20.10.11 - 22.10.11 Last day in SE Asia before leg 2 of the adventure, New Zealand - Christchurch
First and foremost, today is Danny's 30th Birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY bro!!! I love you heaps and i'm sorry i'm not there with you celebrating such a momentous birthday! I hope you have a great day today and an even better day on Saturday celebrating!!! I'm thinking of you loads and will be on Saturday too. Love you xx
So today is my last day in SE Asia before the next leg of this 'long holiday' begins. I'm sat around the pool at the airport hotel I booked into online 2 days ago, listening to the jaccuzzi jets in the pool and the constant flow of aeroplanes leaving and departingg Bangkoks main airport. Cheap as chips costing £15 for an overnight, breakfast included and airport transfer to the airport for when I have to leave a little later on today. My flight departs at 5.15 pm where I fly indirect to NZ, via Sydney.
The footnote of this blog said I probably wasn't going to talk about how I was feeling in this blog. BUT 3 weeks and 2 days in and I think it's time.
The past few weeks have been a whole whirlwind of emotions. Ups and downs and nothing better way to describe than a rollercoaster really, but nothing which I didn't actually expect to be fair. Maybe because it's Danny's birthday today, but today isn't a great day. I should be excited about flying to NZ (which only a small part of me is) but more than anything I'm feeling a little homesick. SE Asia has been great and apart from missing out the one thing I said i'd hoped to do and that was learn to dive (just not having enough time in the end) i've seen and done EVERYTHING that I set out to do. Naturally that brings a massive sense of acheivement and fullfillment and of course i'm proud of myself that i've actually done it.
There is of course the fact that I've never been away from home for so long - and although it's actually in the grand scheme of things just 23 days - 23 days for me is a long time, especially being by myself. And with the added fact that I have another 8 weeks to go flying further away from the UK to the other side of the world where I couldn't be further from home I'm feeling a little sick. Couple that with the fact that this hotel said there was free wifi and actually there isn't (ANNOYING) so I can't communicate with people from home i'm just feeling a little sad today. Actually the best way to describe it, is how i felt the day I left London. I'm sure once I start to mentally prepare myself for stage 2 I'll be just fine.... i guess the whole nervousness of jumping on another plane and arriving in a country where once again I don't know where i'm going it's a little daunting. Fear of the unknown again.
Grr - Raz you've got this far, pull yourself together woman!!! Grow some!
After I gave myself a talking to this morning, this is the remainder of todays blog.
So once i arrived at the airport i headed straight for the post office in order to get the few gifts i'd bought in Asia sent back home. Thats two of the main crimbo presents that im buying sorted anyway - best of luck that they actually arrive home. On a ship container they'll go and 4 weeks it'll take.... christ!!!
So anways, I checked in, headed through passport control and headed straight for the telephones to call Danny to wish him a happy birthday. At first he didnt answer (because he was driving to Thorpe Park, I later found out) so I left quite an emotional birthday message for him, gutted that he wasn't there to speak to, caught my breath then called Scott since we hadn't spoken for four days. As I was rambling on, doing my best to be strong although i think the emotiion in my voice was exceptionally easy to detect, Scott asked the dreaded question of how was I feeling. I couldn't hide it anymore and obvioulsy told him the truth, but the good thing is, he always does such a good job in cheering me up. To be honest something so massive was telling me NOT to get on that plane today. I don't know what it was, but something just didn't feel right. I think I was also worrying about the fact that the rent hadn't been paid into my bank when i checked it last, but after explaining my concerns to Scott, he told me that thankfully, Leah, Dan and mum had it all in hand. Turns out that my tenant just upped and he left the house. Thank god they'd paid their deposit at the beginning of the contract because this is what the managing agency have taken to pay the final rent, my mortgage! I'm really annoyed actually because they signed a contract saying they had to give 2 months notice and they shouldn't be able to just up and leave. Fingers crossed a new tenant is found soon otherwise i'm coming home a month early since I can't afford to do both - travel and pay a mortgage!
Realising that the time on the phone card i'd bought was nearly up, I tried again to call Danny, and this time he answered. It was so good to speak with him. i felt bad enought that actually I wasn't there for his 30th, and when he didnt answer earliier I felt even worse. At least I got to speak with him.
Shortly after catching up with Dan and wishing him a very happy 30th birthday I put the receiver down and headed for the departure gate. Im not sure what the cause was, but as I sat there waiting for the plane to start boarding, I got a really bad belly ache. The cramps in my belly were awful. i rushed to the toilet and sat there for over 20 minutes. I was in agony. The reason i'm blogging about such a topic is because in all my travels previously, whether it be cruises or holidays i've NEVER travelled on an aeroplane with and upset tummy. And Boy I really don't plan on ever doing that again either. I had a mid row seat on the plane and unforutnatley I think I must have been up and down from the toilet at least 10 times during the flight. I was in all in sorts of trouble. The poor fella next to me who had to keep letting me out must have hated me. Although I felt bad, I really didn't have the strength to properly care too much for I was just concentrating on reaching the toilet every time on time. i wasn't able to eat a single thing, and actually I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast that morning either so i've no idea why it came on so suddenly. After a while I felt so sorry for myself that I literately just got into a ball and desperately tried to sleep it off. I finally stopped going to toilet, im sure much to my surrounding passengers satisifcation too and had to just ride out the pain that I was in. It felt like the longest 9 hours of my flight on that journey from Bangkok to Sydney. I couldn't wait to get off, yet all the while knowing that I had to rush through the connecting passengers terminal on yet another flight from Sydney Australia to Christchurch New Zealand which would take me another 3 hours. I just couldn't wait to arrive at my final destination, get my pj's on and curl up in a ball in bed.
