Nathan and I got married last month. What a wonderful day it was; I’m not lying when I say it was like a fairy tale – it was magic. The setting, the vows, the dress, the catering, the decorations – it all went off without a hitch and was more than I ever could have hoped for. But the best part of it all, the main feature, were the people. So many of our friends and family showed up from around the globe – literally – and it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to have such a gathering of both sides of our family.
Now, we couldn’t let the Canadians come over without showing them the best bits of NZ, so after the wedding we embarked on a 2 week road trip around the South Island to see the country in all its glory. Let me tell you about the logistics of organizing a honeymoon with 20 people.
2 vans, 2 weeks, 3500 km, 2 babies, 1 pregnant lady, 5 kiwis, 15 Canadians, 6 accommodation stops, 1 ferry crossing, a dozen or more one way bridges, countless oohs and aahs.
In hindsight, I think my most prominent shortcoming as trip planner was not accounting for snoring tendancies. We had the best of intentions to bed down together in lodge and cabin style accommodation, in some cases with bunk rooms, and this was definitely what made the trip economical for everyone. But when it comes down to it, everyone should have had their own sound-proof pod for sleeping because the snoring penetrated walls and windows and made the floors vibrate and the windows shudder. It was phenomenal. And it wasn’t just 1 or 2; there were at least half a dozen grizzly bears in this group, and people who were unaware they were snorers quickly had it pointed out to them.
Missing / forgotten / misplaced articles. I have lost count, but to name a few: Bose headset. Reading glasses. Cell phones (x2). A hair dryer. Power converter. Adapter. A slipper, a jacket, a room key, a porta-cot mattress, a frying pan, and the list goes on.
I, personally, went on a wild goose chase around Twizel one morning in search of my credit card- only to discover it was in fact in my wallet all along. I also forgot my brother at a hotel in Christchurch for a good 2 hours after check-out, left my marriage licence documents behind, left all 3 of my families passports on the plane when we first arrived in NZ, and lost my wedding rings on the floor of a bar in Queenstown – until they stopped the music, turned on the lights, and made all the patrons get down on their knees to look for them. Then I forgot my wedding rings in Christchurch and went back to Australia without them. So, just the little things, really.
Ailments and Illnesses. Both babies caught colds, and both suffered bouts of teething (including a temperature). Jack had the most heinous allergic reaction / eczema / rash of his life that started the day our holiday started and mysteriously subsided the day we returned to Australia. There was strep throat. Double vision. A case of leg swelling to which the cause and cure is still unknown, and the patient, my cousin, was reduced to crutches for a big part of the trip. There was a stomach bug that methodically struck down individuals 1 by 1, starting in Pohangina and finishing in Wanaka. There were hangovers, caffeine & nicotine withdrawls, coldsores, PMS, blisters, motion sickness, indigestion, back problems, oh and cuts and bruises –mainly from drunken shenanigans like falling out of bunk beds and trying to do clap-push ups in sauna like conditions while chugging beers.
One of the more amusing aspects of the trip was the language barrier. You would think that because we all speak English that such a barrier would not exist. Not so.
Not only do we pronounce things differently, we have different words, phrases, expressions, and figures of speech. As it turned out, the hardest people to understand were the ones with the thick Newfie accents who sounded like they had a mouth full of marbles while speaking. My Uncle Doug was, hands down, the hardest person to decipher. I’m pretty sure that when he spoke, most kiwis would nod, then take 4 or 5 minutes to contemplate or discuss with others what he may have said. I recall one instance when my sister-in-law was speaking to him in the kitchen, (let me point out she is from England), and he repeated a question 3 times (all 3 times were just as mumbled and unclear as eachother, albeit) and she just broke out into laughter, shook her head and walked away in bewilderment because there was no way she could be clear about what he wanted. In Dunedin one night, my uncle said he had to ring Air NZ to ask them about something he lost on the flight (aforementioned Bose headset) – and I quickly took his phone and gave it to Auntie to save all parties involved a lot of frustration and confusion. An old newfie coming up against an Indian call-centre respondent was not going to be pretty. And there were more than a couple occasions where Canadians were left scratching their heads with the loose kiwi slang being thrown about by my mother and father-in-law and their mates who accompanied us. The best we could do was laugh, really, and make fun of each other. One amusing game was trying to get Canucks to pronounce Maori place names. Speaking of games, as the driver of my van I felt it my right to start a driving game whenever my brain needed some stimulation, so we played a lot of “20 questions” or “who am I”, to the point where I think my cousin and possibly a few others wanted to jump out the window. Apparently they no longer cared if I was the pope, or Ronald McDonald, or Kelly Ripa. But it was such a fun game!
Language barriers aside, I think each person got what they came for. The fishing enthusiasts got to fish. The wanderers got to people-watch and take photos. The hunters got their deer. The babies got to run and play and learn and discover. The young people got to have a few big nights out kiwi style, and the women got to do a bit of shopping. The Canadians and the North Islanders that came along were gobsmacked with the beauty that lay around every corner of the road as we travelled, and the well-known landmarks that make NZ famous did not disappoint. Lake Pukaki, Punakaiki, the rugged west coast, Christchurch CBD, the heart of Dunedin, Otago Peninsula, Golden Bay…. It was a stunning and memorable trip of a lifetime for everyone. Unfortunately, the beauty of New Zealand and the good times that were shared cannot be expressed in words or photographs. I could try and explain to you in great detail the freshness of the air, the undisturbed, unexploited rainforest and seaside we encountered, or the friendliness of the people. I could try and describe the beauty we witnessed in the contrasting colours of the Lakes District in the Autumn - the blue lakes against the varying green countryside against the sharp, intimidating and awe inspiring mountain range that is the Remarkables. The compact, condensed city centre of Dunedin which wraps around a bay and has the charm and character of something out of old Scotland - which is befitting granted it was NZ's first established city and the buildings have the stories to go with the history. Alas, words do not do justice to a land that is possibly one of the most picturesque and breathtaking places on the planet. It is something that must be witnessed first hand.
We really are blessed to have had that opportunity to show off this beautiful country that we can now proudly call our home (again), and it is a relief that my family now has an understanding for why I stay here. They got to see where I have lived, meet my friends, see my work projects, meet my new family, and partake in the NZ lifestyle that is renowned for its relaxed and laid back approach. It was wonderful to see friendships forged that span the pacific ocean – and its funny now to see my family and Nathans family converging on facebook, sharing inside jokes and fond memories! It was simply splendid, so thank you all.