Sunday 22 July will be remembered as the ‘taping of the axes’ morning. Ron’s prized axes, individually wrapped in newspaper within a tightly bound cardboard box, were then protected with more cardboard and taped, and then secured within two supermarket bags which in turn were taped and taped again, allowing absolutely no entry (or escape). “What would happen at Customs?” was not expressed too loudly…
We had about 90 minutes before returning the car and sitting in Christchurch’s airport so it was essential that we got a feel for the city in the daylight. We walked in the direction of Oxford Terrace and the river where we had eaten the night before, passing the sad remains of the Cathedral. A cyclist rode by audibly muttering pull it down and move on. Shipping containers were holding up walls of other buildings, windows are still boarded up, office buildings look forsaken, the remnants of a CBD… yet emerging evidence of a city rebuilding.
Another scone to finalise the ‘can’t fit in our clothes’ trip and the transition from holidaying to home began. The return of the car and shuttle to airport was incredibly smooth and again, the friendliness of New Zealanders, was noticed and appreciated. The airport was open and airy and relatively small. Some anti Maori jibes in Duty Free were unnecessary – so too the gift candle holders that came with our Frangelico – but Christine and Ron made successful final purchases, and together we emptied our wallets of all NZ monies.
We had an agonisingly long wait in Melbourne airport before the last leg, but the pilot’s miscalculated landing left us in no doubt that we’d hit Tasmania running! Emma was there to collect the bulging suitcases and their owners.
11 days earlier at 4.45am, Emma had driven us to the airport; our bags were checked through to Auckland so Melbourne was just a walk from domestic to international. At 4.20pm NZ time (2.20pm Australian time) we were in New Zealand, brimming with excitement. A small wait for the shuttle to the car hire place and then we became firm friends with Deidre (on my mobile), who guided us to our accommodation in Parnell, and would lead us in and around all the cities we visited on both islands.
Here, Christine had the meal voted #1 Worst. Here, we encountered an impressive NZ accent that convinced us that the Fish of the Day was ‘turkey’. Christine, unwell, and Ron retired early; Gary and I toasted NZ.