It was time to start making our way back to Christchurch after the luge, the camper van was due to be returned the following day. We had picked out a place to stop along the way in Timaru and booked a site (lucky we did too, got the last one!), but we still had a few wineries to drive past along the way!
We stopped in at Gibbston Tavern for a late lunch – they did make wine but sadly didn’t offer tastings, although the glass of white I drank with my fish and chips was really good. We sat under an umbrella outside in the garden, enjoying the view, and just about staying dry as the rain started to kick in again …
There was a small winery called Remarkable Wines in a shed right next door to the tavern, obviously I couldn’t possibly miss this last opportunity! The owner was serving the wine for tasting and was very knowledgeable and passionate about his wine, which made the whole experience really great. We ended up buying three more bottles to take back with us – I wanted to take six bottles home, but Silvio was insisting that we would never fit that many in our cases. I hoped we would, because otherwise we’d have a lot to drink between then and the flight …
In Timaru, we had a nice site under a willow tree – it was fairly cramped but not too bad, we were glad to know we had our hotel room in Christchurch lined up for New Years’ Eve, it was such a busy time.
The weather had turned colder and it looked like it was going to throw down the rain but it never really did. Despite the cold, there were people swimming in the outdoor pool on the campsite – I wasn’t that brave though! We had a fairly quiet evening and a chilly night, I was glad to be in the van and not a tent that day.
On Monday, after a lazy breakfast cooked in the campsite kitchen, we headed back to Christchurch. The first stop when we arrived was our new home-for-the-night – A PROPER ROOM!!!! I didn’t think I’d be quite so happy to be back in a building, but it was so nice to be able to get out of bed and stand up instead of scrambling out of the van, and not to have to walk across damp grass to the bathrooms!
We unpacked the van and within minutes the room was a disaster zone, after six trips up the stairs with various bags I was getting slightly worried about how we would get it all home …
Before even thinking about that though, we had to find the Ezywash to clean the camper up and return it. My navigation was typically not great: “OK, go right here. Oops, no, I mean your other right … the map was upside down …” but we made it there. It was a big, empty self service car wash – we started out with the vaccuum cleaner, and that thing was so strong, not a speck of dust could have survived, I’m surprised the seats were still in place when we’d finished. Then the fun started: Silvio parked the van in the washing bay, we fed in the tokens, took down giant hoses and pressed the button to spray soapy water on the van. The hose had a mind of its own: the pressure of the water sent it wiggling in all directions and spraying its soap across the van, I’ve never had so much fun in a car wash. Finally it was done: sparkling and clean and ready to go back to its home.
After the barrage of information when we collected the van, the drop off was almost a disappointment: we drove it in and they just took the keys and waved us off. It was strange to be on foot again! We walked back across Christchurch to the motel, it was another gorgeous hot day and quite pretty meandering along by the park. We had decided to stock up on fancy snacks and ice cream and spend New Year’s Eve at the motel before heading out to the park for the fireworks (must be getting old and boring!)
Back at the motel, I performed a miracle and repacked my suitcase, with three bottles of wine safely stowed in the bottom with a thick blanket wrapped around them. Somehow, everything fitted!
By 11pm, all the fancy snacks and cheese from the Gibbston Valley cheesery was gone and so was the last bottle of wine that we weren’t taking with us, we’d gorged on ice cream but even Silvio couldn’t finish the whole tub. We headed out in the direction of the park, but had no real idea where the music and fireworks would be – we were hoping to see something as we got closer!
We followed the small stream of people, occasionally passing randomly drunken ones going the opposite way, until we could hear the music and find the party. It was busy but not crazy, I guess Christchurch isn’t really a huge party town. Just before midnight the band on stage played Living on a Prayer (well, the crowd sang most of it!) before they brought out a bagpipe player in a kilt (why?) to bring in the New Year. There was the usual countdown followed by fireworks – we were almost directly under them, it was pretty magical watching them flower over our heads. The fireworks were short and sweet, the bagpipes were already wailing out Auld Lang Syne, and 2012 was consigned to the past. We went back to our motel to finish the wine
January 1, 2013: it was a fairly chilled start, no need to rush for our afternoon flight, a glass of wine in the lounge before boarding, then back home via train and ferry, a sweaty walk up the hill with our heavy cases, and we were HOME!
I was a little sad it was all over, it was such an amazing trip … but now it was time to sort through the ridiculous amount of photos, write the blog, and plan the next one!!