the airport is, I was mentally using adjectives like “industrial” and “soulless”….HOLY CRAP, how wrong can you be!  Treviso is delightful.  It has a river running through it; one of these beautiful Northern Italian rivers with unrealistically milky turquoise water.  (Coming from a region full of estuary rivers, it’s a bit of a revelation that rivers can be another colour than shit-brown.)  The river seems to have been split into lots of little channels to run through the city, divvying it up into little islands and watermills, and providing lots of gorgeous Venice-type bridges and balcony bars.  It’s an old city with medieval city walls and churches, but unlike Venice, it seems to have avoided the worst of the tourism shebang, so it feels like a proper alive city at the same time.  Evidence – as we wandered along the city walls, we found the epitome of a hipster open air bar.  It had fairy lights, a red chandelier behind the bar, deckchairs, and Nina Simone on the soundtrack.  It also had a crafty view down onto the river on the other side of the wall where some city planning genius has installed an island full of big fluffy bunny rabbits, apparently designed to force all sappy female passers by to melt into a deck chair and buy drinks while they take photos.  Not that I fell into that trap AT ALL.

(Now, having run this story by my darling Ellen, apparently the obvious question at this point is “but where are your close ups of the cute fluffy bunny rabbits, Katie?”   To which I can only reply….this is a deliberate artistic choice to force you all to come and see for yourselves.  And don’t ask difficult questions.)

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Venice, casually

I popped in to Venice the other day.  That’s possibly my favourite sentence about life here now – Venice is close enough that we can pop casually in.  VENICE.  POPPING TO VENICE.

I went with one of my housemates after work about a week ago, as the key introductory day trip in the area.  We somehow managed to bumble our way through public transport to and from, and not miss the last bus home – not bad for a pair of rookies.

The absolute best thing about the day was the fact that we did exactly what we normally do on Saturdays, just in Venice.  We wandered around, sat in bars, and drank beer.  None of this sweaty tourist business for us, no thank you.  No backpacks, no selfie sticks, no tick-off-the-guidebook.  Just a regular Saturday with Venice as the backdrop.   I’m well on  my way to becoming a snobby local, even if people do automatically talk to me in English.  If only I liked Aperol Spritz, I think I’d blend right in.

So the rest is going to be my crappy snaps of Venice!  It’s as beautiful as I remember.  From the luxurious vantage point of being able to go back any time I want, the thing it most reminds me of is Disneyland.  Almost everyone is a tourist, and it seems impossible to imagine that there are locals there who have real lives.  How can there be people living quietly in their flats when they could turn said flat into a holiday rental and make a fortune?  How are you supposed to live there when all the shops sell Plague Doctor masks aimed at tourists?  Most importantly, how on earth could you live there when beer is 30% more expensive than anywhere else?!  But it’s Venice, it’s beautiful, so we forgive it.

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In my defense, we were wandering the backstreets which are really rather narrow.  It’s hard to get any photos that aren’t sliced up with tall buildings.  Next time I’ll hit the big tourist spots and maybe try and do better.

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Now…does anyone know what this is???  Auntie Jacqui, do you remember?  I’m sure we’ve got a photo like this from when we were here last time.  For the life of me I’ve got no idea what I’m looking at it.  We just popped out of an alleyway and suddenly there was this walled island glowing in front of us.  Sorry, for anyone still under the illusion that this was a competent travel blog.

This was our one and only concession to tourist-life.  We saw this gorgeous church and paid a euro each to go and admire how beautiful it is.  The inside is all done in swirly blue mosaics – somebody clearly thought “there’s not enough lagoon yet, let’s get involved in here”

Oderzo

How do you set about going back to a blog you haven’t touched in over a year?  Keep it low-key, I reckon.  Stream-of-consciousness online scribblings are back.  Let’s move on.

TA DAAAAAHHHH I live in Italy now!

That’s the big news.  Backpacking did its thing for me, I went home with a vague idea of what to do with my life, scraped together some pennies, got a teaching qualification and blagged my way into a New Exotic Life as a TEFL teacher in Italy.  I’m obsessed with it – this is the vom warning for the weak of stomach.  I literally don’t have anything to say that isn’t gushy.  You’ve been warned.

So, here I am in Oderzo.  I arrived last Thursday and started teaching yesterday.  The accommodation is palace-sized by English standards – there’s 3 of us so far, all teaching at the same school, with space for another 2.  We live right on the edge of town by the river, and if you stroll along the river bank for about ten minutes you arrive in the piazza in the centre of town, which is where work is.  I’ve been teaching a little bit this afternoon, and then took a break to go downstairs to the cafe and do the crossword in the sunshine.

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The new pad.  We have all the yellow one and the top floor of the green one (!!!!)  My room is the two windows on the far left of the top of the green bit.  

