We hadn’t been short of incredible weather or views during our time in New Zealand, but the drive from Wanaka over to the West Coast was in a class of its own.
We’d only been on the road fifteen minutes when we found ourselves pulling off again, to take photos and just gape at the beauty of Lake Hawea on a day like this.
So many glorious shades of blue and green, laid out for all to see under the hot Central Otago sun.
I have absolutely no idea why I didn’t get there sooner.
It wasn’t like I hadn’t had the opportunity. Countless times in the past I had driven through Tekapo, heading south towards Queenstown or north to Christchurch. Every single time the sign beckoned, pointing the way towards Mount Cook … and every time I ignored it. I was always too busy, in too much of a hurry to reach my destination. New Zealand’s highest mountain could wait for another day, I thought.
The day had finally come.
Wandering along the rocky beach beside Lake Waikaremoana on this wet and blustery day, it was surprising how many photo opportunities could be found with just a break in the clouds, a piece of driftwood and a willing participant…
I wasn’t looking forward to returning to Christchurch.
This was the city that I knew best in New Zealand. It’s where I’d escape to as a teenager and where I went to university. It’s where I had my first real job and where I bought my first house. Many of my old friends and co-workers still live there. If anywhere in the country felt like home, surely this had to be it.
Except it didn’t, and it wasn’t.
The massive earthquake on Feb 22, 2011 severely damaged much of the inner city and eastern suburbs. Now, almost two years to the day since the earth roared in Christchurch, I was finally coming back. I’d come up with many excuses during that time as to why I hadn’t already returned. It didn’t fit with my plans, or I didn’t have enough annual leave, or I was on the other side of the world.
All of those things were true, but they weren’t the real reason.
I just didn’t want to see it with my own eyes.
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Now things were starting to look very familiar.
Over the previous month we had slowly headed down from the top of the North Island, which meant that – despite our trip being called "Travel With A Local" – several of the places we went were new to me as well. So much for being a tour guide, really, although with a bit of vowel-flattening I was at least able to speak the local lingo.
"Sux buts of fush and chups" indeed.