After popping to the toilet one last time before getting my connecting flight to New Zealand I had started to feel just a little better, and also in the know that i was on the last leg of getting to New Zealand, effectively all the way from the southern Coast of Cambodia. As you can imagine I was cream crackered. Had it of not been for the fact that I had a bad belly on the flight I would have really enjoyed the journey. Yes it was a long slog, but thats all part and parcel of the travelling aspect - getting from one destination to another. It's exhilarating if not slightly nerve racking too - but all the same all part of the adventure!
The highlight of the entire journey were two things. One was watching the sun rise at Sydney airport as we came into land and also as I was waiting to board the plane for New Zealand. The second, and the most important was as we took off from Sydney airport, we flew right over the city so I was able to see both The Sydney Opera House and of course Sydney Harbour Bridge from an aeriel perspective. It was magnificent and so cool to see. I couldn't believe my luck!! With a window seat on this plane and my camera at the ready I have some fab photographs. This was a view which I wasn't actaully expecting to see so the fact that I was lucky enough to do so, more than made up for the fact that I was feeling slightly ill. Once again a smile was put on my face and whats more in 4 weeks time I was going to myself, get up close and personal with both of those landmarks ;-)
Arriving into the airport at new Zealand was funny for it reminded me exactly of the programme that you see on the TV shows. Waiting at the carousel for our luggage all of our hand luggage including our handbags had to be placed on the floor while a little drug tester dog went around all our things sniffing each and everyone of us out. The secong thing which made me laugh was because I have walking shoes and went hiking in both Thailand and Cambodia, I had to declare my walking shoes. Yep... declare them. I had to hand them over once I collected my luggage for them to be inspected. My god I felt like a criminal for just owning some walking shoes (although to be fair if the fashion police were wondering around, they'd definitely arrest me if they saw me wearing them!) LOL. After they were inspected, they had to be taken away and cleaned because there was still some remaining soil on the bottoms of them where I hadn't quite cleaned them properly. How strange! Me being me, I ended up talking with the guard who initially inspected them and we talked about the camera crew always being there, and apparently they have started to film for a third season too. i was quite gutted I wouldn't be the star of their show for having mudddy shoes, damn!! LOL
So after my things went through the final screening process I headed out onto the main concource to arrange for the free airport transfer that the hostel i'm staying at organises. The first I noticed after walking out was how bloody cold it was!! Seriously!!! 12 degrees from 35!!! This was not a good starting point, I was and I am still SO cold!!! That was a shock to the system, I can tell you.
Onboard the shuttle was the tiniest little Russian lady i've ever seen who name was Ksania. She too was 27 and we got chatting immediately. We arrived at the hostel in no time and actally it turned out that she was booked into my dorm room (4 people) too. We ended up spending the day together walking around Christchurch City Centre, although because of the Earthquake in February this year, the entire city is still shut off. Surrounded by metal railings and no entry signs everywhere the city is like a ghost town. No trams run along the tram lines, no diners in the restaurants or the cafes, no people drinking in the pubs which line the canal going though the centre and the creepiest of them all was the landmark of the main centre of town, being the Cathedral has no spire. It is on the floor in pieces sitting around the Cathedral. Of all the guidebooks I've read and one of the cool things to do in christchurch is to climb the spire of the Cathedral to see the views of the CBD. But of course with it's remains on the floor this isn't possible. I've not seen many scary movies but I can only describe the city centre as a scene from a film like 'I am Legend' before all the zombies come out at night. It was actually really creepy yet quite calming at the same time. Definately something that I wanted to see too. Being the geek that I am and the job that i've done for the past 9 years i've never had the opportunity of seeing the aftermath of mothernature, whether it be flash flooding, hurricanes, or in this case an earthquake. Getting to see why so many individual claims come in on specific disasters which we as insurers and reinsurers have pay out. This was definitely something that i wanted to see. (I know, i'm sad!)
Christchurch to look at reminds me massively of England. They even drive on the same side of the road to us too. AND... the climate matches ours also for shortly after walking around the city centre it started to p*ss down. With flip flops on, my thin gypsey travelling trousers and just my A&F hoody to keep me warm, we trundled back to the hostel so as I could change into my jeans. I've realised after being here for just one day that i'm definitely going to have to buy some more warm clothes. I can't get by day and night in NZ with just one pair of jeans and one hoody - it's just not possible.