We spent the weekend exploring our new abode.  Oderzo is actually in the Venice plain  on a little loop of the Monticano river, with a stunning view of the Dolomite mountains in the background (sorry if I misinformed anyone about it being in the mountains – it isn’t.)  There’s a lot of bars to cater to one’s prosecco/beer/stylish espresso needs, some lovely Roman archaeological remains, and a fair number of ridiculously beautiful houses.  I think it’s worked some kind of quintessential Italian magic on me – I spend most of my time strolling around feeling relaxed and fabulous.  Realistically I probably just look weird with a goofy smile but I’m too chill to care now.

It’s a bit nice eh.

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That nice white building on the right is the school, I’m currently in a little classroom at the back of the building mooching WiFi.

And finally, teaching so far seems to be a good choice (thank goodness.)  I’ve only given a few lessons so far but they’ve all gone sort of OK, my students are all lovely people and I’ve enjoyed the first few days.  It’s a nice break from summer camp to be honest – I miss the buzz of kids lessons a little bit, but on the other hand it’s quite nice to be teaching people who don’t bite each other when communication breaks down!  Anyway, it’s early days.  I’m told that the school will pick up a lot in a week or two, and gone will be the days of chilled one-to-one lessons and long breaks.  It would seem that now is the time to wrap my head around the lesson plans and spend my evenings drinking local wine.  Most bars have a prosecco MENU and a glass is about 2 euro so….it’s rude not to.

The Gili Islands

So after not really being all that good at surfing, we headed off to the Gili Islands to do some stuff we were pretty sure we could manage (aka, sunbathing and drinking.)  The Gili Islands are tiny accidents of the tides just off the coast of Lombok – they are surrounded by really shallow coral reefs, and you have the impression that if the wind ever changes the islands will just wash away.  There are three of them within a stone’s throw of Lombok – Gili Meno (honeymoon island), Gili Trawangan (like Aussie Mallorca) and Gili Air (where single girls go to escape the other two Gilis. …sob).  Jo and I didn’t feel brave enough to try styling it out with the couple on Gili Meno so had a few days each on the other two.  Given that you can walk around either island in an hour or two, and it’s beautiful sandy beaches all the way, the Gilis are very good places to unwind.

We managed a pretty full timetable of hippie Western tourist activities while on the islands – snorkelling  (I saw a Dory!!!), sunbathing, yoga (both the normal kind and the ridiculous aerial kind), going for massages, eating BBQ fish, watching the sunsets and taking obligatory instagrammable pictures.  I’d feel bad about how gentle our stay there was but then again, it was over 30 degrees. Poor us eh.

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Including even one of me looking like a prat doing upside down yoga.

Both the islands we visited are ridiculously photogenic – as well as perfect beaches, the Indonesians have definitely got the memo about cutesy Boho chic so everything is made out of repainted vintage furniture and decorated with fairy lights.

The Gilis, rocking their “yeah my stylist does Glastonbury too” look.

It’s a nice life to be honest! Definitely a few steps up from working two or three jobs at a time to avoid paying rent and living in a room with a leak.  Jo has booked us some pretty fancy places to stay…it feels really nice to have our own pool most of the time and not to be the one in charge of changing the sheets or cleaning the loo!

 

Canggu

For the first post about a new country, this is going to be disgustingly short. Here is my step by step guide to having your first few days in Bali like Jo and I did –

  1.  Book into a proper legit surf school.
  2. Attend day one surf lesson where “guaranteed to stand up”
  3. Don’t stand up.  Just fall off the board and giggle.
  4. Return on day two where instructors have had to readjust expectations of standing.
  5. Stand up once but immediately get invalided out by spraining gimpy arm.
  6. Wait till your friend makes your injury look pathetic by getting hit in the face with own surf board and bloodily dislocating some teeth.
  7. Spend day in hospital wondering if you’re jointly the worst surf students alive.
  8. Spend last day in surf camp by the pool where you can’t hurt yourself.

And that’s it! I definitely wasn’t expecting to be good at surfing but this was particularly hilarious even from someone as athletically challenged as myself.  However, it was great to have an excuse just to lay about and rest lots.  We didn’t see heaps of Bali while at surf camp because they pretty much just shuttle you back and forth between the accommodation and the beach, but we did discover that Balinese seafood is amazing and even fancy cocktails are comparatively cheap as chips.  A bundle of us from the surf school went for dinner one night to a seafood restaurant that looked quite dingy from the front, but which opened out onto a beautiful beach where you all have dinner alfresco on the sand.  Aside from the food being incredible, my highlight of the evening came when we all sat back, stuffed, and a four piece mariachi-type band arrived to play us some Gypsy Kings while shouting things like “take it away, Ringo!!”  Who knew Indonesia would be like this?

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Wanaka – finally, at last

My mum is a wonderful, hopeful person – one of my all time faves.  Earlier tonight her hopeful little face asked me if I thought I might have time to write her another blog post with some more pictures…Consequently it’s her fault that I’m on a plane at 3 am somewhere over the Indian Ocean trying to find a few hundred words to summarise the radio silence of the last few months!  As in Napier, I’ve been settled and working for a couple of months and so have had very little to report.  Suddenly it all came to a close though and here I am, flying out of New Zealand and over to Bali.

