Hi everyone, and happy new year

 Here is another of my little reports (well.). This time it was rather unexpected, but those are often the best experiences, aren't they. But let me start from the beginning.

One day in November I got an email from Tine in Berlin, telling me a friend of hers, Anja, was on a motorcycle round-the-world tour with her husband Holger, and that the two would be in New Zealand soon. I had met Anja in Berlin years ago, I think at a dance workshop. Very red hair, fun, that's about all I remembered. But who cares? So I sent them an email, gave some unrequested advice (like always have sunscreen with you and expect rain) and offered them to stay at my place should they come to Christchurch. But for now they were on the North Island.

Just after Christmas I got an email: Were in Greymouth (thats on the west coast of the South Island) and will be at your place in 2-3 weeks. That would be mid/late January. I thought that was perfect. My nightmare-flatmates had just moved out, so there was plenty of space in my flat. And until then the painters should have finished their job, too.

At the moment I have 3 students working in my lab. One of them is really self-reliant, the other 2 are interns and in their first year at university, so they need to be supervised all the time. And there is my own labwork, too.

So there I am in the lab on January 9th, minding my own business, when I get a text message:100 km to Christchurch, how do we find you? Anja and Holger


But I am spontaneous. I thought for a moment, first sent them a description of how to get to uni, sent my students home right away (kicked them out is probably the right expression) and stopped my own experiments, which would have taken until late evening. And then it didn't take long until they were there. We first had a coffee at uni, and then drove to my place. I still wonder how I fit on the back of the motorcycle, with the entire luggage they had with them. But somehow we managed. And I live pretty close to uni anyway.

I should probably add that motorcycles are completely foreign terrain for me. I didn't even have a moped. No, stop, I drove twice, once in Thailand (first time and then on the wrong side. A miracle we survived that day! But we couldn't go faster than 40 km/h anyway) and the second time in Greece (that thing was so slow; you could have passed us on foot uphill).

The painters would start their job the next morning, and because I didn't want Anja and Holger to be woken by them every morning, I put them in my sleep out. Do you remember, that was my first room outside in the garden. Such a shed really does have advantages. The flat as such was already empty and not very cozy. Nothing left apart from a table with chairs and an old couch. My room will not be repainted, so it wasnt a problem for me. And if you sleep in a tent most nights for 6 months, then any roof and stable walls is probably a nice change.

That day we just went shopping for groceries (you really expect me to walk to the supermarket? Thats way too far! maybe 300m), had a nice dinner, then some beer and ice cream, talked till late; nice evening!

I had to work, so I could not show them around town as much as I would have liked to. But at least in the evenings we could do stuff together, i.e. go to a pub, have some beer and/or ice cream, do you already see a pattern developing?

On day Anja and Holger went to Akaroa with two other bikers they had met earlier. Do you remember my pics from there? Little French town, nice harbor, and a really nice tour on a motorcycle (winding road).

That evening we discussed about doing a weekend trip to Kaikoura. That's the town where you can do whale watching, and generally my favorite place in New Zealand. Holger's birthday was coming up that Saturday, and their friends from the Akaroa trip as well as another friend (Bret, from Hamilton) were in Kaikoura too. So it wasn't a difficult decision to make.

All that was missing was a helmet for Gitti. I don't own one (why should I?), so I started to send out text messages at 10pm to about everyone I knew. The answers were all the same: No, sorry, no helmet. I think Holger was a bit shocked by this lack of bikers in my life. Then one text came through: Angi (a PhD student) left one at the office. So I sent her a text, and the next day (just an hour before departure) I got an answer and had a helmet. That was a really old one like the guy in Worlds fastest Indian wears, or like an old police helmet. Ridiculous!! But better than nothing.

Then I had to endure all the comments about having more luggage for a weekend than the two of them for a 2 year trip (I only had 2 little plastic bags with T-shirts, Socks, towel etc, sleeping pad and sleeping bag. But I had put everything in a pretty big bag because the zipper of my medium size one is broken). The amount of luggage they can transport on their bikes is really unbelievable. For this weekend trip they left a lot of it at my place, but still there are tents, a camping table and chairs, tools, spare parts, food, stove, crockery, coffee plunger, travel guides and maps, clothes, shoes, torches, laptop, all the tHings you need.I think they took some advice from Harry Potter for their bags: they must be more spacious on the inside than on the outside! If you want, have a look at their homepage:



It's worth it!

And then we hit the road, and I was on my first motorcycle trip ever. The first scheduled stop was after only 20 km. There is a nice caf, and they have great ice cream.!

Kaikoura is about 2 hours north of CHCH. When we finally arrived, my whole face hurt. That wasn't due to falling or from fear, no, it was because I was grinning all the time and first had to massage that off my face again! So much fun! And that was just sitting behind someone else!

I probably have to get a motorcycle license now. Its relatively cheap to get it in New Zealand, and not too complicated. Well see.

The three of us and Bret checked in at a camping ground in Kaikoura top! They have a heated pool, 2 spas (no charge), Sky TV, a really nice kitchen, everything was very clean and they are located only a few minutes away from both downtown and the beach. It only cost us NZ$ 22 per night and tent. No reason to complain whatsoever!

In the evening we went downtown and started to celebrate Holgers birthday, even if that was still 12 hours away, German time. But who cares? A good reason to celebrate.

Bret had to leave early the next morning to catch the ferry back to the North Island, and so it was again just the three of us on Saturday exploring Kaikoura. Kaikoura is famous for whale watching, and thats an activity that shouldn't be missed. But when we got to the company organizing the tours, they had put up a sign saying High seas. Good chance for sea sickness. And if you remember what I told you about my whale watching experience last year that's no fun! So we decided against it. I showed Anja and Holger one of the local seal colonies, and then we went to a really nice Irish pub, where we would probably have ended up for the rest of the day, if it hadn't been so far out of town that we couldn't get back (when pissed). We then went to the other end of town, did some shopping, hung out at the pool, and in the evening we went to the beach for a picnic. Anja had secretly bought a cake and even candles, we had wine and sandwiches, a great sunset there are worse places on this planet to celebrate a birthday at! The only thing that was missing were the dolphins swimming up and down directly at the beach

Only in the next morning did I realize that there was a catch: the sandflies had had a go at me. I got heaps of bites particularly on my hands, elbows and feet. They even targeted THE SOLES OF MY FEET!!! Nasty little buggers! Anja and Holger had no bites at all! Thanks a lot!!

And then it was already Sunday and we had to get back to CHCH. Getting back was a mixture of Why hurry, we don't have a deadline to meet and why take a break? It ruins the average speed, and you have to pass all the trucks again. But at least there was time for some ice cream.

Tuesday morning Anja and Holger hit the road for the West coast. They have another couple of weeks before they continue their journey in Australia. I would have loved to have them around for longer, we really hit it off.

But eventually travelers have to get on their way again after a break. Also, I would not get into any of my pants, had this beer and icecream binge continued. I guess it will be Water and lettuce for me in the coming weeks!

I got a bad case of wanderlust watching them leave. Its really weird to say goodbye and say that if you are back home in 2 years, I'll be in Germany that summer too, and then we'll meet. That's not too much time. Time is relative if you travel. And what a journey that is!

You know I did a fair bit of travelling myself, particularly during the last 2-3 years, but I can hardly comprehend the kind of impressions you get when you travel so far and for so long (and in a way that puts you in contact with so many people).

Today you only get 2 pics, and I'll attach them directly to the mail and not via gmx as usual, because I'm still waiting for Anjas pictures and have only a few myself. The album will follow as soon as I have them.

Have a fantastic 2008 and a really good time,