Despite a crisp, sunny morning I can’t shake off the gloominess surrounding us as we leave Queenstown with our belongings in the back.
For the past week and a half we have been lucky enough to stay with Alex’s old school mate, Pete, and his family. He and his wonderful wife, Karen, generously opened their home to us and it has been great getting to know them and their adorable girls, Izzy and Eloise. Even their cat, Jack, accepted us as part of the family by the end, demanding to be petted and warming our bed at night.
It’s been great to see Alex and Pete ‘reconnect’ after so many years and discover that they are both ‘pretty much the same just more chilled’, sharing old and new anecdotes over a glass of whiskey or two.
We spent many nights staying up later than we should exchanging stories and thoughts, playing poker, having impromptu jam-sessions, doing physio exercises and even conducting mock-interviews. Days passed by with ease.
I tried mountain biking for the first time which, after the first wobbly and very weird test ride, was actually really good fun. Pete showed us round the quirky Arrowtown which reminds of old Wild West movies with it’s saloon-style shop fronts. We explored the surrounding area by foot on scenic walks and went on the luge with Pete and the girls which was absolutely hilarious (the ‘luge’ is like a downhill go-cart where the main aim is to crash into your opponents – or at least it was ours).
Non-action days felt wholesome and were cheerfully spent playing the girls favourite Shopkins game, reading (me), playing chess (Alex) and chatting over a cuppa, or 3.
The day we leave I feel a touch emotional and hold back a tear or two when saying our good-byes in the morning. Even though it’s only been a comparatively short space of time the ‘Koudis’ have made a mark on our lives and I am grateful for the heart-warming memories we have created together.
As you might have gathered, we didn’t really want to leave and pushed our departure out as much as we could. 3 hard facts kept us packing our belongings, nevertheless:
1. We’d already booked a new van rental from 30th March in Christchurch
2. We had to move on at some point if we wanted to see the rest of New Zealand and SEA for that matter
3. We considered the option to stay on as au-pair/cook and ‘IT-guy’/gardener but couldn’t get a working visa
‘Why do you need a new van rental?’ I hear you ask.
After a few weeks on-the-road with our reliable but compact companion ‘bumble bee’ we decided to try and sell the van and rent a slightly bigger, purpose-built camper for the remaining time as we had always planned to.
Living on the road
The truth is, in hindsight, the yellow van turned camper probably wasn’t quite right for us. Alex felt crammed in and hated the fact he couldn’t sit up in the van (he soon renamed our companion on wheels as ‘coffin-van’). On warm days we loved sitting outside and enjoying a lovely sunset with a beer in hand. On cold and rainy days, however, we were confined to cafes, pubs or campsite lounge rooms – not quite living the camper van dream. Being autumn already and with winter soon on our doorstep, we wanted to be able to relax in our own space and simply make a cuppa whilst reading or watching something (me), or playing chess (Alex). We also thought that selling the van in autumn might be easier than in the middle of winter.
Whilst it was mostly Alex pushing for the change in vehicle I am looking forward to being able to cook inside our new van. I won’t miss having to drag half of our belongings across a campsite to an overcrowded kitchen and being forced into an elaborate ‘octopus-arm dance’ around the shared hob. More than once I’ve been one of four chefs, each cooking a different dish on a single cooker at the same time.
Every single time I had to send Alex back to the van to get a missing ingredient or cooking utensil. No matter how much I tried I could always be certain to forget something.
Trying to sell the van in Queenstown proved fruitless, one might even say hopeless. One morning we turned up to a car market that attracted more interest in its BBQ breakfast sausages than its cars. Once listed for Christchurch, however, we received much more interest and were relieved to sell it to a nice Danish guy for $3500.
Tomorrow we’re due to pick up our new rental camper-van. Fingers crossed!!