 

Home this time was Wanaka, a ski town I visited a couple of times over the summer  and fell in love with.  It’s apparently the second coldest place in NZ so winter makes it ski paradise – just look at all that snow!

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These are the Misty Mountains again, looking a lot more familiar with the snow than they were in the summer (trust me to have picked the geeky LOTR view for daily consumption.)  I have to say, although I’ve shivered and bitched about the cold pretty constantly, Wanaka is bloody gorgeous.   The famous views include the Wanaka Tree – famous for growing in the lake rather than on the shore….

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Also famous – Roy’s Peak, the tallest of the mountains on the left hand side of town.  I put off climbing it for months, because I know how terrible I am at climbing hills without making people want to kill me to stop me moaning.  I finally grew some lady balls a couple of days before leaving and I have to say it was totally worth it and not as terrible as I’d worried it would  be -getting photos like this justifies quite a lot!

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The rest of the time I spent in Wanaka was pretty much focused on trying not to freeze.  Most people go to Wanaka to ski and so fixate on snow levels etc – not yours truly.  I am a summer child.  I passed the time developing indoor hobbies, like going to the cinema to eat cookies, watching Game of Thrones wrapped in a duvet, and mulling stuff in my beloved mulling cauldron (Mulled cider is a legit –  albeit dangerous – mixer for rum.  Who knew).  Probably the only time I really enjoyed the cold weather was June 25th, which was my first ever half-Christmas party and felt appropriate to be frosty!

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(GRATUITOUS FOOD PORN SHOT.  You can’t see it but I contributed some pretty tasty mulled wine to this spread.)

Right at this moment, I’ve been travelling for something like 25 hours and we are one final hour out from Bali.  I’m thrilled about not being cold for the next few weeks, but it does feel very strange that I’ve gone and left New Zealand after all this time.  It’s been a horribly emotional few days wrapping up in Wanaka and then packing up in my uncle’s house.   I think I’ve been awake too many hours to dwell on that right now, so I’m just going to hope that Bali can live up to New Zealand.

NB – this was the night before last.  Since then I have been surfing, sunbathed, eaten noodles for breakfast and drunk cocktails that look like this…

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That is a basil and lime daiquiri, for the uninitiated.  And it’s fucking delicious (even if it does taste exactly how you imagine that Original Source shower gel would).  Bali is pretty good so far.

 

Arthur’s Pass

Aka, mine and Luisa’s Last Hurrah.  We both approached the end of our trip with the same attitude – if we don’t think about it, it isn’t real.  Two weeks felt like ages at the beginning but was over horribly quickly.  We had our last proper couple of days in a hostel near Arthur’s Pass (the highest settlement in New Zealand don’cha know, population 29 – no joke) before heading back into Christchurch for me to get a bus alone.

And we had a great time! We were lucky and got a very lovely hostel –  it was a tiny little place in the middle of nowhere with no phone signal and only 6 beds. Having been on the mad tourist trail so much over the last few months, it’s always really welcome to find somewhere a bit different. I say this – probably because they let us have unlimited wifi for the whole time we were there, so we didn’t have be to be totally cut off.  I have become a wifi slut.  They also had electric blankets, so my inner grandma stayed toasty warm the whole time.  Heaven.

Having finally thrown off our illnesses, we were ready to get back to the serious business of backpacking properly.  We hiked up a mountain for the first time without the guys, and felt incredibly proud of ourselves for doing so.  Stupidly I don’t know the name of the mountain that we climbed, so I’m just going to say it was pretty darn big and had beautiful views up and down the pass.  The sun came out for the photo op, thank goodness, and we had a wonderful vista of jagged mountains on either sie of the pass with a sparkling ribbon of river in the middle of the valley floor.

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Gorgeous, innit.

In the evenings we used the aforementioned glorious connectivity to abuse my poor sister’s Netflix and watch a series of kids’ films and bad romcoms, while drinking wine and giggling.  We played cards quite a lot, especially on the top of the mountain while we had a breather.   I drank lots of early morning cuppas and read lots of books, because I tend to wake up (hours and hours) before Luisa.  Overall we didn’t really do anything special, but it was all really great!

Eventually though,  we ran out of time.  It was so hard to get on my bus without Luisa – having been working and travelling together since Christmas, I had become pretty used to having her around all the time and it was sad to bring it all to a close.  Tears may have been shed.  Thank goodness for the wonders of social media which allow us to message incessantly and continue to have whole conversations made of Bieber lyrics!   I was talking to Luisa this morning about how great the last few months have been, and we both agreed that these are the kind of experiences that make travelling worthwhile and we have been incredibly lucky to have loved the last few months so much.  I find it hard sometimes to make the descriptions of what I’ve been doing sound as wonderful as it felt, which must surely be thanks to the presence of my excellent travel buddies (or a terrible reflection on my blogging ability, who knows).  Either way I’m certain that I will always be grateful for how much I have enjoyed the people I was with for this part of the trip, because it wouldn’t have been the same with anybody else.