Well, it was Alice’s birthday, and as you know when it’s your birthday you get to do whatever you want, and what she wanted was for her and me to go down to Hanmer Springs in the South Island and go to the spa there for a weekend. I am a good and true and loyal friend, I’ll have you know, and when someone asks me if I will eschew my normal weekend routine of doing laundry and chores, with the briefest of ukulele-oriented respites, then of course I’m going to say yes. Selfless, I think you’ll agree.

So we went to the airport on Friday and night and almost missed our flight to Christchurch because we decided that two seconds before the flight took off was a good time to go to the bathroom and had barely watched the crazy Air New Zealand body paint in-flight safety video before we landed and got our shuttle to the evening’s hostel.

It’s been a little over a year since I stayed in a hostel, so not that long in the grand scheme of life, you know, but man was it weird. We got dropped off and discovered, much to our chagrin, that we’d been given the wrong keys to get in, and then there was a whole thing about sorting out where we were and where we were supposed to be and finally we sorted it all out and got into our freezing cold room and put on all our clothes to sleep in. We didn’t spend much time there, all in all, but there was something just very strange about seeing all the kids sitting out in the lounge playing cards and talking about their journeys so far. That was me eighteen months ago, but I don’t think that will be me ever again. I’m glad I was a backpacker for a while, definitely, but I’m equally glad I’m not one now—if for no other reason than that those rooms are really cold. I’m sure Alice would want you to know that she was wearing her boardies, two pairs of socks, a shirt and two jumpers; we left the heat on all night and we were still waking up in the middle of the night to tell each other how freezing cold we were.

Saturday, however, was very exciting because Saturday was officially Spa Day, and you know how I love the spa. It was also very exciting because we were hiring a car and I would be driving the longest distance I had yet driven in New Zealand. I am happy to report that it all went off without a hitch, and that in fact there is not much to report because…well, because they were pools full of hot water, and I got into them, and immediately sank into a very relaxed torpor, and that’s not very interesting in terms of gripping narrative or plot. Alice would say “Wow you look like you’re enjoying this” and I would go “Buh? Uh? Yeah. I…really like…hot water. Or something. It’s…yeah, it’s really…good” and go back to floating serenely in the sulfur-mist, completely warm for the first time in months.

So we floated around in various pools of various temperatures, and met some Irish and French people and had a truncated version of the backpacker conversation, and looked at all the tattoos for a while, and then it was time for our massages. I dearly love massages and was looking forward to this one very much, even though we’d only booked half an hour—we’d wanted to upgrade but they were kind of mean about it, actually. So we went to the spa part and got into the robes they ask you to wear and were sitting in the lounge sipping jasmine tea and reading trashy Australian fashion magazines when our massage ladies came and got us and led us to…the room where we’d be having our ‘side-by-side’ massages. And that was the moment we realized, even though our hotel room had only the one queen-sized bed that Alice had booked us a couples’ weekend package. People always think we’re together, as in together together all the time anyway so it actually sort of made sense–I just wish they’d taken the time to scatter rose petals on the bed or leave us a bottle of champagne or something, you know?

The next day it was cold and drizzling and rainy so we ditched our plan of doing one of the walks in the area and just had a big breakfast before driving back to Christchurch, where we had some comedy having to do with getting a ride back to town and then saw a French movie which I enjoyed very much through my tears. We took the bus to the airport and got on the plane and read our books and got a ride home from Alice’s lovely flatmate and that was that, a very fun weekend away with a good friend, the first time I’ve been out of town since getting back to town. It was good to go away and good to come home, which I guess is the mark of a successful holiday.

Re-reading before I post this, and thinking of some other travel-related stuff I’ve written in the past, I realize that I didn’t take many pictures and didn’t do much—I mean I really did just float in the hot pools for hours and hours and hours—but I enjoyed myself in a quiet and friendly way. On the way back to Christchurch I thought of all the different times I’ve been there before, all the people I’ve met there and spent time with, all the traveling I’ve done in New Zealand, all the different places I’ve stayed for a day or a week or whatever. I can sort of recall those places and what I did in them, but a lot of that feels very vague now, and a long way away. One thing I do remember, though, especially last year on the South Island trip, is having this feeling that I had to see and do as much as I could in what felt like a very short time, because I didn’t know when I’d be coming back, or if I’d be coming back, or what, and I didn’t know if I’d ever get a chance to do all the things I wanted to do.

I still don’t know if I’ll ever get a chance to do all the things I want to do—in New Zealand or just in my life in general. I guess that’s a whole other entry or conversation or whatever; it’s just really hard to see the big picture right now in so many ways. But honestly I didn’t think about that too much this past weekend, celebrating my buddy’s birthday, shivering barefoot in my bikini as I skittered from one hot pool to another, sleeping late and reading books and chatting and eating chocolate and doing hotel-room yoga. It was all very relaxing in that regard, which, it turns out, is exactly what I wanted.



  1. Hiro Protagonist

    Hanmer Springs in winter is very nice, especially if it’s snowing.

    However, what does this mean: “we had some comedy having to do with getting a ride back to town and then saw a which I enjoyed very much through my tears”?


  2. That airplane safety video is ten thousand million billion kinds of hilariously awesome! Thanks so much for posting the link!

  3. Paolo Stermieri ( Giulia's dad )

    The Romans had an expression that would wrap up, accurately, the way you worry about not getting everything you can think of, but ultimately realize you got exactly what you needed…………. “Carpe diem”……..loosely, “enjoy the day “.
    Nothing new under the sun…..