We didn’t die! The plane journey was made successfully and, after watching countless films, sleeping uncomfortably and catching up with Sophie (Rona’s uni housemate) in a Chinese McDonalds, we landed in New Zealand ready to realign our sleeping patterns. Turns out that trying to convince your brain that midnight is midday is somewhat difficult. Who knew.
Regardless, we acclimatised successfully and our general plan of action was to stay in Christchurch for a few days before picking up our campervan, in which we would head south to Queenstown for the start of our ‘Great Walk’ along the routeburn track.
The days in Christchurch were interesting to say the least; not interesting in the sense that there was a lot to do, but actually almost exactly the opposite. The city was devastated by a couple of very strong earthquakes that happened back in 2010/2011 and the effects are still very visible to this day. Almost 80% of the central buildings were destroyed/damaged to the point of condemning so there are vast swathes of empty plots and abandoned multistorey buildings in the (I assume) once vibrant city centre. and there’s construction/deconstruction works going on everywhere – so many that scaffolding is one of the architectural mainstays. It’s all a bit harrowing, but, as I say, interesting nonetheless. The people seem quite upbeat about it, confident that the city will be back to its busy self with a few years. There were some cool art projects commemorating those lost, and a ‘temporary’ shopping district made out of shipping containers which spoke of the resilient attitude of the locals, but I couldn’t tell if it was all misplaced optimism given the number of people that had moved away and how empty the city felt. I will very happily be proven wrong though.
In any case, after we had stayed a few nights in a dorm room, we ventured back out towards the airport to pick up our campervan. We immediately stocked up with peanut butter and begun our adventure around New Zealand in a motorised gas stove. It’s pretty cool. So far, we have:
– Taken pictures of lakes
– Taken pictures of mountains
– Taken pictures of Rona in front of lakes/mountains
– Played with my shiny new camera (thank you family)
– Listened to Royksopp at appropriately awesome and climactic moments while driving
– Taken wrong turnings
– Been overtaken
– Picked up a lovely French hitchhiker
– Walked up to a glacier
– Slept in a carpark
All in all it’s been fantastic. We went from being confined to a city centre and sleeping in a hostel to going wherever the hell we want, whenever the hell we want and sleeping (mostly) wherever the hell we want. As I write this we’re sitting at the base of Mount Cook and enjoying breathtaking views and cluttered starscapes. Om nom nom.
New Zealand is every bit as beautiful as everyone made it out to be, which was a tall order given some of the descriptions we were given before we came. It’s just so wonderfully varied; in the space of the few hours after we left Christchurch we had passed from small city centre, to farmland, to rural backcountry villages, to rolling plains, to alpine lakes. And they’re not just small features on each landscape, they’re gigantic glacial lakes and majestic, skypiercing, snow topped mountains. There have been so many times that both of us have have just said ‘Wow’ upon turning a corner or climbing a verge, and being able to experience them at our own pace and in our own little campervan (affectionately nicknamed ‘Campy’ because we have no imagination) has been both a novel experience and an utterly great one. It’s making us both think that renting/buying a car wherever we go would be a great idea, but we’ll see…
As far as the style of travelling goes, New Zealand is a welcome, if somewhat initially jarring, change of pace from India (for me at least, Rona was well equipped). It’s more expensive – which means we’ve been eating out far less and cooking our food far more which is nice in it’s own way. However, in terms of culture it’s virtually identical to the UK, albeit with a mix of American urban planning and wide avenues, with familiar sounding names and familiar language. Saying that, the marmite is terrible. Just unbelievably bad. Imagine taking bad quality marmite and adding an initial salty hit and a lingering aftertaste of tar/petrol/feces, and you’d come somewhere close. We’ve yet to try the vegemite but I’m sure it can’t be any worse.
Anyway, we’re just about to head off on a 3 day hike, but this blog post probably won’t get added until after we’ve finished it. Sorry for the (mildly) long wait, photos will be coming soon too!