I’ve been to New Zealand twice.
In 2003, pre-kid and pre-mortgage, Cam and I rented a campervan and explored the North Island. The trip was super cheap (especially as I’d won $2000 worth of travel via a magazine comp). We went Black Water Rafting through the Waitomo caves, abseiling down, and climbing up through rushing cave waterfalls to get out; we soaked in the thermal waters, and enjoyed the bubbling stench of mud pools in Rotorua; and being in the days before “Freedom Camping” council regulations, we parked and overnighted wherever we wanted, waking to paddocks of bleating baby lambs, or lush green mountains as a backdrop.
Before that, I visited the South Island in 1998 for my dear friend Damien’s wedding. He met his Kiwi love Kirsty, at home in Melbourne and decided to start their life and family together in Christchurch. It was a beautiful wedding, and a fun catch-up with a bunch of guys from high school.
I took fellow radio chick Emily-Jade as my “+1”, and we followed the ceremony up with a week of exploring the South with Damien’s younger brother Heath; driving to Lake Tekapo, tramping the glaciers (check out my ice-pick…single-handedly responsible for Fox Glacier’s retreat), and bungying (NEVER, EVER AGAIN) and jet boating in Queenstown. It was an amazing time.
The St.Clair family is all prepped for another visit to the South Island. I booked our flights last year, to visit Damien and his family. Sweet Damien who I’d hang out with and watch videos, talk music and gossip with after high school. Kind-hearted Damien who would make me mix tapes of his favourite bands, and attempt to “de-pop-music” me.
Dames found out he had a brain tumour a few years ago, and after surgery, radiotherapy, chemo, and medical ups and downs, he seemed to be going downhill. I wanted to see him one last time.
But I left it too late.
In Kirsty’s words “My soul mate and best friend has slipped away peacefully in the early hours this morning. He was the most courageous, selfless, brave, inspirational husband and loving father. He is at peace now.”
We’re looking forward to seeing Kirsty again, meeting their 3 children, and exploring the country Damien and Kirsty chose to raise their family in.