A couple of months ago, I’d got an email from my friend Lisa, letting me know she was planning to be in New Zealand at the same time I was. This was outstandingly good news. Lisa and I met when we did our TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course, we clicked immediately, and only afterwards discovered that we more or less worked at the same place (in the same building anyway, and for related employers), and were both there by stealth, planning to leave soon but not having told our employer yet. Cue lots of lovely ‘secret squirrel’ emails and after-work emergency powwows when we were on the verge of handing in our notice and leaving. Lisa subsequently escaped to Spain, and I came off to see the world. Family events took Leese back to the UK, but her and her brother decided before long to come off and see what New Zealand had to offer.
I was on the Cook Islands when they got here, but by the time I’d got back, Leese had got herself a job managing a backpackers’ hostel in Taupo. I’d always planned to go there anyway; now it seemed the perfect way to round off my New Zealand time. I was desperately in need of an old friend, after my news about Fr Xavier, so the timing couldn’t have been better.
And it was wonderful! We had a great big hug when we saw each other, and I got to meet Lisa’s brother, Ki, as well. They were both working that afternoon so I settled down to a busy time of watching DVDs and reading. Oh, it’s a hard life. That evening, I had dinner with them and we began the long-awaited catch up, starting a non-stop conversation that would last four days!
Lisa had the next couple of days off, and we had a lovely old time, going for (gentle!) walks and exploring the area, good for both of us – me to get to see the place, and Leese so she can recommend things for the people staying at the hostel. We also both got to wear rather fetching raincoats, as it was raining, and took some lovely photos, in which we both look rather spesh.
The first afternoon, I was completely amazed that Ki had built himself a bedroom in part of the living room in just a day, and was more than happy to earn my keep and help paint the walls. All those many, many, MANY coats that my bathroom took (Sarah – once again I salute you for your help!) were good practice.
We spent more hours wandering through town, in the art gallery, and up at the gorgeous botanical gardens (I’d recommend these for sure for anyone visiting Taupo) – Spring was a lovely time of year to visit these as all the blooms were at their finest. One night, as a thankyou to them for their fabulous hospitality, I cooked them a roast chicken dinner (my first in a good while), they ate it all and nobody died so hopefully it was ok!
One of the reasons for coming to Taupo was that I’d intended to do a skydive. It’s the cheapest there in all of New Zealand. The first couple of days, though, it was impossible due to the bad weather. On my third day, though, it was a beautifully sunny day. I woke up, thought about doing a skydive, and just felt sick. I don’t know why. Maybe I’d had too much time to think about it? I’d always intended to do one in New Zealand, and now, when I could, I dídn’t want to. I wasn’t prepared to spend that much money on something I didn’t 100% want to do (especially something that I can do back at home, should the mood strike me). Reading that back, I sound like I’m trying to justify my decision, and to be honest, I’m still a bit mystified by it now, but, hey ho. Onwards and upwards.
And so the time came for me to leave New Zealand, and head on to my final continent, and another challenge. So, after a fond farewell to Leese (in which she managed to wreck a car… but that’s another story!), I was heading for Auckland to the airport. South America was waiting.