As I'm sure not many of you are aware (because, let's face it, why would you be?), New Zealand is apparently renown for its vineyards as well as rugby, sheep and volcanic "hissy fits". This would, I'm sure, be a lot more beneficial to me were I a wine enthusiast, but I have still managed to procure a slice of enjoyment by mocking those who are - or, at least, those who think they are. I think we all the know the types of people I'm talking about here, my mother being a prime example. She went on a wine tasting course one time (one time) with my friend's mum and for the following months, every time she had a glass, would swill her wine around, take a sniff, and envelope herself in the pretence of being a person who understands what it means to know a "good white wine". My own taste, naturally, is a little less refined as I am still in the adolescent phase of thinking a "good white wine" is something that tastes of neither piss nor vinegar. To be honest, I'm not that much of a wine drinker after a series of particularly unfortunate events following a sixth form party, during which I consumed almost an entire table of complimentary wine and was awoken the following morning by my friends telling me, amongst other things as I sat in bed and mourned the loss of a tooth, that by 10:30pm I was being escorted off the dance floor by not one but two bouncers and paraded past most of my school year, many of my teachers, and, to top it all off, the head of sixth form. In retrospect, it probably was not my finest hour, and as such I have since made a particular effort to avoid wine in large quantities - complimentary or not. In fact, it was this particular trip down Memory Lane that prompted me to really ponder the pros and cons of growing up in a country that treats underage binge drinking as a fragile family heirloom. (In the end, the pros largely outweighed the cons, but nonetheless).
After leaving vineyard county (and a hoard of other less mortifying but still uncomfortable wine related memories that came screaming back) behind, I headed on down to Christchurch where I was met, probably unsurprisingly considering their penchant for natural disaster, by a complete ghost town. I am not exaggerating, as I'm aware I so often do, when I say this - there was literally no one around, no lights in any buildings (or, even, buildings themselves), no people, no form of civilisation at all, and, worst of all, no hostels. Usually when I arrive somewhere new at night I am welcomed into the open arms of drunk pub goers and get to play my favourite game of seeing how many drunkards I can 'accidentally' knock down with my backpack. This was definitely not the case and after a fruitless 45 minute search, I eventually resigned myself to the fact that I may have to sleep outside, an option which was not as appealing given the winter temperatures. Eventually (thank God), I came across a YMCA, which wouldn't have been my first choice but, as at this point I didn't actually seem to have a choice, I wandered in anyway. Now, I cannot be alone in thinking that the YMCA was meant to be a haven for poor, unfortunate souls and the financially crippled (moi), and I was thus shocked to my very core when I found out I had to pay $40 ($40!) for a bed. I thought the least they were going to do was give me somewhere to sleep and some complimentary soup - isn't that what they're for?! However, there was nothing complimentary at all (apart from a basket of free soap, out of which I took as many bars as I could carry) and, just to add insult to injury, it took me nigh on four hours to get to sleep due to having the bloody YMCA stuck in my head, going around on loop until 2am. Contrary to what The Village People may believe, it was not fun.
I left Christchurch roughly eight hours and $40 (forty dollars!) later and soon found myself back in rural New Zealand. After refusing to pay $200 to sit on a boat and watch some whales (this entry has really forced me to face up to some home truths about people from Yorkshire...), I began to appreciate the beauty of the-far-away-fin, as it has now become known. When people told me that Kaikoura was whale country, I'm not going to lie and say I wasn't expecting to head down to the beach, play my harmonica for a bit, and then have an orca named Willy swim up and befriend me. This, obviously, did not happen. This is not the first time in my life that I have been cheated out of meeting an orca. Several years ago, I went to Sea World in California and became incredibly angry (to a degree that I stuck my fingers up at a 10 year old) that some stupid, annoying American kid had been chosen to go and meet Shamu when I was clearly the more enthusiastic of the two of us. He wouldn't even have been old enough to remember it when he was older, and then, if you please, when they asked him if he wanted to pet Shamu's tongue, he refused because he was too scared! I was so angry that I stormed out of the splash zone and up to my mother and sister (who had refused to sit with me, probably more so to do with my embarrassing enthusiasm than their wish to stay dry), spending the rest of the day seething with rage. Obviously, it doesn't bother me anymore as I am older, more mature, and in no way, absolutely not, still bitter... On the plus side, I saw about 20 dolphins all swimming and jumping together on the ferry back to the north island, so I feel that not only did I save $200 on something I got to see anyway, but I have somehow trumped the annoying kid from Sea World by seeing them in their natural environment. Take that, shit head.
Anyway. I'm almost at the end of my trip now, and if there's one thing I'm looking forward to it is being able to finally have a choice of real books to read instead of being limited to whatever is stuck on the book exchange in the hostel, most of which are in German anyway. I made a stand to myself the other day and point blank refused to read yet another pathetic excuse for chick lit after finding myself sobbing into the pages, crying, "no, Katherine, what are you doing, what about Joe?!". In order to avoid premature middle aged woman syndrome, I picked up the only other book available on the shelf - a textbook on domestic violence entitled When Harry Hit Sally. Times are bleak, my friends, times are bleak.