Travel Story «Punters and punting»
26 December 2006
Last Update 02 February 2007
Stephens Day, or Boxing Day as they say in New Zealand, arrived upon us, as it often does right after Christmas Day, and we felt we had to bring a little Irishness to the whole day so we selected a Pub Crawl as the main activity of the day. I can hear the sarcastic gasps of shock and astonishment from you all.... and I can even feel the parents rolling their eyes in despair - drinking is not the only thing we do, it´s just that it often leads to the most amusing stories and that, my dear parents, is why you hear about it so often.
Anyway, before we embarked upon our pub crawl, and partly due to the fact that it was only 11am, Karen, Lorna, Benny (somewhat belligerently) and I thought we would throw a little culture/tourist activity into the day and do the really embarrassing Punting on the Avon, for "...there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so worth doing as messing about in boats. Simply messing" to quote Kenneth Grahame - Wind in the Willows. Following this sound advice, we hopped right in. Yes, we were those people. For a mere... oh I don´t recall how much, say 10 euro, you too can be pushed down and then back up stream by a very hungover, possibly still inebriated Kiwi. Such fun...
Getting in the...boat (....? I´m not sure what the correct term for the boat things is..) was a struggle in itself. Actually, it was fine when you had the assistance of a strong armed man (not Benny, but the half cut Boatmen) who steadied a very shaky me so I didn´t end up in the river. The real problem came when Benny himself went to get in and nearly - with all three of the ladies already in the boat - nearly capsized the whole thing with one foot! Ha ha very funny. Stop that now. And then he nearly capsized it again. After more shrieking and a chorus of "Benny no!" (he gets that a lot...) he got in without landing us all in the water. Much to his dissapointment.
For 30 minutes the boatmen punted us down and then back up the river. Such exertion on his part resulted in profuse sweating, although I hasten to add that he admitted he had been up drinking Christmas night until 8am that morning. Therefore, I choose to believe that the copious amounts of sweat exuding from his many pores was a direct result of his hangover, and not the fact that the four of us had over-indulged on Christmas food the day before. Well that´s my story and I am sticking to it. Throughout the whole half hour I maintained a firm grip on the side of the boat as I was slightly paranoid someone (no prizes for guessing who) would push me overboard for a cheap laugh. And there weren´t any life jackets to be seen either. Ok, so the river was about a foot deep but you never can be too careful.
After the punting experience, we began the serious business of the day - the 12 pubs of Christmas Pub Crawl and Aisling and Grainne joined us (basically, they won´t get out of bed for anything less than 4% proof). Running parrallel to the River Avon is Oxford Terrace - a series of restaurants and pubs with outdoor seating areas facing the river. We began, as any sensible person would, at the first pub on the corner, making it a rule that it was just ONE drink in each pub. First drink over, we upped and left that pub and literally walked one meter to the left and sat down in the terrace area in the next pub. And again, and again all along that row of pubs. We made quite the fools of ourselves really. Everybody else was sitting down, enjoying the sunshine (weather was lovely on Stephens Day) sipping a bottle of Chardonnay and people watching while our group of 6 - not so inconspicous FYI - stood up and moved pubs every 30 minutes or so and could plainly be seen by our previous waiters and waitresses as we ordered the very same drinks in the rival pub. We were so ashamed and felt a little foolish... Still, it had to be done and we resolutely stuck to our one drink in each pub. Well done us.
Then, something happened which I have regretted everyday since. In one pub I made a boo boo. MIS-HEARING
my sister and the waitress, I.... oh ok I made a fool of myself and the girls insisted
I include this in the story (even though it is of no interest and not funny and so not something they should bring up every time we go to order drinks...) because if I didn´t include it, they would write it in themselves and I can well imagine how I would fair in that version of events:
In one pub - this could have been Pub no 6 I think - Karen ordered a Corona and the waitress said they didn´t have any but they had a similar beer called Lima
. Now in the previous pub, they hadn´t had Corona either but offered Karen a similar beer and she had accepted that. I hadn´t caught the name of the beer they had offered her in the previous pub we had been in, but, hearing this waitress say Lima I assumed that was the beer she had had before in the other pub. Fool me. Mistake no 1.
Mistake no 2 was ordering the same as Karen and not say I´ll have the same thanks.
Instead, I said I´ll have a Lima too thanks. Blank expressions all around. A second of deathly silence and then snorting and laughter from all at the table except the waitress who was trying to remain polite and not laugh. "Sorry what did you want?", she said. "Er, a Lima. The same as her", I said (pointing at Karen who was laughing so hard I thought about getting her inhaler out of her bag incase of an asthma attack.) "A what?!" And then the penny dropped. I was like, making a total fool out of myself right? and there was no such thing as a Lima Beer. Rather, the waitress, in her thick brogue of a Kiwi accent had asked Karen if she wanted Lemon or Lime
(hello - its pronounced LEMON, not Lima!! There is no "I" in the word lemon) in her Corona. I mean what kind of a waitress asks such a stupid question? Like it matters. Just stick in any old thing and serve the Goddam beer. (Oh, did I mention, the waitress was now openly laughing at me along with the rest of my so called friends - grrr). So, trying to act all cool and stuff, I did the only thing I could do and got up, left the table and went to play pool. Bring on Pub no 7.
In pub no 7 everyone asked the waitress for a Lima. The waitress didn´t get it. There was only one thing for it. Tequila.
And then, we started to run out of pubs - I mean COME ON! We were only looking for 12 and Christchurch is the second largest city (population wise) in New Zealand and half of the pubs were closed! So we decieded that restaurants counted as well and went for some Mexican food. Only to be told that they were only serving the bar snacks from the menu and not the full menu. I mean COME ON NEW ZEALAND! What are you like?! Just bar snacks?! Why?
Ah yes, I see, its near closing time and the kitchen is closing... right you are. Somehow the sun had set without any of us really noticing and we had wondered into a restaurant, totally oblivious to the fact it was 10pm and expected to be able to order dinner. We had some Nachos and Tequila and moved on.
We ended the night in Mickey Finns which was a lively enough spot and boogied on down with the live band. Benny and Aisling deceided the night needed a little extra something
and took some of the very LEGAL (in New Zealand) herbal pills which were essentially caffeine as they proceeded to have no effect other than preventing the two of them from sleeping all night.
Benny in his greater wisdom took 2 of them while Aisling limited herself to one only. They both suffered for it the next morning as they met each other bleary-eyed and sleep deprived with a knowing nod and sympathetic smile for the fellow sufferer.
The next morning we collected our second rental car - the ugliest Mazda you have EVER seen - which was required for the period of time wherein we had 2 guests travelling with us and we couldn´t all fit into our beloved Dory. We packed our bags and said good bye to Christchurch (again) and began the long journey to Milford Sound. Christmas was over and we looked forward to the New Year.