In contrast to the first night, we spent our second night in the lodge among maybe seven other couples, so dinner was more of a group affair. We most enjoyed talking to a Scottish couple, of whom the woman in particular was refreshingly feisty and happy to say whatever entered her head. And at one point on our table of eight people, there were maybe three separate conversations about Christchurch going on all at once; it constantly seems like a wound that’s nowhere near to healing. Another couple on the table live there, and were just here for the night, for their wedding anniversary; they hadn’t been downtown in three years, and it almost sounded like they might never go again. Anyway, it was fine, but as soon as dinner was over we left (perhaps not with the greatest finesse, in hindsight). We sat up in our room for a while longer, and ended the night looking at the stars, which were clear as we’ve seldom seen them – we could have been drawing textbook-quality constellations and formations. It was windy though, which presumably accounted for the wireless Internet going down for a second night in a row – I guess it must be a big recurring problem there. Anyway, early on Sunday morning I spent an hour or so sitting in the library area, where it still worked. Strangely, since the previous day someone had moved all the ancient volumes of Colliers’ encyclopedia from one bookshelf to another. However, Coz’s Fatherhood was still in the same spot.
After breakfast we walked around for a couple of hours. We’d saved a little bit of bread and pastry from our walk the previous day, to feed to Marcus the sheep (yeah, I know how that sounds). We walked the entire length of the driveway where he’d followed us the other day (which takeslonger than you could imagine) but although we saw the other sheep, Marcus wasn’t there. Then we did the nature walk we did on our first evening here, except in reverse this time, and not in the rain; then we went into the gift shop and bought a few things – gloves, a sweater. We were talking about how we wouldn’t be seeing Marcus again (and hoping that didn’t mean he was the night’s dinner) and then suddenly there he was, all by himself in a fenced off area, even with his own little kennel. It turns out he doesn’t like bread and pastry, but he's ridiculously fond of company, putting up his front paws (I know that’s not the term, but it seems like it should be) and lapping up all the petting he can get. Later on, a woman who works at the lodge, and lives on the premises (as they all do) said he’d escaped from the other area and come to her door around 7 am, crying to get in and sending her dog into a frenzy. He’s a wonderful little character, but you have to be worried for his future (apparently though they did have another similar sheep in the past, who after a couple of years gave in and just accepted his role in life).
We were driven to Christchurch, which took about an hour and a half – the driver was incredibly well-informed on everything we saw or passed and delivered a more or less seamless commentary, but I slept through most of it. In the past he’s driven Bill Clinton, Bono and Shania Twain (who likes the region so much she bought a farm). The flight to Auckland was uneventful, then we had four hours or so there, which passed by well enough. Still, it’s a shame our last outdoor walk in New Zealand couldn’t have been something better than the ten minutes along the green line from the domestic to the international terminal. The flight back to Vancouver was about as easy as it could have been – we both slept for a satisfactory chunk of it. I watched the recent crime thriller The Drop; Ally watched the New Zealand classic Once were Warriors…I assume New Zealand Air would be the only airline on which that’s a standing choice.
We were originally supposed to fly out of Vancouver at 2 pm; which would have given us a couple of hours there, but Air New Zealand called a few months ago to say that flight was cancelled and we had to wait until 4 pm. Not only was the 2 pm flight not cancelled, we didn’t even get seats together on the 4 pm flight (both having to occupy lousy middle seats). Something smells rotten about that whole thing. And we had a brief period of anxiety when it seemed that even the 4 pm flight might be delayed due to a water main burst in the air traffic control room (or some such catastrophe). But in the end we got off on time.
It was a great trip – we planned it fairly immaculately if we say so ourselves, seeing a good cross-section of the country while minimizing the amount of time lost to travel and other logistics, and luck was with us throughout in matters such as the weather. People keep asking if we’d go back, and of course it’s one of those things – in terms of the pleasure of being there, we certainly would, but it’s on the other side of the world and there are many nearer places we’d also like to revisit, or haven’t seen at all, so I suppose the odds are that we won’t...
Many times when we said we were from Canada, it was clear from the responses that the New Zealand image of Canada is formed much more by the western Rocky mountains, and by towns like Jasper and Banff, than by Toronto; many people told us they’d been to Vancouver and on from there, but I’m not sure anyone ever mentioned our own city. At the end of the day, I suppose Toronto is another arbitrary creation of glass and concrete, in what would otherwise be an innocuous spot on the map. But despite its limitations, we never seriously think about wanting to live anywhere else. We arrived home around midnight, but of course things weren’t truly back to normal until Ozu arrived home the following afternoon. And so here’s the end of the story.