As usual these days it feels like ages since I posted an update even though now I check it's only been a week or so. I'm really sorry if it's getting a bit boring for you - hang in there - please! I do appreciate you all.
I'm now back in Christchurch having completed my loop of the South Island. I've handed back the Hobbit - my little campervan, and am feeling slightly lost without it. I've also just had a lovely reminder of how much fun packing and carrying my backpack is after a month of not having to.
Anyway, I haven't actually seen any of Christchurch yet - I just got here this afternoon and my first priority - apart from e-mailing of course - was to find a cinema showing Pride and Prejudice, since it came out here yesterday. I have a ticket for an hours time - yey! Am sure Christchurch is just the same as all the other cities - that's not really what New Zealand is about.
What New Zealand IS about is places which are - you've guessed it (I must get myself a decent thesaurus) - gorgeous. And I've been remarkably fortunate to see some of the most stunning so far in the last week. And also to have glorious sunshine for almost all of it, which is of course a bonus. From Nelson (having recovered from the Blenheim wine-tasting hangover) I headed up to the Able Tasman National Park to scout it out before Mandy & Alex's wedding there next month. Guys - suffice to say you've picked a good spot. I spent a day kayaking with a mad Maori guide called Harold (traditional Maori name apparently). I have just about recovered the use of my arms, but am not sure I will ever recover from the sea-bourne group rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody (equally traditional Maori song).
From there I went back to Nelson to pick up a ring I had made (more detail on that in a future update) then all the way back up through Able Tasman (my navigation never was that great as Phil and Paul who once tried to drop me at my parents house in the town I grew up in will no doubt remember) to Farewell Spit, right at the top. By the time I got there I really couldn't be bothered to trudge 24km out to the end so I had a look through the binoculars, had a nice lunch, and drove all the way back down again and on to Punakaiki, where there are some mad pancake stack looking rocks which explode water at you at high tide - very cool.
Then on (with detours to Hokitika to meet Shelley (SA roommate)'s sister Paula (v lovely) and to demonstrate my natural prowess in greenstone carving to a slightly bemused artist named Steve, and then to Arthurs Pass to climb up a mini-mountain) to Franz Joseph Glacier - which is - bloody hell, why won't they make any more words for 'stunning' or 'gorgeous'? If you can think of one, read that instead. I'd been saving my helicopter ride (though unfortunately not my pennies) for this - and got dropped on the glacier for a hike around what could entirely possibly have been huge polystyrene lumps built for the tourists but wasn't.
To finish the loop I then came back across the country with a re-visit to Wanaka (and my new favorite cinema in the world which instead of nasty flip-down seats has old sofas and home-made ice-cream) and up to(though not up)Mount Cook - the highest mountain in New Zealand and very pretty it was too. Then back here. A lot for a week I'm sure you'll agree.
So - that's it from the South Island - I'm off to Wellington on Sunday and I start on one of the tourist buses on Monday to do a slightly different loop of the North Island (the campervan is lovely, but not cheap, especially given the ridiculous price of petrol here). Hope everyone is well and doing ok.
Loads of love
PS - P&P was good - nothing wrong with it that being 3 times longer and casting Colin Firth wouldn't fix.