Our October birthdays approaching while in New Zealand meant that for once we’d be celebrating as spring manifested itself around us rather than autumn, providing every reason to spend the majority of our time outdoors and exploring.
We would return to Christchurch’s Hagley Park on several occasions, breathing in the fragrant, fresh air surrounding us. It never got old and I imagine that if I’d never left town it still wouldn’t be getting old to this day. Teresa and I loved it out here and still fondly remember hours of walking through the botanical gardens and the surrounding neighbourhoods.
On another day, we took a series of busses to the outskirts of the city’s eastern region. I don’t recall the exact route we took, but we wound up at Bottle Lake Forest Park, a beautiful stretch of pine forest with several walking and biking paths that took us deep into the woods. Along the parkland lies some very peaceful and impressive suburban homes.
We walked through the forest for quite some time before emerging into an open meadow where bike paths continued to snake through the land. We climbed to the top of a hill where a small shelter stood, broke out a Djarum 76, and began puffing away as we relaxed for a few minutes.
From our trajectory we could see out towards the frigid Pacific Ocean. Groups of cyclists would constantly pass us by, ringing their bells in warning and making their way either towards the ocean or back into the inviting pine forest.
During the week we stayed in Christchurch, Katy and Paddy had plans to go cottaging with some friends. They had been debating beforehand whether or not it was safe to leave two strangers at their home alone. After they had met us and spent some time with us, they both decided something along the lines of: either we’re genuinely nice, responsible people or the best actors they’d ever met in their lives. They decided to trust us with their home for a few days while they enjoyed some time outside of the city.
While Katy and Paddy were gone, Teresa and I needed to make sure their gardens stayed watered. The two of them grow a variety of fresh herbs that they use for cooking on a regular basis, the best way to do it in my opinion. We were more than happy to oblige; they’d done so much for us at this point and we were beyond appreciative of their kindness. Both their front and backyard are beautiful and they’ve done a lot to maximize its potential. As you can see, after six months of not going to the gym, I was really losing my gains.
Just before Katy and Paddy returned, Teresa and I took a walk to the grocery store and bought a large pot (what Katy and Paddy call a pan; to me, pan and skillet are synonymous and a pot is what you boil water or make soup or large portions of a sauce in) and ingredients for a bolognaise sauce we’d been making for quite some time now. It had been a long time since either of us cooked anything but I think it turned out alright. Katy and Paddy certainly seemed to enjoy it.
On our birthday, Teresa and I went out to a restaurant not too far away called Elevate. We enjoyed some delicious food, including braised lamb which we of course had to try in New Zealand where there are more sheep than there are humans. We also tried some tasty local beer to wash it all down with.
That evening, Katy and Paddy took us fishing at a local river. Here, they surprised us with a cake and a card for our birthday as well as a canteen of hot chocolate, the sweetest thing anyone’s done for us. It just further solidified how awesome and thoughtful the two of them are. Thinking about it now puts a smile on my face, it was just so nice. We didn’t catch any fish, but Teresa wound up pulling an authentic New Zealand license plate out of the river which she brought back to Canada and gave to her godfather who collects them.
Just to clarify, Teresa and I do indeed have the same birthday at the end of October. I’m exactly two years older than her. It was one of the first things we’d discovered about each other back when I was 22 about to turn 23 and she was 20 about to turn 21. How time has flown by since then; I’ll be 30 in a few short months!
We had a little bit more of outdoorsy relaxation time in Christchurch before we finally jumped on a bus back to the airport and to our final destination on this trip: Auckland. The gravity of this could not be felt in the moment; we were just too caught up in everything. It certainly hit hard afterwards, and still resonates today, well over two years later. What a glorious trip this was. There will never be another like it in our lives. That’s the thing about travelling today; it’s incredible, I love it, and there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. But that six month trip to Southeast Asia and New Zealand is on another level. It shaped my personality and I think Teresa would maintain it shaped hers as well. It’s going to be hard to end this series that I’ve begun.
It’s hard, but it’s okay. I’ll be in Europe in ten days, ready for more adventure, and ready to share it with all of you.