Twizel Area School, first of a trilogy: we slide into our roles as comfortably as the kids. Alan escorts us after to the black stilt breeding programme then we revisit Pukati, last seen by moonlight, so David can do the tourist thing. Should the sidetrips provide the major moments of our week? The Clay Cliffs are a stand-out. Intrepid in the face of geology and sunburn, we brave the matagouri and briars, and it’s worth it.
In Omarama Steve’s out of print title becomes found words. We trek on, reminiscing childhood TV shows (Vanda watched a lot more back then) as the moss-stitched hills of the Lindis shrug us down into Tarras.
Wanaka brings a forcefield of memories; (semi-colon for David) of family stories; of significant moments in my past. To which I add a fleeting glory – sinking four in a row – followed by sudden, style-less defeat: by food time we’re three all in the pool tournie. Kathryn says we look happy. We are: time out, an unruptured bubble of experience. What happens, Janet asks, when we step back to our lives?
On the lakefront at Wanaka, Mr Braunias obliges with the phrase of the day. “I’ve just tipped the dregs of my hot chocolate on my head.” Preposterous.
They must put something in the water drunk by English teachers down here. The bouncing enthusiasm is catching, and our two schools of the day, Aspiring and Cromwell, are a delight. Quite liked the climbing wall too.
On to Old Cromwell Town, and the Golden Gate; our biggest crowd. “Shit,” says Steve, at the podium. “I’ve broken my glasses.” It breaks the ice.
Someone in Cromwell kindly explains that they thought ‘Words on Wheels’ was a motoring thing. We keep moving.
Though it's not, it feels like the end of the tour, tributes shared, champagne drunk. The phrase for the day comes at midnight. "Hey guys. Some of us are trying to sleep around here..."