It’s a serious condition, itchy feet. Restlessness and daydreaming are the most common symptoms, and in this case a growing lack of interest in even the most captivating scenery meant one thing. Time to move on. Having been in the country for a little over five weeks, the fact is we’d seen very little aside from Queenstown, Kinloch and it’s surrounding areas, beautiful as they all may be. Therefore a new plan was formed. This being to acquire a campervan and go and see some new sights; the trouble being we were in the arse end of nowhere with no transport to find, well, some transport. A catch 22 if ever there was one. Therefore an even newer plan was quickly formed – get to Christchurch and find something there. With an international airport and a larger catchment area, the choice of campervans would always be greater up there, plus it would actually force us into action rather than spend another few days frolicking around in Gandolf’s backyard.
The first fresh snowfall of our time here came a few days before we left however, and as the skies cleared we took our chance to get up The Routeburn, one of New Zealand’s better known tramping tracks. Accompanied by Jorge, our very own Spanish Christopher McCandless and veteran of the local tracks, we set off on the most stunning of walks. Ascending through the sort of remote woodland you’d expect to find Ray Mears cooking up some Nettle & Piss tea, we zigzagged our way back and forth along glacier carved valleys before rising up into the Humbolt Mountains, where the untouched snow became too deep to progress. Stunning views back across the range was compensation enough however, we’ll be back to do the remainder on another, less snowy, day
As we headed for Queenstown and then onto Christchurch to the somewhat unique sounds of Glenorchy Country Radio (probably the only station in the world to include Livin’ La Vida Loca sung by the Donkey from Shrek on it’s playlist), there was a definite sense of sadness. We couldn’t have asked for a better start than we’d enjoyed at Kinloch Lodge. With lakes, mountains and some astonishingly good Carrot Cake on offer, you’d be a fool not to pop in if you’re ever nearby. Be warned though, you might just stay for good.
‘Pretty’, ‘Colonial’ and ‘Relaxed’ – all words we’d have used to describe Christchurch following our time here in 2008. ‘Flat’, ‘Broken’ and ‘Devastated’ are the words we’d use now. The place was unrecognisable from the place we’d seen before; roadworks littered the streets, empty plots of land were all too common and the Cathedral stood abject and spireless, fenced off like the rest of the city centre. Stonehurst hostel where we’d stayed before had gone, indeed the number of hostel beds on offer here had fallen from 2’500 before the earthquakes, to around 750 now. ‘Resilient’ would be another word to use however. Every local we spoke to had been affected in some way, yet every local we spoke to was upbeat about their fortunes. It could have been worse they said, they were still there. 30’000 workers had arrived in Christchurch since and wherever you went, the clanging and drilling of a city being rebuilt could be heard and there was a definite optimism in the air.
Having taken in the sights, or lack of them, we found ourselves a van with a bit less wrong with it than the others we saw – with the added bonus of an axe and spade included should we decide to become the 21st century Bonnie & Clyde. We pillaged our way through a local discount store for supplies to kit out our new home, and then off we went. We were on the road.