Monday evening, Jan 18, 2016 to Wednesday Jan 20, 2016 (NZ time).
Before we had left San Francisco, I bought $200 NZ dollars for $159 US dollars.
The flight from San Francisco to New Zealand was relatively uneventful, but a very long 13 hours. Our time on the plane was mostly spent in futile attempts to sleep. We woke up occasionally for a meal or from the sudden drop of the airplane.
We arrived in Aukland, New Zealand at 5:45 am on Wednesday, January 20th ( 8:45 am Tuesday in San Francisco ). After ” de-planing “, we were herded through customs and then we had to clear Bio-Security. That was another unique experience.
New Zealand is very restrictive of what is being imported especially any foods or soil. We were warned about the fruits and we were told that they might ” wash the soil ” off of our shoes, but we didn’t realize how many things they check. We declared our tents, which was one of the items in the entrance slips, so we were sent to a ” special ” line for bio-security checks. When we finally got to the point of inspection, they had us clean our boots ( because we had been hiking in San Francisco ) by walking on a mat soaked with disinfectant, and then they inspected our tents. Mine tent was OK, but they had to do further tests/cleaning on Cheryl’s tent so we had to wait an extra 20 minutes for that to be completed. When we finally go our clearance, we had to make a mad dash outside to the the domestic terminal because it was 10 minutes away at a fast pace.
We dragged our luggage to the baggage drop and rushed to the security check. As we cleared the security check, I could hear the boarding call for our plane. We made it just in time to get in line for boarding.
We had a short uneventful flight to Christchurch where we arrived shortly after 9 am on Wednesday morning ( NZ time ). While I was waiting for my luggage, I realized I had left my Tilley hat on the plane in Auckland, so I proceeded to the Baggage claim counter and notified them in an attempt to get it back. They needed a contact number for me and they didn’t want to use my Canadian cell phone number so they directed me to the phone carriers in the terminal. Since I had planned on getting a package with a local supplier, I went to the kiosks and selected the “ Spark “ cell service provider. I was able to get a SIM card for my phone with 3GB of data, 200 minutes and 200 local texts, as well as 200 minutes and 100 texts internationally, costing $49 NZ ( approximately $39 US ) for 1 month and it was active as soon as she put the SIM card in the phone. I returned to the the baggage claim counter and gave them my new number and then contacted the camper van rental company to have them pick us up.
The temperature in Christchurch was warm ( 27 C, high 80 F) and the sky was slightly overcast.
After we arrived at the ” Lucky ” rental agency, completed the paperwork, checked out the van and determined where we wanted to go, we were on our way. Once we had the van, the fun started. As it turns out, driving on the left-hand side of the road wasn’t as much of a challenge for me as I thought. Using the turn signals instead of the wipers, was more of a challenge, but we ended up having a very clean windshield after a couple of hours.
On our way to our first campsite, we noticed a AA and pulled in to get some maps. As I had been told in Canada, AA recognizes CAA and will extend their benefits to CAA members. They gave me an AA member card and I was able to get any local maps for free. We picked up all of the ones we thought we would need and then we decided to go to a nice restaurant for lunch before we went to the campsite.
We went to a wonderful cafe recommended by the AA representative that helped us, where we met a couple with their 3 children. They owned a hotel and had slipped out for lunch. It was interesting, to hear their opinions about several local and world issues, including Donald Trump! It was also interesting to hear that they had very similar opinions about politicians!
When we finally reached our campsite, we set up the camper and the tent, before heading out to a nearby grocery store called Countdown to get some basic food supplies.
Upon returning to the campsite, we met one of the neighbours called Jody and her two young children, Ethan and Maddie. Jody grew up in the North Island but had moved to the South Island in New Zealand a few years ago and she had come to the campsite for a short vacation with her children before they went back to school.
For supper we went to try a very highly-rated restaurant in New Zealand called Pedro’s House of Lamb. Unfortunately the restaurant had been destroyed by the earthquake in February of 2011. The good news is that the owner had purchased a trailer and was now selling his famous lamb dinners from a shiny new trailer.
The dinners were neatly packed and consisted of a large leg of lamb and potato slices with gravy. We bought one of his dinners and went to a nearby park that he had recommended to eat it.
Apparently the park was being used for a famous Busker’s festival. I parked the van on the grass in the park under the direction of the parking attendants, and we ate our dinner in the van before checking out the festival.
We only stayed at the festival for a short while before driving downtown to see some of the damage caused by the earthquake of 2011. The damage was extensive and many of the buildings were still abandoned, however, several of the them were in the process of being rebuilt.
There was damage to their historic cathedral which was built in the 1800’s, but I was impressed at how much of the building was still intact. This building has been a focal point for Christchurch and hopefully they will be able to restore it.
The buildings on regent street.which is near the cathedral, have already been restored and the shops in this area appear to be doing well.
By the time we left downtown Christchurch to go back to the campsite, it was already almost 8 pm, It started to get dark just after 9 pm and with all the events of the day, we decided went to bed before we had competed our journals.
Tomorrow should be not be as hectic.
Aukland is 18 hours ahead of Toronto and we have 15 hours of daylight. Sunrise is at ~6:15 am and Sunset is at ~9:15 pm which allows us a lot of time to do things.