Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

What a mad day!

Actually, the last two days have been crazy. Yesterday, the deal and handover of the girls van went very smoothly and after buying a few supplies we headed straight off on a whim of pure excitement and adventure to the beautuiful beach of Sumner, just to the South East of Christchurch. I'd visited there with my folks just after they arrived and it really is a beautiful place. The beach is long and the view of the coast from the high hills of 'Taylors Mistake' is magnificent. The coastline curves right round so smoothly in to the distance that it slowly disappears as your eyes follow it in to the horizon. We parked up and settled for a while down at the beach front where Sinead took herself off for an hour of quiet time over the rocks and along the entire length of walkway that spans the beach. I took a short walk with the others to soak up the views from the top of the huge built up rocks there that give a good look out over both stretches of beach. We shared our mutual excitement of the coming road trip era, inventing and imagining a thousand scenarios and endless possibilities for our new adventures. An hour later and Sinead rejoined us. We drove high up in the hills and looked out at the magnificent stretch of water that makes up Lyttelton Harbour (that is how you spell it)- absolutely phenomenal views. Unforgettable. We had already pre-booked in to 'Top 10 Christchurch' for the evening so we headed back around 5pm to celebrate our first night as campers and Sinead's last night as a New Zealand visitor.

Well this journey back from Lyttelton to Christchurch was where things changed significantly. After nearly ten minutes of silence Sinead suddenly announced that she was going to change her flight (again) and stay on a little longer.

Over the last few days we'd been chatting in general and about her travel plans and had discussed how fantastic the campervan lifestyle was and how exciting the next few months were going to be for all of us. Sinead had commented that it had always been something that she had wanted to do and how it would be a great way to end her time in New Zealand before moving on to Oz. Of late, the four of us have got on so well and functioned so effortlesly as a team, we've become a kind of 'family' almost and it wouldn't be the same without her. For the sake of extending a flight for a week or so, the adventure and experience would be well worth it. Sinead knew it wouldn't be any inconvenience to me at all for a short term adventure and I guess for her it was a case of weighing up her own factors and implications of making the flight extension, especially as she was starting to prepare for her year in Oz.

She finally announced her decision to stay on just as we passed through the tunnel from Lyttelton to Christchurch. I was chuffed to bits, and I knew the others would be too. The coming adventures were going to be a lot of fun. The very moment she said it, she was straight on the phone to the airline in a desperate attempt to start making last minute change changes. After all, the only thing that could go wrong at this point would be a problem with the airline and the extension. As it happens fate had it that there wasn't a problem and she was promptly asked what date she would like to extend it to. She requested 9th February as she's only here on a visitors visa and holds an Irish passport so legally, she's only allowed to stay in the country until 10th February. As all this was going on, I was looking in my side mirror at the campervan behind us. Traoine was driving, bouncing up and down joyfully to whatever music was being played while Chicken was sat in the passenger seat with a grin as big as I ever saw as they both enjoyed the concept of their new purchase. If only they knew that things had just got better, how great the next couple of weeks were going to be and they didn't even know it yet. Sinead positively concluded the call to the airline and put the phone down excitedly. Then the wicked idea struck;
'We could of course not tell them',
'That's just cruel',
'It'll be funny',
'It will. They'll go mad, but it will'..

We got back to the holiday park around 7pm last night and set up the vans for Sineads last night which turned out to be quite pleasant though a little sad. For some of us. In their minds, we were going to drop Sinead off at the airport at 10am this morning to say our final goodbyes and pass on our well wishes before she departed for Melbourne. In our minds, we were doing no such thing. The next day or two were already planned.

So this morning we were up on time (just about), packed up and ready to go at around 9.30am before setting off for the airport The beauty here is that the girls had to follow us. I'd already been to the airport recently on the sad day that I dropped my folks off, so I knew how to get there. Fortunately for the plan, the girls had no idea where the airport was so followed behind happily without paying too much attention to the route. It took absolutely ages for the penny to drop. We spent nearly twenty minutes of the journey staring at the phone waiting for a rollocking and they didn't even seem to have clocked what was going on, totally oblivious. After the third or fourth sign saying 'Route 75 - Akaroa 62kms' they let us know. Out of nowhere came this bright white campervan sailing past us, Chicken in the window with a cheeky grin holding up an appropriate sign, letting us know that our plan had been foiled. Classic moment, though it was a shame we missed the look on their faces as they gradually put two and two together. Shortly after, we stopped at a little roadside coffee shop to hand over our explanations and to share in the excitement of the next two weeks. It was quite a moment.

So for now, we're in high spirits and in the perfect place to begin our road trip camping adventure; Akaroa - the site of the first French settlement in New Zealand, right in the heart of the Banks Peninsula. It was formed originally by two huge volcanic eruptions giving it its giant 'cog' shape. It's an incredibly stunning place and after spending three nights here with my folks at the beginning of the New Year, it was clear to me then that I just had to return. I think out of all the places we visited over their holiday, Akaroa was quietly moms favourite. It has a different feel to the rest of the place, a sort of special 'undiscovered secret' to it. I suppose it's a bit like Cornwall is to England and Akaroa certainly gives me the same heart warming contentment that Cornwall gives me whenever I visit.

We checked in to 'Top 10 Akaroa' early this afternoon after a quick meander through the neat little village and over by the waterfront. It was quite a busy site but we managed to get a pitch side by side with a large wooden bench and table next to the vans overlooking the harbour. Stunning. We all sat round and spent a good while sorting through our receipts and working out who owed who from the many small but frequent past purchases that needed urgent attention. It turned out that everyone owed everyone huge amounts that eventually became next to nothing as it all pretty much evened itself out. When the finances were settled and everyone had payed up or noted the necessary IOU's, we eventually set up the two camping chairs (cheers Damo), cracked a cold beer and sat in silence, looking down over the beautiful harbour listening to a perfect piece of music as the sun started to sink towards the hills in the distance. It was the most wonderful moment. Completely timeless. I remember thinking how a million dollars couldn't buy you this. Nothing could. It was completely priceless. Yet totally free.

Later on I set up the stove and table outside by the back of the van and cooked up a large pot of sausage and herb pasta as the sun set lightly over the hills, lighting up the harbour with its evening shade. When bellies were full and the temperature had dropped a little, we settled for the rest of the night in the girls' van and sat around grinning in complete awe of our adventure, nestled happily amongst a few candles, music playing, with our excitement bubbling gently to while away the evening.

Then it hit me how this is only the first day. The first day. This is just the start, the beginning of this whole campervanning, road trip adventure. How exciting - complete freedom to go where you like, when you like, for as long as you like, off the beaten track, off the main routes, well out of the way of anything touristy if necessary. Freedom to take off at a moments notice or sleep whenever you want without a hundred interruptions. The decision to invest in the whole campervan thing is by far the best one I've made here so far. It's looking really promising. I still haven't got the feintest idea what day it is or often what time it is. There really is nothing like living for today!
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