A BBQ at Christmas!

Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
Trip End Feb 27, 2006

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Monday, December 26, 2005

The run up to Christmas was mostly spent relaxing at the beach, or playing table tennis at the hostel. Naturally, I endured Love Actually again and watched Shallow Hal for old time's sake, although I somehow managed to avoid Vanilla Sky - wonders never cease!

Shinya came round to the hostel one night for a beer, and it was great to see him again. He looked very smart with a new hairstyle, which is surprising considering Kazu was the one in charge of the scissors! I'd hoped to meet Shinya whilst he was travelling around the South Island, but we inadvertantly missed eachother. Anyway, he said he didn't enjoy it down there because it was too cold and there was no surfing!

The Japanese aren't very vigilent when it comes to keeping their valuables with them, probably because Japan is such a law abiding country. Sure enough, Shinya's entire backpack was stolen about 5 months ago, and he'd endured a lengthy battle with his insurance company to get the money he was owed. He was eventually successful, and that was the end of the matter...until the police called him 4 months later to say his backpack had been found in a field, complete with all its contents (apart from his digital camera)! It was a bit wet of course, but other than that everything was fine...and Shinya beamed as he recounted the story! I don't blame him.

I went out with Claudine on the 22nd as she was flying home to Christchurch the next day to see her parents. We had a drink in the Creme Bar but it was pretty rowdy and I couldn't hear a word she was saying, so we proceeded to the altogether more civilised Latituse 37. It was much quieter in there, and we could catch up on events without the need for shouting. She eventually moved out of Pacific Coast Lodge in September after finding a couple of flatmates, and I filled her in on the gossip about George, Peter and Yumi. It really was a great crowd to be part of back in the kiwifruit days!

The next day, I went to the top of The Mount with Wim and the Japanese guys as I needed a bit of exercise to keep my fitness levels up. We left the hostel in glorious sunshine, but by the time we had biked it to the bottom of The Mount, it was thundering and lightning! So we went indoors for fish and chips, and thankfully it had cleared up a bit when we emerged outside some 20 minutes later.

The walk to the summit was easy compared to the walks I'd done in Mt Cook and Akaroa, but it still provided great views. This was especially the case on the way back down, when we were treated to a crystal clear, full length rainbow...it was beautiful. Of course, the fact that there was a rainbow also meant that there was a bit of rain around too, and the other 3 got soaked in a downpour - I'd taken my pak-a-mak!

I went to the Bayfair Shopping Centre on Christmas Eve to buy myself a Christmas present...some new headphones! My other ones had decided not to work, which in my book is nothing short of catastrophic as I need music to function properly! I was even treated to some live music whilst waiting for the bus back to the hostel, as a couple of buskers were performing right in front of me. The guy on guitar was great, but the fact that they were playing covers of songs by, for example, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers on Christmas Eve summed it up - it didn't feel like Christmas at all! Where were the carol singers? Where were Slade? Seeing pictures of Santa on a surfboard just didn't seem right!

I was determined to get in the spirit of things though, and promptly spent the afternoon outside drinking a few beers. A few of us had arranged to go out at night to The Mellick, and I was feeling a bit tipsy when we headed into town at about 9pm. We had a couple more beers before Wim kindly bought everyone a shot of tequila (he's not short of a bob or two!). That was only the start, as we proceeded to the Creme Bar for a couple more. One of the lads bought a shot of Jaegemeister, which I'd never heard of, but I had one anyway. It wasn't that nice, but I had to return the compliment and so bought a round. A bit of a mistake that, as I'd later discover...

The licensing laws meant that all the bars had to close at midnight on Christmas Eve, but it didn't bother me as I was fast on by that point anyway. I won't go into details, but I woke up at 3am and made a beeline for the toilets - I'd definitely had one Jaegemeister too many!

As usual when I've been drinking, I woke up early the next morning, and was sat in the kitchen with an older English lady at 6.30am! It was Christmas morning, and I was feeling a bit rough.

Heather emerged at 7am and set out the free breakfast (although you could say that the $25 for the BBQ covered it). I got my fill, and I felt a lot better when Murray brought me the package that he'd been teasing me about all week. It was full of presents from back home, and I returned to my room to open them - at last, it felt like Christmas! I was really happy to get some new t-shirts, a book...and some chocolates from Keiko!

Weatherwise, it was probably the best day since my return to The Mount, so I went to the beach - a real first for Christmas Day! Although it feels more Christmassy to wake up on a cold, frosty morning, I could just about live with a nice, sunny day on a gorgeous beach! Just this once mind.

I walked all the way to The Mount, listening to my music the whole time and watching the surfers and kayakers in the sea, before returning to the hostel mid-afternoon.

The fresh air had cleared my head after the previous night's alcohol, so much so that I went for a game of football prior to the barbecue at 5.30pm. There were 7 of us, meaning that we could play 3-a-side with one in goal, and it was a great game - I was in surprisingly good form! It was red hot again though, so after an hour we returned to the hostel to enjoy the festivities...we'd worked up an appetite!

I spent most of the evening outside, doing what guys usually do, namely hanging around the barbecue to look like they're involved! A couple of the Japanese girls were wasted, and it's strange how they come out of their shells after a few drinks. I wasn't really in a drinking mood though, so I just had a few cans and never got worse than being a bit merry.

At about 7pm, everyone crammed into the kitchen as Murray was doing his speech, thanking everyone for coming etc. I couldn't wait to tuck into the grub as I'd deliberately not eaten much all day, so I was glad when he declared the barbecue open. I palled up with Shin, a Korean guy, and we sat with Heather's mum and ate...and ate! It was lovely to see 'Nana' again, and she was thrilled when I showed her a couple of pictures of Ethan...she always used to ask about Julie when I was last at The Mount, before Ethan was born.

I enjoyed a few more beers before retiring upstairs to watch a movie in the TV lounge, along with about 30 others! I'd never seen the hostel so full before, but there was still a friendly atmosphere as usual. This is definitely down to Murray, Heather and Keiko...they always make sure that everyone is involved.

It had been a lovely Christmas Day, and I certainly didn't regret going back. It's important to feel part of a family at times like this, particularly when your real family is 12000 miles away!

Boxing Day was the ultimate day of relaxation, and I barely left the hostel at all. I had organised a 4 day trip up to the Coromandel Peninsula, departing on the 27th and returning to The Mount on the 31st, just in time for the New Year celebrations. I therefore researched the area by reading my Lonely Planet, planning which activities/walks I wanted to do along the way.

My time in New Zealand is ticking by, so rather than waste more days sitting around, I wanted to get out there and see what else the North Island has to offer...
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