Monday, 19 March 2012

On the road again.

Picture this: Kevin's interview is at 3:30PM, he's showered and shaved (well, not entirely--yes, Stephen, apparently you can get a job in New Zealand with a beard; in fact, they're everywhere!), and we pull up to a roadside parking spot in the middle of the CBD. The only thing left to do is change into 'business' attire. Since you can't exactly stand up in the van, and it's kind of cramped, we figured what's the harm in changing in a 24-hour public bathroom downtown. In he went with shorts, a tankini, and canvas shoes, looking like a regular beach bum hippy. And, in a matter of minutes, out came a well-groomed, fully-suited, hair-gelled, belted and tied business professional! I wished him good luck, plopped myself in the closet Starbucks with wifi access, and waited him out.

The interview went well, and all we could do now was wait. We spent the rest of the week in Wellington searching for a flat to rent, which is a difficult endeavour when free internet is only accessible in McDonalds. We also decided that we were spending too much money on staying in a campground ($20 a night that we could be spending on better things, i.e. wine), so we started camping out on top of the Mount Victoria lookout, which oversees the entire city. This also meant that we were giving up our amenities (toilets, showers, water), so we started poaching that off of McDonalds as well.

The view from the top of Mt Vic.

We met up with Mara and her partner Ali (thank you Kayla!), who host a weekly acoustic night at the Southern Cross Bar. They were both so lovely and really helped us get acquainted with Wellington. The summer weather came out, despite the intense winds (they don't call it Windy Welly for nothing), and we were able catch some rays at Oriental Bay between flat viewings before making our way down south. This time, we applied enough sunscreen!

 Oriental Bay.
Kevin getting his swim on.

So Friday rolls around and we have secured both a flat and a job (well, Kevin has), and Tuesday is both our move-in day as well as when Kevin has to go in for his orientation. We booked a spot on the Bluebridge Ferry to the South Island, extended our caravan rental until Monday for drop-off in Christchurch, and arranged for one-way flights back to Wellington. Mara and Ali were kind enough to let us drop off most of our luggage at their flat so that we didn't have to travel back with so much stuff. Once again I stress that travelling is WAY easier than travel-moving!

So we drove onto the ferry Saturday afternoon and clearly lucked out weather-wise. It was a perfect blue-bird day! The 3.5 hour ferry ride was accompanied with the most spectacular views, especially when we entered the Malborough Sounds in the last part of the expedition. The following pictures are all from the ferry:

From Picton, instead of going straight down to Christchurch, we decided to take a detour over to Nelson to meet up with more friends of friends. We drove through Malborough, which is another vast wine region. We probably drove through 50 km of grapevines! We had heard such great things about Nelson, but unfortunately only spent one evening there, camped in the driveway of Phil and Vanessa's new place (thanks to Sean for the intro!). The view from their deck was unbelievable! I'm kicking myself now for not taking any pictures while there. Instead, we spent the evening outside drinking local wine and beer, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes.

The next morning, the weather was cloudy and grey, so we hit the road again, en route to Christchurch. No pictures were taken on this stretch, as the wind and rain prevented us from even opening the windows. We drove right along the east coast of the South Island, which was pretty incredible. We even saw some sea otters on the rocks! We also played russian roulette with our gas tank, driving over 40 km with the gas light on... Stupid GPS telling us there was a gas station, where clearly no gas station had existed for quite some time!

But alas, we made it to Christchurch by late afternoon on Sunday. Since our Lonely Planet guide was printed in late-2010, the information was obviously outdated. What we came across instead of a vibrant British-influenced city was essentially the remnants of a ghost town. We were coming up to the 1-year anniversary of the February 22 earthquake and the entire CBD continued to be fenced off, guarded by military. The streets were scattered with office furniture, bricks, glass, and other debris. Windows were smashed in, inventory laid dormant inside the stores. It was so eerie. The fact that it was Sunday afternoon with grey cloudy skies definitely added to the ambience.

The light grey is evidence of the restoration of all of the cracks in the building.

This building is literally being held up by cargo containers.

You can see the huge cracks in the wall of this church.

We spent the night on what we thought was a quiet street, only to find out at 7:30AM that we were parked right beside a school. We awoke to giggling, chattering, and a few screeches here and there. We reluctantly returned the caravan to the rental shop (goodbye home!) and caught a shuttle to the airport. It was discovered that Kiwis are in no way at all worried about domestic travelers... We walked through the security section of the airport a grand total of 3 times without so much as a glance! Makes you realize how big of a deal we North Americans make of something that may not really be such a big deal.

I wanted to leave you with a more light-hearted photo I took inside a mall in Christchurch where, once again, we were poaching wifi. This may not make sense to anyone but my brother and sister, and probably my two cousins who live next door to my grandmother... If I could've fit, I would've. No questions!

It's Postman Pat! And his black and white cat!

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