Tonight was the Australia v's Wales Rugby game. The hostel has a TV room where pretty much everyone from here made their dinner beforehand and were all going to watch the game together. So that's exactly what I did with Ksania too. I still had a bad belly (i skipped lunch but ate a small pastry thing for dinner) and bobs your uncle once again I was sat on the toilet again. I've definitely caught a bug from Asia for my belly is massively bloated yet ive eaten hardly anything for 24 hours.
With so much travelling under my belt in getting here for the past 2 days, after the game I was beat so headed to bed. Throughout the night once again i was in all sorts of trouble. Waking up this morning wasn't too great either. I didn't know what to do with myself. Eating breakfast of just two slices of toast and a cup of tea took me an hour. I felt sick and felt like I needed the toilet at any second. I didn't know whether to get back into bed or what. I felt awful... like go and see a doctor awful.
Rather than heading to bed I spoke with the lovely reception staff here (mainly to tell them that I was ill really so as someone else knew.... Ksania went off early this morning on her trip). They kindly gave me directions to the closest pharmacy and as it wasn't too far, off I trotted (no punn intended btw! ha). I figured the fresh air and a little walk might help too. Thankfully, that it did. i purchased some rehydration sachets from the pharmacy ($22 mind you!) and took a very slow walk back. Since taking just one, i've not been to the toilet and I actually feel half human again. Fingers crossed when I get on board the bus tomorrow I'll be feeling ok again :-)
As I started to feel normal again I decided that I wanted to do the $30 four hour day tour that the hostel was offering. Since the city centre is entirely closed I figured all the things i'd chosen to do in Christchurch from the Lonely Planet guide I was unable to do so instead I wanted to do this. The tour took us to many of the surrounding things in Christchurch and Canterbury including much to my amazement the following beaches, Brighton and Scarborough (told you it's very English here) then onto to a little port town called Lyttleton which they say is where the first Maui people settled in the country. This port town although small is a massive exporting port to the rest of the world. They main exportation being tree trunks for wood distributed worldwide.
This was first my first glimpse of the NZ landscape that i'd waited so long to see. I honestly was lost for words. Absolutely beautiful, like nothing i've seen before! I was completely blown away! Of all the photos i've taken on this trip so far, these are actually my favourites so far. My god. You see NZ on the TV, in films, in books and always I've thought how beautiful it looks, hence i came here. Until you're actually here though, standing on that mountain edge looking out to pure mother nature's beauty. Nothing man made, little concrete spoiling the views... just pure landscape. I was in awe and after being here for just 2 days my immediate thought is 'I could live here'.
Part of the trip today the tour guide showed us all of the devastation from the Earthquake which affected area's outside of the CBD. Most houses with tin roof's weren't affected, but those with slate and tile, the roof's were practically gone! Families have had to leave thier home to not return taking nothing with them but their photos and prize possessions. Most of the furniture had to remain. The Earthquake which struck in February, was the second after the original one in September 2010. February's earthquake finished off what was started in September. There was then another which followed in June, and actually i'm told a fourth which occured just two weeks ago, October. Anything above 5 on the rictor scale is classified as a new event. Although there have been 4, the largest and most devasting of them all was February's. Alan, our guide told us that where he was on that day he felt like a giant had picked up his house, shaken it as hard as it could for 25 seconds, then thrown it back down. He told us it was like nothing he'd ever experienced before. Scary thought really. The quake occured at 12.55pm on a weekday. 181 people died in total, most of which from the CBD whilst they were at work. Those that were at work had to return to their homes and find out the devastation which awaited them in the suburbs of the city.
Like the CBD, some of the areas in the suburbs we were shown today still remain out of area zones, where entry is purely forbidden since it is still classified as unsafe. Temporary homes have been set up in the local parks for the families who cannot return to their homes until something more permanent is arranged for them. It was quite surreal to see really, especially when you had two houses side by side, one which had no roof, cracks up the walls, walls fallen down, and subsidence all affecting it, with the one next door with minimal effects. So so strange how these things effect us.
Alan was really informative and showed us some great sights today. i met Susanne & Phil who are Welsh. Phil has been in NZ since the Rugby World Cup started in August, with Suzanne joining him just a week ago. Lucas was a Spanish lone traveller from Valencia who is in NZ for 10 days and the other young girl we met was called Tyla who is an exchange student in Australia where she has been studying for the past year. She is originally from North Carolina, USA and will return after her holiday to NZ where she'll be for 2 weeks. They were a lovely group and we all had a great afternoon with one another. :-)
Alan bless him said he'd drop me off at the mall after taking the others back to the hostel so as I didn't have to get the bus both ways. in order to go shopping for my warmer clothes. Although the weather today was a load better than previous in that there were blue skies and it hadn't rained. I was still cold and I definately needed some more warm clothes. Thankfully I managed to get another hoodie, a long sleeved top as i'd forgotten to pack any, some joggers and a knitted scarf. Everything is SO expensive here that I could really have done without spending this money today BUT I'm not going to enjoy it if i'm cold for a whole month. Not least I definitely DO NOT want to get ill again!