Ok so my scheduled flight to NZ was on the 18th at 7.20 am, which meant I had to get to the airport for 5.20, and so aim to leave the hostel by 4.45. Another girl, Gwen, had an internal flight up to Cairns at 7am so we planned to share a taxi together first thing. HOWEVER, for some stupid reason we thought it would be a good idea to go for a couple of drinks seeing as it was our last night in Sydney... biiiig mistake. It somehow turned into a full on night out until it got to the point where we decided it would be better to just stay awake until we needed to leave rather than bother going to sleep for a few hours. We came back and ended up with a few others having drinks at the hostel - at this point it was 3am and in our hazy state we thought it would be a brilliant idea to sleep for an hour. Just one. What?!!
Next thing I know I wake up and light was coming through the window. Sunshine does not equal 4am. I grabbed my phone and it was 9am!!!!!! I double check and the alarm I set had gone off but the stupid phone was on silent. Brilliant. I threw a flipflop across the room at Gwen and shouted her to wake up. I yelled "we've missed our flights!" and she responds with "YESS I made it home last night" !! The situation wasn't funny at all but I couldn't help but laugh at her reply. We dragged ourselves out of bed, feeling like absolute idiots, and crawled downstairs to reception to book onto the next airport shuttle bus which was arriving in 20 mins.
We got dropped off at separate terminals - her domestic and I headed to international departures to see if we could fix our situations .I didn't see Gwen again after that but I saw on Facebook she had posted the same day that she was in Cairns so I know she was ok :) I was slightly worried for her as she was 19 years old, had just £200 to her name to last 4 weeks, no working holiday visa and literally only travelling with a small daypack! There's being a free spirit but that was just mental. I'd needed to unload some of my summery clothes so handed them over to her but even still, hats off to her - the girl had guts.
I'd also met a guy on the shuttle bus who was headed back to England. He was meant to travel for 5 weeks but after one week in new zealand he was admitted to hospital with appendicitis, had his appendix removed and then spent a further two weeks in hospital. A few days later he was readmitted as something had gone wrong and they opened him up again and had to flush him out urghh. He was pretty much right on the borderline date of being allowed to fly after the operation and was sat there with staples still in his stomach. Suddenly missing a flight didn't seem so much of a big deal. He was headed for a Qantas flight as well so I grabbed him a trolley and we made our way over to the desk. I explained the situation to the lady (omitting the part about the night out) and she had a look on her system for the next available Christchurch flight and found one the following morning which she could easily move me over to. The cost should have come to around £170 but I think I looked so panicked and she must have felt sorry for me because she waived the charges and only billed me for admin costs and taxes so it only came to £60. I was starving at this point so headed to the airport food court, now I don't know whether it's down to feeling backwards from my disaster morning, but I ordered and ate tuna sushi. TUNA. After 11 years of vegetarianism something clicked and it was there and I wanted it. To be honest throughout the whole 11 years of being veggie I'd never fancied a cheeky bacon butty or burger or anything like that, but I had actually craved tuna mayo jacket potatoes! The sushi tasted pretty good and I didn't feel sick or anything, just a bit funny in the head but hey.
I then headed back into Sydney (grrr - 6 days was definitely enough for me so I didn't fancy another day when I felt I'd pretty much exhausted the city) but this time checked into a MUCH nicer but more expensive hostel 'Bounce'. I just wanted somewhere nice and relaxing for the night, plus Bounce was literally directly opposite central station - I was trying to minimise ANY chances of missing my transport this time around!
Come 4 am I was up and packed and headed out the door soon after. Because it was so early there was noone manning the ticket booths so I got a free ride to the airport yayy. Everything went smoothly and before I knew it i'd landed in New Zealand! But knowing my ridiculous luck I should have known that this was all going too well... I whizzed through immigration and headed to baggage claims where I waited and waited...and waited.... when all of a sudden I heard a dog going mental and barking non stop so turned to see the commotion. And yep you guessed it, there was my backpack lying on the floor with an airport sniffer dog jumping all over it. Arrgghhhh BRILLIANT. Absolute panic set in as I began thinking the worst, had someone tampered with my bag? Had I unknowingly become a drug smuggler? Am I about to feature in the next series of 'Banged Up Abroad'. etc etc. I slowly edged over to the lady with the dog and sheepishly claimed it as mine, noticing a huge orange 'QUARANTINE' sticker on the front. She ordered me to open the bag and proceeded to route through it whilst I held my breath, and she found............. an orange. I breathed a momentary sigh of relief until she informed me that if I'd gone ahead and put the bags through the X-rays ahead of me then I would have had an on the spot fine of $400. Oh but wait, the dog was still going bonkers because apparently there was also an orange in my smaller bag as well. Ey? I didn't even remember packing them. At this point everyone had turned to see what was going on while shes tutting her head and shouting at me that it's a fine per fruit so if it wasn't for the dog then I would have had an instant $800 fine for 2 oranges. Yep, eight...hundred...dollars. I mumbled a thank you and ran off before the dog could get me into more trouble, almost on the verge of tears at this point for how stupid I'd been these past couple days and shuffled off to declare my running shoes and get them cleaned (!).
