Week One in New Zealand: Traveling more than half way around the world
I’m not sure what I was thinking when I booked my ticket to New Zealand. JFK to Dubai, Dubai to Bangkok, overnight stay in Bangkok, Bangkok to Sydney, Syndey to Christchurch. Oh wait, I remember, cheap. It was more than $500 less than all the other tickets I saw. $500 is not a small amount, but when it means you are traveling for 4+ days, someone the money seems less important.
With that kind of travel you loose all sense of time and place. You take off on and it’s sunrise, you land and it’s sunrise. The airplane serves you two breakfasts in a row, while the clock on your phone tells you it’s 2:30 am because the lack of wifi means your phone thinks it is still back on the east coast. I still have no idea how long it actually took me to get from New York to New Zealand, and I’m thinking it’s better that way. I don’t want to think about doing that trek again for as long as possible.
I arrived in Christchurch the evening of New Years Eve and spent New Years day exploring the city. Christchurch has the bones of a great small city, but recovery from earthquakes that rattled the area in 2010 and 2011 is going slowly. There are still some 600 buildings qued up for demolition before rebuilding can start. The need to rebuild quickly but cheaply has inspired some cool innovations in the city, my favorite that I saw in my day of wondering is the re-start markets. A shopping center built entirely from shipping containers. I’ve read so much about shipping container building, I was excited to see first hand for the first time. It works well and has a an interesting funky, urban vibe to it.
But New Years day wouldn’t be complete to me without getting onto trail. I took a gondola trip to a hilltop overlooking the city, with beautiful 360 views of the ocean, a glacier lake and the Southern Alps in the distance. The hike was short, but the views where fantastic and foreshadowing of the epic things to come in the near future.
Day three was another travel day, a 5-hour bus ride from Christchurch to Dunedin, my home for the next 6 weeks. We hugged the coast line the entire ride down, with view of turquoise blue ocean out the left hand window, pasture land full of sheep on both sides of the road and the Southern Alps looming out the right hand window for the entire 5 hour drive.
In Dunedin, Maria and I are staying in a lovely hostel called the Kiwi’s Nest. It could not be in a better location, just a 5 minute walk to class and a 5 minute walk to all the shops, restaurants and bars. A hostel is pretty much the same thing as a dorm, and it makes me laugh to be living in a dorm again at 31. I’m definitely getting too old for this. And what dorm wouldn’t be complete with a dorm mom? At the Kiwi’s Next, we have Wendy. She is a fantastic host. Caring, considerate, helpful and you can tell how much she enjoys what she does. Wendy is a big reason why our stay at the Kiwi’s Nest is going to be a good one.
I spent my first day in Dunedin exploring the whole city. Dunedin reminds me a lot of Chapel Hill for it’s college town feel. There is a fantastic botanical garden just a mile up the street that I spent hours wandering through. There are so many amazing new birds here, many of which have such fantastic calls. I spent half the day staring up into the trees trying to find the birds making such cool calls. The other half of the day I spent contemplating how plants like oak trees and rhodi’s could live in the same climate as redwoods, jasmine and palm trees.
Maria, my partner in crime/exploration and one of my favorite people ever, arrived of Sunday. So excited to have her here, now the real exploring can begin. We had class Monday and Tuesday, as well as a bunch of errands to run to get settled in but now that we have taken care of most of the details, we are heading out to see what NZ has to offer. First stop, a train ride to an inland gorge this afternoon and driving and hiking around the Otago Peninsula on Friday in search of penguins. Next week we head off on our first overnight backpacking trip.
On a final note, Happy New Year! May your year be full of adventure, laughter, friendship, and love.
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