When we first climbed aboard the campervan a few days previously, I had two concerns:
1) Would the whole thing topple over on a sharp turn; and
2) Would the campervan turn into a bloodbath on wheels - the kind of Lord of the Flies scenario that Manchán Magan was hinting at a few weeks back.
In retrospect, we were inviting disaster. The four of us are used to being in close quarters, but it's an entirely different proposition to invite a fifth person, even if they are family, to suffer the inevitably claustrophobic atmosphere of a young family. Giovanna was taking a big risk of finishing her break in New Zealand on a bum note.
The thing about campervans is that although they look impossibly unstable, they are built to hold together in the tightest corners - as long as you take it nice and easy. And family is pretty much the same - it tends to work even in the most demanding situations. You just have to slow things down and take your time. We didn't topple over - there wasn't even a moment of worry. We managed to have an excellent campervan experience, memories that will last us a lifetime, and one very happy zia Giovanna. I think we did it just by avoiding stressful timetables and activities, by loosening the rules a little, and by having a laugh whenever possible.
The drive back from Hanmer Springs was very easy. We stopped off once more at our local freewifi point, stopped in Waikari to pay due respect to Giovanna's Dunny (see below), and drove into Christchurch dancing around the campervan to the sounds of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Unfortunately the next day we had to say goodbye to Giovanna. It seemed impossible to accept that a month had gone by so quickly, and that we had gone from six to four in a matter of days. I personally wasn't prepared for how bad it felt to lose Duncan and then Gio'. Again, the speed that time is passing by continues to amaze me, and that was part of the problem. I felt very down for a full day, and poor Nina ended in tears at the end of the day, thinking about Giovanna.
But we're up and running again now. We've been taking it easy, saving time and money (thanks to the home swap) here in Christchurch, but we've already ben thinking and planning ahead. Later in the week we'll head to the one remaining part of the South Island that we haven't seen yet, the We(s)t Coast, including Franz Josef glacier and Pancake Rocks. Then one week later, we'll finally be heading north to Wellington to begin our 4 weeks adventures in the North Island. We've also found accommodation in Fiji for our 'week out' between NZ and South America (and for slightly under budget!) And we've finally started thinking about how to divide our time in South America (about time I guess).
There's a lot still ahead of us. From here on in we're on our own. I think we'll be OK.