Last past the post


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My last night in the South Island was spent making elderflower cordial, lugging kilos of white lace flowers back and forth, stirring syrupy sugar-water mixtures, creating huge white dustbins of brew. The sun was setting over the poplar trees, Queen Anne’s lace waving amongst the clover and grasses, juicy buttercups scattered across the fields under an indigo sky. It was a magic evening, a slice out of time, unreal and wonderful.

So much of my time here in New Zealand had been tinged with a slight unreality, a perfection not often found in everyday life. But when I look back over the last six months I find that has been true throughout my travels, each day unfolding with new possibilities and adventure. It is hard not to contemplate have any pleasurable sense of anticipation on returning to England after such an amazing six months. But it’s happened at last: time to go home.

Which means, among other realisations, the end of this blog, after six months of posting twice a week in every place I have been. And despite six months of posts, describing each new experience, new people encountered, new countries crossed, there is still so much I haven’t written about. I didn’t write about the ups and downs of managing a guesthouse in Sri Lanka, with the restaurant on the third floor and the kitchen on the first, scuttling between the two to make sure the chef was only cooking the dishes that were actually on the menu, and not a creation of his own. Working a sixteen hour day and then staying late into the night drinking whisky and chatting. Or of midnight thunderstorms over the Perhentian islands which illuminated the landscape in weird electric blasts like a slow strobe. Or of a fortnight as a waitress in KL, out every night partying with princes. Or of a day spent searching though the stalls of Chatuchak market in Bangkok in a haze of consumerism, buying nothing but wanting everything in the company of three Chinese Singaporeans I had met the night before. Or of the Christchurch races, a steady drizzle failing to dampen the enthusiasm for feathered hats, elaborate dresses, exotic picnics in the car park which meant few racegoers ever saw a horse.

I haven’t described the pretty little hostel in Ubud which was like living in a minature Hindu temple, the crazed drunken Americans we met trawling with prostitutes in Cambodia, the high cheekbones of the transvestite hotel manager in Bangkok who recommended Pat Pong as a lovely place for a drink. And however many photos I post, however euphoric my writing, the dazzling beauty of the New Zealand landscape has been sketched only in a grey charcoal outline.

I have barely touched on the sheer giddy delight of travelling with my brother in Vietnam, the longest time I had spent in his company for years, and the pleasures of travelling with other friends in Vietnam, Bali, New Zealand. The new friends made at each step along the way: Americans who introduced me to Thanksgiving in Nelson; Kiwis who learned to dive with me in Malaysia; Balinese expats who took me out in Seminyak and brought me into their homes. In fact, looking back, it seems like I have hardly written anything at all. But it’s too late now because they’re calling my flight, dragging me back to England, and reality, and cold dank rain, a mere thirty-six hours of travel away. See you soon.