10:30am: Head out to pick up our hire car. We are met by a very sweet, very camp boy who describes everything as adorable. After giving us a list of adorable towns and adorable places we should visit, he takes us to the “adorable” car. Mum immediately crushes his enthusiasm by suggesting that the car, which is tiny, mustard-coloured and looks a bit like her old KA, is not adorable. “That’s no way to talk about the Golden Chariot,” I venture. Car boy brightens up. He finds the new nickname adorable.
11am-4pm: We consult the weather report. Apparently it is sunny for the next two days in Kaikoura, where we really, really want to do a whale-watching trip, so we head there first, stopping along the way to take in some very beautiful views, dip our toes in the sea, pick up bread, cheese and fruit for the next few days, and share a pot of tea and some snacks in a cute (adorable?) café in what apparently used to be a railway station in a teeny tiny town called Domett. There is only one, niggling problem: it is fecking freezing. We convince ourselves that the crap weather has been trapped by all the mountains and it will still be as lovely and sunny as promised when we break through into Kaikoura. This is definitely a reasonable hypothesis because science.
4pm: Arrive in cold, windy, overcast Kaikoura.
…The pub looks warm though.
5pm: Finish our beer and start thinking about where we are going to stay. All the cheap hostels are full, but we read about a holiday park nearby that we can camp (read: park) in, which apparently has a pool and hot tubs. Excellent.
6pm: We potter around some shops looking for warmer clothes/blankets for sleeping-in-the-car purposes. I try on hot pants instead. Mum is unimpressed.
6:30pm: Still no bedding. In the supermarket, Mum suggests that we could buy kitchen towels to use as pillows because at least they’re soft. The boy on the till catches us doing a “pillow suitability comparison test” with kitchen towels and loo roll. He thinks we are deranged. He may be right.
7pm: Get back to the car. It does not start.
7.05pm: Oh. The lights are still on.
7.15pm: We review the hire contract. It says that there is no callout fee for the AA unless the battery runs out because of something you’ve done, like leave the lights on, in which case it’s a million billion dollars or something.
7:20-8:30pm: I ask everyone in the vicinity if they have a jump lead. They do not. One man in particular apologises profusely for the lack and tells me a lengthy story about a jump lead that he had, once, in another car, far away from here. I do not care.
8:30pm: The lady who runs the shop next to where we’re parked is closing up. She can’t remember if she has a lead, but offers to nip back to her car and come back if she can help.
8:45pm: We give up and start calling the AA. Mum’s on the phone when shop lady reappears waving a jump lead because she is AN ABSOLUTE LEGEND.
8:50pm: All the men that couldn’t help five minutes ago suddenly reappear to mansplain jump leads. Shop lady announces sharply that if you need something done, you’d better ask a woman. They are shamed.
9:00pm: We make it to the campsite. The pool and hot tubs are now closed. On the plus side, they have duvets and pillows. We go for a little wake-up-the-engine drive, then come back just before dusk to set up our in-car beds. It’s actually quite cosy.
9:30pm: We should probably go into town for a quick drink to celebrate all that money we saved on the AA callout…
9:45pm: Ooh! Irish pub with live music. And a fireplace. And decent Kiwi wine. It takes us about 0.000000001 seconds to start singing along to the Pogues (and befriend the singer) and 0.000000002 for Mum to amass a selection of admirers.
10:30pm: One of the admirer’s friends, who is old and red of nose, has a very young Thai wife. I give him my best “Not judging you I’m sure you really did fall in love” face and whip out the only three Thai phrases I know. She tells me about the culture shock of moving from Bangkok to small town NZ (“Why does everything close at 9pm? Where are all the people? Why is there no Metro??”).
10:45-?????: Wine keeps appearing as if by magic.
???-???: Mostly “Irish Dancing” with Very Young Thai Bride and an Aussie girl who is my new BFF. Thanks, wine!
????-???? Mum is now onstage singing a duet with Irish singer/guitarist guy.
????-???? – Irish guy’s role has been reduced to backing guitar.
????-???? -I agree to go to something that’s been billed as a “rave” by some new friends in the pub but is really just a bar across the road with a DJ in it. I am ID’d on the door, which means that I can do my FUCK YES STILL ID’D AT 29 dance but also means I have to go and fetch my passport, which only just about fits in my pocket.
????? – Somewhat blurry
8:30am: We are hungover and I have lost my passport.
9:00am: I decide not to panic until I have retraced my steps from last night. Plus, the weather is glorious (yey!) so we book the whale watching trip for 3pm.
9:30am: The information centre does not have my passport. Neither does the campsite.
10:00am: The police station is only open from 9.30-3.30, Monday to Friday. Today is Sunday. Obviously.
11.00am: My passport is not miraculously lying on the ground at some point between the campsite and the street with the pub and the bar on it.
1pm: My passport is not in the pub or the bar. It has not been handed in at any of the other shops or hostels between here and the campsite.
1:15pm: PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC
1:30pm: The weather takes a turn.
1:45pm: The whale watching trip is cancelled
1:50pm: DESPAIR DESPAIR DESPAIR DESPAIR
2:30pm: We pull ourselves together and for a hike along the coast. I spot a baby seal under a bush. “Look! A seal!” I cry. Mum frowns. “I think it’s dead,” she says. A small child runs up and sees the seal. “DADDY DADDY LOOK IT’S A BABY SEAL!” squeals small child. “It’s definitely dead,” says Mum. The small child bursts into tears.
2:35-4.30pm: What a beautiful hike. I’ve almost managed to forget that I’m a 29-year-old disaster site posing as an adult human. So many seals! “Go and stand over there so I can take a picture” says Mum. “I’m not sure I should go that close to the seal colony,” I reply, nervous. Mum insists. The seals bark at me and bare their teeth. Mum tells me to stop being a wimp as it’s not as if seals can move that fast anyway. As I jog back, I notice a sign that says: ‘Keep at least this far away from the seals. They will become aggressive if you approach the colony and can move surprisingly fast”
6:00pm: Conclude that my UK passport is a goner. I look up how to get a new Kiwi passport, which expired years ago and has since gone missing. Apparently I have to send a copy of my citizenship papers. “Where are my citizenship papers, Mum?” I ask. She shrugs. After careful consideration, I conclude that I am, in fact, totally fucked.
6:30: Oh well. Let’s go to Nelson.
6:30-8:30pm: The drive towards Nelson. The scenery is nice. However, Mum is falling asleep behind the wheel. The radio isn’t working so I sing the first verses of Fleetwood Mac songs at her repeatedly to keep her awake. This is only bearable for either of us for a limited time.
8:30: We pull into a campsite to recuperate. The owner is a middle aged woman in a cowboy hat who has no teeth. “I don’t know about this,” Mum hisses. “It feels a bit like Wolf Creek.” We take our chances nonetheless.
9:30: Set up our little beds in the Golden Chariot. There are weird little birds everywhere that look like a cross between a kiwi and a duck. We discover later that these are wekas, and that they will steal anything that isn’t chained to the ground. This is told to us by a sweet-seeming boy from Cornwall who appears to have got married by accident to a girl who apparently never leaves their tent. Mum posits darkly that the girl is not here at all, that he actually murdered her in Australia (where the wedding took place) and is now embroiled in an elaborate cover-up, in which we are unwittingly now part. We sleep in the car, which is freezing, and where I am plagued by nightmares involving wife-murder, wekas, Wolf Creek-style torture scenes and a moth that has inexplicably got inside the car.