Christchurch, New Zealand (3rd Mar 2008)
We had been looking forward to and dreading this day in equal measure; looking forward because it meant a new country and a new adventure, but dreading it because it meant one of our longest days yet travelling wise. The day began with the first flight there was out of cairns at 6.00, which for us meant a taxi to the airport at 4.45am, and although our connecting flight wasn't leaving Brisbane until 4.30pm, the flight we had got was half the price of the later ones so with money being at a premium, as always, we had to make the compromise and go super early and wait around for 8 hours in Brisbane airport.
At the airport we bumped into another young couple who had been on our diving trip and we chatted for a while with them until we boarded the plane, which worked out to be just enough time to spend with them as they were a little bit weird and the skinny little guy seemed to be his dominating girlfriends lap dog and was only allowed to speak with her say so.
The flight to Brisbane was an easy one, as for most of the way we both managed to get back to sleep and we arrived only 10minutes behind schedule; one good thing about our day travelling was that we would be losing hours the further we flew south, and as it is on daylight saving time in NZ, as soon as we left Australia we could change our watches three hours forward, making our 10.30pm landing seem just a little bit closer. We collected our bags and somehow managed to get through the eight hours we had with relative ease, browsing the small duty free several times (with no money to buy anything) and reading magazines in the overpriced newsagents (without actually buying them).
On our third time of trying, we were allowed to check our bags in, but this wasn't even a simple matter. Firstly, we were meant to be flying with Qantas, but had been palmed off onto their low cost airline Jet Star which we weren't too happy about, follow by what can only be described as a nightmare situation where the lady on the desk proceeded to tell us we weren't booked onto this flight. After several phone calls and talking to all manner of supervisors she came back and told us in not the most pleasant manner that we were lucky and she had managed to get us onto the flight, like we should be grateful, it's not like the tickets have been booked for over 6 months or anything... The snotty check in lady then took some extremely long looks at our passports, and did a very long examination of Mark's face to confirm it was him on the passport photo before telling us to "have a nice flight". b****.
We arrived into Christchurch late at night after one of the most horrendous flights we have ever had the displeasure of experiencing. As mentioned our flight from Brisbane to Christchurch had been changed from a Qantas flight to a Jet Star flight which meant all food and drink had to be paid for and that in-flight entertainment had to be bought for $10 if you wanted it. We were just about to get ourselves a drink when they announced that they would only be accepting Australian and New Zealand dollars as payment and you guessed it, we only had credit card so we spent the 3 and a half hour flight with no food and no drink! Our only relief was knowing that Emily, our friend from our India tour, would be waiting for us at the arrival gate. We cleared customs and collected our bags in no time, but not before at least a further 3 x-rays of our bags and being slobbered on by a sniffer dog, but pretty soon we were in Emily's car on our way to her house for a much needed comfortable night's sleep.Emily only lived a short ride away from the town centre and with us not wanting to be rude and go straight to bed (which we wanted to do desperately) we sat down with Emily and chatted while she made us cheese on toast and got us a diet coke each, oh the simple things that please us after a day of travel!
We couldn't quite work our if she was living in a house share or if it was self contained flats, one on each floor, but that really didn't matter since there was a spare room, full of junk, but at least it had a mattress on the floor, a roof above us and some quilts, all we would need for the night. Coming straight from the tropical 30C nights of Cairns to 4C nights of Christchurch was a bit of a shock as for the last few weeks we have been sleeping with only a sheet or nothing on the bed, but now we were back to a big thick duvet and a fleecy blanket, and we still felt the cold. The next morning we woke up early as Emily had work so we were getting dropped off in town on her way to we could have a look around and do the 'tourist thing'.
Driving into Christchurch town centre is very similar to driving down Hessle Road in Hull and not for the first time on this trip, it wasn't at all what we imagined it might be; there are lots of independently run and owned shops in varying degrees of repair with the odd one having what must surely be a homemade sign hanging above the door. The main sight can be seen by heading to Cathedral Square where we saw the old style trams running down the high street and the Christchurch cathedral which according to the plaque outside is "a fine example of English Victorian Gothic church architecture and is the most visited church in a country". Other than these and a few other small things we saw, like an old water wheel, a load of statues and the national security building (we think)there was little else that we could get to and as soon the weather turned on us we took refuge in an internet cafe to try and sort out our student loan repayments.
Since today was the day we were going to pick up our campervan, Emily finished work early and came to get us from town so we could finally go and pick up it from Wicked Travel and get ready to hit the road. We were so excited about getting the van and the closer we got to their offices the more we couldn't wait to see what van we had got; our hearts sunk where we saw the vehicle they were giving us. As some of you may or may not know all 'Wicked' campervans have some kind of paint job on them, whether it is cartoon or music themed etc, only on ours they had played around with the 'Herbie' car theme and instead called it 'Herpies!' Needless to say we weren't very impressed and when we saw the state of it we could have just cried, there were dints everywhere, no air conditioning, a plastic bit off the back completely missing. At this point Kara pulled out our confirmation letter and realised they were trying to fob us off with a cheaper model than the one we had paid for, the ultra model!
After some grumbles and mumbled apologies from the girl who knew she'd been caught out, we got the car we wanted, our very own 'Wrong Baby' complete with air conditioning, power steering, cd player, a moon roof and as we later found out, electronic wing mirrors, we couldn't stop smiling. To our surprise it was an automatic which we weren't expecting to like all that much but we wouldn't be without it now. We quickly stopped and filled her up with petrol as they have a pick up and drop off empty policy at Wicked before making our maiden voyage back to Emily's. We couldn't wait to have a proper look inside so as soon as we got out of the front we climbed in the back which we figured out functioned as a dining area, a sleeping area and a storage area. In the boot space we found a little mini kitchen, well when we say kitchen we mean a sink with a pump tap, a gas burner, fold out chairs and a table and a limited variety of cooking implements. Still it was our van and would be our home for the next three weeks and we loved it. The evening was spent planning our travels for the next three weeks before tucking in to a nice homemade chilly for tea. With the help of many maps that we spread across the floor, and of course Emily's local knowledge we managed to come up a real good itinerary that hopefully we will be able to stick to.
Again we were up early in the morning as we needed to go to the shops to stock up on supplies for the trip. Emily gave us directions to the shopping centre before leaving for work and then we were on the road. We had both woken up with a stinking cold and as it was colder then we had expected it to be in New Zealand we picked up some medicine and a few warmer items of clothing, along with the food of course and by 11am we were stocked up and heading west across the country.