Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Bodily Functions

Christchurch is a nice enough small city, nicer than Wellington in my opinion and completely different to Auckland. After another duck and hiding bus journey I arrived late afternoon in the city and soon discovered my hostel and 3 enormous supermarkets all in a row. The supermarkets in a row phenomenon is something I first noticed in Nelson- the town of the prison hostel and wine tours- but seems to be a common occurrence in New Zealand. I can't decided what the reason for it is. Is it that one company bought some land and then their competitors, just to annoy them, bought the adjacent land to build their giant supermarket? Or is there a law saying giant supermarkets must all be built in spitting distance of each other? It is a curious oddity that as you can tell has had me thinking.

Anyway, after doing some food shopping in one of the giant supermarkets (I won't tell you which one in case the others get jealous) I had a brief orientation wander around the city centre and was pleased to discover 3 arthouse cinema in direct vincity. This immediately made me feel more at home. The next day it rained and rained thwarting any real efforts to be a tourist, but to my delight I found 3 second hand bookshops all in a row (sensing a pattern in the layout of Christchurch's facilities...) so I bought some reasonably priced books and decided to spend the afternoon eating cakes and drinking hot chocolate whilst reading my purchases (one of which was a true story of a 2nd world war POW who tried to escape 10 times. It was a great read made all the more amusing by the old fashioned polite turns of phrases, now sadly lost to the modern day slang).

That evening I fulfilled a promise to my Grandfather and went to see a friend of his Betty whom had moved to New Zealand a year ago with her son (who was also present for the visit). Betty was a charming lady who very generously had make me about a thousand ham sandwiches and supplied me with lots of biscuits and tea (from proper china teacups). It was a most delightful evening and I felt quite fat afterwards.

The next morning I had a bus tour to do which was a purely indulgent affair. As many of you know, one of my favourite films is the Lord of the Rings and New Zealand is where it was filmed. There are literally dozens of tours you can do that can show you various places where things were shot, but I had resisted them all as I didn't want to ruin the 'magic' (I couldn't bear to see an abandoned Hobbiton). However, there was a tour to the Southern Alps, which took you to the valley where Edoras was filmed and an option to climb the hill where the Golden Hall was situated (if you've lost me, don't worry about it). This all sounded like pleasant scenery if nothing else plus it has a champagne lunch included. This I couldn't resist. It was actually a very enjoyable tour mainly consisting of a pleasant guide telling stories about the films and the stars followed by the hill climb and lunch. I was incredibly fortunate as it was a beautiful day and everything looked so pretty. However, what struck me as most odd was that there was this Malaysian family on the tour and none of them had seen the films. Not one film and not one of them. I'm sorry, but what on earth pocessed them to come on the tour? To sit for 3hours hearing stories about a film they had ever seen to climb a hill of a set they had never seen and then get driven back? It doesn't sound like much fun to me. However they all seemed to have a great time so who am I to judge (but I do).

Anyway, enough of that. Now to discuss what happened next. Back to hostel etiquette. Now I know I bang on about this a lot, but when you are travelling, the hostel is your home, your sanctuary. Your comfort zone if the dizzying site seeing world becomes overwhelming and you need a place to hide. So its important that if nothing else that you feel at ease in your dorm. Unfortunately, I was in a mixed dorm again (not a name error for once) and the first 2 nights were alright. But then on the 3rd night the Americans invaded. 2 older (ie in there 50s) chaps that pounced on me as I entered the door- 'OH MY GOD. HELLO THERE HOW ARE YOU? WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING TODAY (no pause for answer) OH MY GOD WE HAVE JUST GOT HERE AND WE ARE SOOOOO JET LAGGED BUT SO EXCITED....' and you get the picture.

After about 10 minutes of this barrage, as I edged toward the door desperate to leave ( I genuinely was needing to make a phone call) I'd already got a tirade about Californian wines and invited to stay at their house when I was in San Franciso. AS IF! Why would a single female traveller take 2 older men up on such an offer? Do these men think when they say such things?! There are 50 times more serial killers in the US than anywhere else in the world (*statistics from the Florence museum of serial murderers 2008*), I would never do such a thing even if they pinkie promised they were not going to murder me. So I made my escape and on my return much later that evening as I got to the door of the dorm all I could hear were strange and terrifying noises. I paused unsure what to do, but being the brave international woman of the world I am, I ventured forth. I boldly pushed the door open and in incredulous horror realised the source of the noises. Both the men were snoring like a marching band being chased by a train. As I climbed ino the bunk (unfortunately above the worst of the snorers) I lay in hopeful anticipation that the snoring would stop. It didn't. I tiried all my usual tricks- shaking the bunk so much it wakes the person below up. Dropping things on the floor, But all these just made it worse and worse.

To add insult to injury at 6 in the morning when I actually finally got to sleep, they got up and oput the light on for 35 minutes (I timed it) and talked in normal voices. ETIQUETTE!!!!!!!!!!! It is 6 in th f**king morning and both of your interminable train like snoring has meant the rest fo us have only slept for 14 minutes combined the whole night! I was angry, but happy in the fact that they were gone.

That day in my weakened state and the weather being uncooperative again, I did very little. Some feeble attempts at sight seeing followed by some cake eating. I went to see a very sad film about the female French resistence fighters during the war and felt thoroughly depressed. However, I thought, tonight I will sleep well. But karma was not finished with me yet. When I got back to the room, the Americans had returned. They had just gone on a day trip. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I prayed and crossed my fngers, snore less, snore less, snore less! But the gods who had listened to me and given me good weather for my glacier hike had turned their back so on me. It was worse.

The following morning I decided I could not make another night of it. It was like the M&S advert "this isn't ordinary annoying snoring, this is unrelenting, super sonic, painful 8 hour long M&S snoring" so when the Americans didn't pack their bags and leave, I did. Some of you may have remember that I made a travel agent friend in Tasmania. Well , she had given me the name of a cool budget hotel in Christchurch and I had been toying with the idea of splashing out on it. The snoring men gave me all the persuasion required and I tooks my rucksack and food bag and went there.

It was fabulous. Cheap, shiney, mini-fridge, flat screen TV, en suite and the best feature of all was the one it didn't have- snorers!

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