Hello from lovely Akaroa, on the Banks Peninsula just out of Christchurch.
Best Beloved has flown home to attend his Big School (he's doing a degree in Social Governance or some such ponciness) and Bumblebee and I are having three lovely days just hanging, based at a purple-painted 1865-built backpackers hostel called Chez La Mer. It's the nicest place we've stayed to date: big comfy beds with hot water bottles, not electric blankets (we hates them, preciouses), fully-stocked kitchens, games, books, no tv, free bikes to ride, free wireless and best of all, a pub right next door with a pool table (Bumblebee is ecstatic).
Here I am, sitting with my laptop, in the little courtyard that comes with our room at the front of the hostel, watching the people in the street, while inside B does some homework (it's amazing what you can get out of him when bribed with games of pool).
We've had two earthquake aftershocks: yesterday at 6.30am, which apparently I slept through but B didn't, and one at 3.40am today, which I felt but he slept through, so we're even. Everyone here is over them, and can't wait for them to stop, and I can't say I blame them. Christchurch is looking quite orderly again, but every now and again there are cordoned off areas with piles of rubble, or shops with half their walls gone. It's quite dramatic (and byrd, if you're reading, I'm taking lots of photos and have lots of Demolition ideas...)
Otherwise, we've been in complete rest mode. We got here late in the afternoon on Wednesday, after I completed my last commitment for the residency: an interview with Radio New Zealand for their Arts on Sunday program (will be aired sometime soon, they'll let me know when, and also the podcast link). After that, with BB gone and all done, I switched off completely. We put our bags in our room and went for a walk down to the harbour (took all of five minutes) and took in the serenity, watched over by a full moon. Bumblebee was overwhelmed by the beauty of it all and had a surge of energy and joy -- he started leaping around like a spring lamb and expounding loudly about the loveliness and peacefulness until I reminded him that he was actually destroying it all and maybe he should leap joyfully around quietly? Heh.
We've seen a LOT of spring lambs, which is the best thing about travelling in NZ at this time of year. The freaky weather is balanced by the gorgeousness of lambs either lying peacefully on the grass with their mothers, covorting in twos and threes around the paddock, or suckling, tails spinning happily as they drink. It's so life-affirming to watch them.
There is an abundance of nice shops and galleries around Akaroa, probably because it's an easy daytrip from Christchurch, and people come here to buy nice things and eat good food and then go home again. When the locals hear that you're staying a few days, they love you. In my case, when I tell them that I came here for less than a day 20 years ago and was determined to spend more time here, well, I'm being treated like royalty. If you get here, don't miss LAVA Gallery, full of fun quirky locally-made things. I found myself a wonderful pendant carved from the base of a beer bottle. Very NZ-looking and personally less problematic than buying a piece of Maori greenstone or bone (I don't feel comfortable wearing them, it's not my culture, although B bought himself a lovely piece to wear and loves it).
The food is good too; I had a chicken, cranberry and brie pizza at the pub the other night, and it was great, although NOTHING beats the blue cod fish pie I had at Stewart Island. I can still smell and taste it in my head, and the memory will sustain me for years. last night we cooked for ourselves and ate it while playing Scrabble. I've almost whipped Bumblebee into a worthy opponent, although he needs a lot of help with word ideas and spelling. We're pretty even opponents at Chess, which makes games fun. No tv (and an additional Gameboy ban) means that we're taking the time to read and play together, and we're having a lot of fun.
Today we're going on a harbour cruise to see the local attraction: rare Hector's Dolphins, which are very little dolphins that love to play around the boats and check out the hoomins. Hopefully we'll see some penguins too.
Tomorrow we head back to Christchurch, where we're going to stay in a hostel that used to be the jail, sharing a cell together! Should be fun. I'm also going to visit a fellow letterpress printer, see how his equipment fared in the quake, and also pop in to see one of the Aged Poet's sons, who plays in the orchestra there.
Then we'll do some creative packing and fly home on Sunday. That's unless I chicken out and stay here. Sigh. It's tempting, but the government is crap (have you heard the latest scandal?) and I like my Canberra life quite a bit, I suppose. :)
Unless I get the chance on Saturday night (although B wants me to take him to a movie), I think the next chance or inclination to post will be when I get home. We've got one of those flights that means we'll have to move fast between the international leg and the domestic one, so there won't be much sitting around except for at the beginning when we're waiting for our first flight.
So, o my goodness, it's all winding up. What a fun time it's been. Must do it again sometime!
(I'll post more photos sometime soon, just haven't had a chance to do the latest batch!)
The cruise was WONDERFUL. We saw rare white-flippered penguins (very little penguins), and lots of lovely fat basking fur seals, and right at the end (just when the guide was starting his 'oh well, that's wild animals for ya' apology speech, we saw the Hector's Dolphins. Beautiful little lithe and slightly frilly dolphins, playing coy at first, then getting into the swing of things and playing up for us, leaping and doing backflips.
And -- I made a joke a few weeks ago about the likelihood of running into people we know in NZ, but it was only half a joke -- we were on the boat with an old friend from uni, whose son is in Bumblebee's year at his high school (they know each other, but don't 'hang out', so to speak). She and her partner and their three kids are doing NZ in a campervan, and, as with us, the weather hasn't been very kind to them. Mind you, today was perfect -- blue sky, warm sun, wind not too windy (although it's picking up and greying off now, a few hours later).
Finally, the boat, which was a catamaran, put on a big burst of speed to get back on time, and we charged through wind speeds of about 100km. I was right at the front of the boat, with my sunnies on -- and B was inside the boat looking bemusedly on as only a patronising teenage son can do -- and my hair streaming back, holding on for dear life and loving it. It was like having a facial with Vicks Vaporub. Actually, it was every (grown-up) kid's fantasy, like hanging your head out of the car window on the freeway and not having a parent shout at you to put your head back in before it gets knocked off by a roadside sign. My hair's now a tangled knotty mess, but my cheeks are pink and I feel like a million dollars.
Awwww... do I have to come home?