I was about to tell you all of my South Island adventures but I’ve come over a bit giddy.
It’s fascinating how you can say five words* to a total stranger and find yourself inexplicably drawn to them.
And now, instead of concentrating on an amusing story to tell you, all that I can think is ‘Do not touch him inappropriately! Especially do not lick him! But what if he likes being licked? Seriously Nina, you are a grown woman who spends hours every week cultivating a quiet mind, focus. But what’s wrong with finding someone attractive? Damn he has a sexy laugh.’. And so on.
Phew, he’s gone. I just need a bite of this falafel to calm down and I’ll be right back…
The ferry from Wellington to the South Island was a far easier crossing than last summer’s vomit comet to Roatan. The gentle rolling sway proved to be a kinesthetic memory jogger, throwing me back twenty years to the ferry journeys I would take south from the UK to my home at the time, on the Normandy coast town of Caen.
Fond memories of playing the French intellectual, wiping my dinner plate clean with a freshly torn hunk of bread, and of Camembert so ripe it would run through your fingers as you ate it. And the tractors that would parade slowly through town every Wednesday, protesting the fate of the nation’s farmers. You can say many things about the French but they’re definitely not short of opinions. Or good cheese.
It still baffles me that it took almost two decades before I would leave England’s shores again. After all, I’m one of the nosiest people I know – the most nosey being a lovely work friend, who can be relied upon to have established a stranger’s full life story within ten minutes of them having entered the office, she’d make an excellent interrogator if she ever fancies a career change.
Ferries back in the early 1990s didn’t generally offer free movies, so it was a treat to be able to spend some of the four hour crossing zoning out with The Bounty Hunter and the very scrummy Gerald Butler.
First stop in the south was for a spot of wine tasting from the world famous Marlborough Valley region – home to some of the best Sauvignon Blancs on the planet. I have no idea which vinyards the wines came from, but at $2 for a taste of four wines I’m not complaining. I’m no nearer that refined, nuanced palate I will secure when I become an adult, so the summary remains that they were yum.
The Abel Tasman National Park is renowned for its stunning golden beaches and crystal clear sea. To reach the start point for my longest hike to date, we took a water taxi up the coast – dragged out to sea by a tractor pulling us into the most bizarre sea launch I’ve seen in a while.
Then we tramped 16km – along the cliff top coast track – back towards our cabin at Old MacDonald’s Farm.
And on that farm they had some…. llamas – EE-I-EE-I-O.
The walk was handy practice for Patagonia. And two very good things happened en route.
A serendipitous conversation, with a fellow Brit on a deserted beach, led me to the realisation that I didn’t want to quit my job but I did want another year off. Echoes of my mother saying ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get’ rang in my ears and so I resolved to ask for that very thing as soon as we got back.
Whether it was luck, good timing or just having the most supportive boss a woman could wish for, I am – as a result of that five minute chat – now the proud possessor of a second year office-free. Whoop!!!! Little victory dance!! High-fiving of scared looking twenty-somethings!
And good fortune really did seem to be shining on me that day. At the very end of the 16km trek, like treasure to be found at the end of the rainbow, there stood a man unlike other men – blessed with tattooed biceps no shirt could cover, a face that must have graced magazine covers in its youth and a guitar slung over his shoulder.
I have a bit of a soft spot for guitar players.
He asked our advice on the best beaches along our hike where he could sit and play as the sun came down. For some unfathomable reason neither I nor my extra-year-off-inspiring companion had the foresight to offer to show him one. I can only attribute it to us being too fixated on a hot shower after a long day’s walk.
Making prayer hands and mouthing ‘Thank you!’ at the sky as I bounced those last few metres home, I made a mental note to ask my Patagonia trek organisers if they would be so kind as to arrange for something similar at the end of each day’s hike over there.
Well, if you don’t ask you don’t get!
*those five words, if you were wondering…’Can I share your table?’