My upcoming sabbatical was originally meant to begin with a trip to visit my friend, Lynsey, in New Zealand for round two of shenanigans that previously occurred when I visited her in 2015. Unfortunately, work commitments mean that I can only take four months away from the office and therefore Aotearoa was culled from my itinerary.
As part of the preparations for my upcoming holiday, I’m transferring photos from previous travels off my camera in order to make space and I came across some from an amazing holiday in the Land of the Long White Cloud which got me reminiscing. It was made amazing thanks to several friends who put me up – and who put up with me! – and Lynsey in particular.
When I moved to the Netherlands following the break up of my relationship, she was the first person to visit me. She made me giggle so much that for a moment I could forget that my life was headed in a direction I had never imagined just a few months earlier, when instead my head was filled with possible wedding venues. Our friendship was cemented after almost getting run over by a massive tourist boat while cruising along the canals of Amsterdam in a tin-can of a vessel, followed by dancing all of the next day at a beach festival in Bloemendaal, where we seemed to be the only patrons whose eyes were dilated the normal amount.
I should probably warn you at this point that this post may* contain rather a lot of photographs. If you ever go to New Zealand, you’ll understand.
Shortly after visiting me in Amsterdam, Lynsey began her own adventure, moving to New Zealand by herself to live a life that she’d always dreamed. Just another reason why I’m a little bit in love with her. She lives in the moment and is never complacent. She’s one of the strongest people I know and her mettle was severely tested after a few weeks in New Zealand as she was unable to immediately work in her job as a physio due to issues with her paperwork. One day, we were sharing a cup of Yorkshire Tea the only way two immigrants in different countries can: over Skype. Despite putting the world to rights, I got the sense that Lynsey was finding the adjustment to life in New Zealand a struggle. Beautiful scenery, even that as stunning as one can find in Queenstown, can only do so much to combat the loneliness felt by a recent immigrant, something I knew too well having spent many an evening wandering along the canals of Amsterdam by myself, feeling more isolated that I ever had before. Having hung up with promises to speak again soon, I went online to see how much flights were to Queenstown, and after spending, oooh, all of two minutes debating whether I could afford it without having to sell a kidney, I realised that some things are more important than money, so I texted Lynsey and told her to pop the kettle on* and I’d see her in a few weeks.
*disclaimer – they do have electricity in New Zealand and it doesn’t take a few weeks to boil a kettle in order to make a cup of tea, but it’s a figure of speech so just humour me. Thank you.
Given that I was travelling to the other side of the world, I decided to stretch out my visit – under the guise of buying myself a present for my own birthday as I was single and lonely and nobody else, after all, was going to buy me anything – and began with a few days visiting friends in Sydney, after which I hopped on the plane to Queenstown.
The various flights I took over New Zealand were the most incredible I’ve ever experienced. I stared out of the window as we swept over vista upon amazing vista, so much so that I got a crick in my neck. Upon disembarking, Lynsey was there to greet me with her wonderful smile and I immediately felt that amazing sensation of being in the company of someone who just ‘gets’ you. This feeling of contentment was, however, in danger of dissipating rather briskly when instead of driving me to the nearest open bottle of wine for a natter, Lynsey thought it would be ‘fun’ – her words, not mine – to first go for a hike up Queenstown Hill. A hike! I’d just schlepped four hours on a plane, and let’s not forget the 24 hours I’d spent on planes just a few days previously to get to that side of the planet in the first place. However, following a quick change in a public car park, using both Lynsey and the car door as a modesty curtain, my tiredness soon ebbed away as with each step taken, the view became more and more stunning.
We soon reached the summit, where we were greeted by the ‘Basket of Dreams’, which seemed rather apt considering that after just a few hours on New Zealand soil my dreams were indeed coming true. We treated ourselves to a lay down and a wee natter before we re-energised ourselves in our favourite manner: JUMPING!
I discovered how fun jumping could be when on a weekend break to Warsaw with my then flatmates in 2009. It was freezing cold and raining, but after ten too many vodka shots – why, oh why, would you flavour vodka with chilli‽‽ – it seemed a legitimate way to keep warm. Especially as it took about 20 minutes to get the shot given the fact that this was in the pre-smartphone days and digital cameras had only just been invented (yes, I am quite old).
Over the course of the next week, Lynsey chauffered me around this gorgeous part of the south island (the benefits of not knowing how to drive). We took a dip in the waters of Lake Wakatipu which, despite the blazing sun and cloudless sky was, in actual fact, make-your-bollocks-fly-back-up-into-your-body-so-fast-you-can-barely-breathe cold. We kayaked in the fjords of Milford Sound, well, I kayaked. Lynsey spent most of the time perving on our instructor slash guide slash eye-candy. We threw out gender stereotypes in Te Anau when the car needed an oil change and Lynsey rolled up her sleeves while I scoffed crisps in the passenger seat. We hiked up Mount Iron to gaze out over the beautiful town of Wanaka. And we jumped. We jumped at every opportunity, because there’s no way one can jump with a friend and not feel exhilirated and happy. And isn’t that how friendships should be? If you don’t have a friend with whom you can jump with, just holler, you know where I am.
I’m gutted that I won’t get to see Lynsey during my sabbatical, but I’m hoping to revisit Queenstown next year, this time during winter so that we can jump while doing our favourite activity together besides necking wine: skiing. Well, snowboarding for her because she’s much cooler than I am. Not that she embodied coolness that time in Rome when we were belting out Whitney’s ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ so enthusiastically that we broke the hotel bed on which we were dancing, but that’s a blog for another time, although the photos below should help you begin to understand how we found ourselves in that particular pickle…..