Sunday 1st November. Solo. Bailies Bar, Christchurch.
Arriving in Christchurch at around 3 p.m., we parked the camper in Hereford Street. With Hereford Street running parallel to Gloucester, Worcester and Lichfield Streets, it’s easy to forget exactly where you are.
For a Sunday the city centre seems quite busy, but very pleasant at the same time. The Cathedral Square where Bailies is situated is a modern looking pedestrian area that stands, not surprisingly, directly in front of a cathedral, one that has its origins in the mid 1800s.
In my world of imagined symmetry, we had not just reached Christchurch, we’d reached the very beginning of the very last episode in our New Zealand story. And as is so often the case, whilst I’m looking forward to not having to think about playing a gig for a while after tonight’s show, I know that at some point in the following four days I’ll feel like a drifting, aimless tourist.
This is not to say that we don’t have the most definite plans; we know exactly where we’re going, the things we’re going to do, and when we’ll be doing ‘em.
It’s just that the purposefulness expressed through a campervan’s persona as it heads this, and then that way - fulfilling all that it was ever meant to achieve in life, does not always reflect the absence of direction carried by those doing the steering.
Already I’m casting my gaze towards 2010; given no blow-outs, or aviation mishaps between here and Preston, there are so many projects I’m looking forward to getting underway.
Another one of my cousins, Mike, lives here, and I’m so glad I got in touch with him. I haven’t seen him since he lived in London back in the seventies and eighties.
Mike used to travel up to my parents house to see his Uncle Jim and Auntie Alice - my parents, and would always leave Preston with a good supply of local tap water; he brewed beer, and always rated the Lancashire water for its softness. He met a Yorkshire woman called Elaine, and they moved to Christchurch. Both came to the gig tonight along with their children, Tim and Kitty.
Russell, the man who put the gig together for me arrived at seven complete with PA system; he did a good job on the desk.
It really was an excellent last New Zealand show; and once again, the bit that happens after the show was just brilliant; to be sitting in Mike and Elaine’s house, drinking red wine, getting to know a bit more, quite a bit more, about my long lost cousin was, well, perfect really after my final gig. You relax in a way–when you don’t have something imminent–that you wouldn’t relax otherwise; I was suddenly on holiday; I can’t tell you how good it felt.
Both son and daughter had left home some time ago, and we slept in one of their bedrooms - with a cat - which made it even more perfect.
Monday 2nd November.
Today, the order of events is as followed; I buy a new tire, and then we head across Arthur's Pass to the west coast.
Elaine guided us to various tyre venues around Christchurch until we finally found a place that not only had one of these commercial types of tyre which fitted the camper, but that would fit it without us having to book a time and come back hours later; I mean, we didn’t have hours - we had plans.
Well, eventually we found one; I can’t recall the name just now, but they didn’t mess about - I was impressed. They had the job done in a hundred and fifty dollars and a half hour later. Then we set out on Highway 73 towards the Southern Alps and Arthur’s Pass - a mountain pass–originally used by the Maoris–that was discovered by Arther Dobson in 1864; it’s an outrageously scenic means of making ones way to the west coast. We parked up at Hokitika for the night.
Over the next three days we just followed Highway 6 to Franz Josef, turning east through the Haast Gorge and Mt Aspiring National Park, along the shores of Lakes Hawea and Wanaka, on to Queenstown, Arrowtown and Cromwell, eventually arriving back in Dunedin late on Thursday afternoon.
It’s difficult to point to any highlights along the way because it was more like a continuum of highlights, but if I ‘had to’ I’d choose a couple; first the fifty minute flight at Franz Josef which took us over and around Mount Cook and the Fox Glaciers; the second would be visiting Arrowtown; a former mining town with a fascinating history and a great museum.
So, one more night at Alan and Nicola’s, then we’ll drop the campervan off at Dunedin airport, and fly via Christchurch from there to Sydney where we have a twenty four hour stop-over. On Saturday evening we began the long haul back through Bangkok on to Heathrow, and then finally the short hop to Manchester airport on Sunday morning.
I’ll leave you with pictures from our last four days in this amazing country.
Mount Cook and the Fox Glacier from the sky