After this complete disaster I finally escaped through into Arrivals. A couple weeks ago when I was on Gili T I'd bumped into an American girl called Anne who had worked in NZ for 6 months. When she found out I was going for 5 weeks she said she knew a lovely couple in Christchurch (where i'd flown into) and had passed my info onto them. To highlight the generosity of New Zealanders, I had exchanged emails with this couple (Lynn and Rick) back and forth only a couple times when already they had kindly offered to pick me up from the airport and give me a place to stay whilst I was in the area! So I walked through to arrivals and was greeted by Lynn with "Sarah Jones" printed on pink paper. She was so welcoming and drove me around Christchurch for a while before heading to the house. Although a lot of the area damaged by the earthquake has been rebuilt, it's still so sad to see buildings bordered up and vacant patches where house once stood just months before. A lot of roads still had cracks and pot holes in them, and on Lynn's street you could physically see where the road had sunk down. That afternoon I met Rick and we spent the rest of the day just chatting and taking their two dogs for a walk. It turns out that they love having people visit and stay with them and during the summer it's pretty much one in, one out as they have backpackers and people stopping over from either coming/going to the south pole staying with them. They were showing me a map of the area when I noticed on the coast near them a New Brighton!!!! I told them this was where I lived back home and so the following morning Rick took me and the dogs to New Brighton beach where we went for a long walk :) It was SO cold and so rather than walking around the area in the afternoon he just drove me around and showed me the main sites. Unfortunately a lot got destroyed in the earthquake but communities are very slowly but surely restoring areas back up to how they used to be. That evening we watched a few films and Rick cooked Mexican food which id never really had before and was delicious (Dad, Rick is the cook of the house too - except minus the 10000 cookbooks you have!) I signed their visitor book and then had a pretty early night as I was up first thing to catch the Stray bus. Stray is one of 3 hop on-hop off bus companies in NZ catered to travellers that take you round the south, north or both islands depending on your time frame and preference and I had booked this in advance. There are cheaper ways of getting around NZ such as sharing a camper van or hitchhiking (legal in NZ) but I just wanted peace of mind that i'd see a lot of the country with other like minded people and also the knowledge that I would catch my flight out of Aukland on time.
In the morning we headed to the Christchurch Antarctic Centre where the Stray bus pulled up and after thanking and saying goodbye to Rick and Lynn I hopped on. There were 14 already on the bus in total, 2 guys and 10 girls all solo and one couple. The driver, Nat, had a headset on and so introduced me to the rest of the bus and explained safety procedures and that we were heading to Kaikoura today. I was next to a girl called Helen who was from Durham so we chatted for a while and she explained that most people on this bus had started in Aukland and already done the north and south islands and were making their way back up the East coast to Aukland again. So basically I would only be with this lot for one night until we reach Picton - from here most of them would then catch the ferry across to Wellington while I join another bus thats full of people just starting out like myself and loop round down the West coast of the S island. After about 2 and 1/2 hours driving we finally reached Kaikoura where we were staying at the Adelphi hotel, a bit of an old run down place in a small seaside town. Once we'd checked in and dumped our stuff Nat drove a few of us to one end of the peninsular where there was a small seal colony and from here we walked the 40 minute stretch back. There wasn't really much to do in Kaikoura especially because it was so cold and miserable, so I spent a little while looking around the shops for some warm clothes but everything was pretty expensive so I left it and went and sat with some of the girls in their dorm room. Later on we went in search of something to eat and settled on fish and chips... I seemed to be on a roll with this fish malarkey. First fish and chips in 11 years! I was alright with it I think only because it was like a mild taste, like not too fishy if that makes sense? Its weird because I'm fine at the time of eating it but if I think too much about it later on I start to feel a bit weird and guilty, so I just forget about it if I can and put it to one side in my mind. After this we headed to the bar where we got a free drink (because we're with Stray) and then split into teams to play the pub quiz of which our team came second and won a $25 bar tab!