Today has been a long “day” after taking a longhaul flight from LA on new years eve, I arrived in New Zealand on the 2nd of January, enjoying only a couple of brief hours of new years day while over the middle of the pacific. I don’t think I’ll have the energy to post something at the end of my day, so here’s an interim update.
I arrived at the international terminal at LAX a good 4 hours before my flight was due to depart, just to be safe. The terminal was quite busy for new year’s eve, and I entertained myself trying to guess the different languages that would occasionally erupt over the intercom. My excitement only grew stronger as I proceeded through security; this trip was actually happening. The departures video screen looked like it was installed right around the year I was born.
The plane to NZ was a very modern 777-300ER with neat little video screens and adjustable headrest things. About the best you could hope for when flying in the ultra-economy section. I sat next to a man named Manuel who was going to be heading all the way over to Perth, Australia for 6 weeks. Perth would be another 6-ish hour long connecting flight for him. With my 80 minute hopper down to Christchurch, I was getting off easy.
With judicious application of sleeping pills, earplugs, and a little blindfoldy thing I ordered on my fancy touchscreen, I managed to actually sleep for a handful of hours once the flight got going. I woke up just before we hit the international dateline and was greeted with a surreal but beautiful sunrise, the first of 2015.
There was a lot of cloud cover down over the ocean, so it looked like we were flying over a sea of pure white clouds. The sun, hiding low by the unseen horizon, barely managed to poke through with deep golden-orange rays. I don’t think my camera does justice to the sight.
A few hours later, we finally approached NZ and we caught our first glimpse of land. The volcanic terrain was saturated with the deep green of thriving plant-life, and the occasional evidence of human habitation.
We landed in Auckland shortly thereafter at the airport that could not be any closer to actually just sitting in the ocean. Processing through customs was quick and easy, and I took a nice wake-up stroll outside to make my connecting flight at the domestic terminals about 15 minutes away.
Auckland looked pretty from the air, but I would have to leave her for another day, as I was not due to spend real time there until the conclusion of my trip. Christchurch awaited! So I boarded my little AirBus and strapped in for a quick connection. I sat next to a family that lived in Auckland, but was just now visiting the South Island for the first time on vacation.
The South Island is much more rural compared to the North, and the terrain is much more rugged. Even though it’s summer, you can still see snow capped mountains to the west. I’ll be visiting them much closer in a few days.
After landing and collecting my things, I took a taxi into the city, trying to focus on the traffic and let my brain get used to the different patterns. While Christchurch is the largest city on the south island, it’s actually fairly tame compared to what someone from Chicago or Boston would consider a city. Once out on my feet and walking about, I was struck by how quiet everything felt. Car traffic was light. Foot traffic as well. The vehicles seemed to lazily amble about the roads, the engines making little sound while they moved in beneath gentle, almost unnaturally fluid acceleration. Speed limits are posted as 50 kph, which for people back home, is not much. About 30 mph. It doesn’t seem that many drivers push the limits either. The air is unusually warm and humid, on the edge of feeling tropical. I decide to carry my jacket rather than wear it.
As I walk down some streets in search of lunch, I begin to notice all the lingering damage from the massive earthquake that ravaged the city a year or so back. Many lots were now empty, fully cleared of their demolished buildings, but with no new structure yet built to take their place. Many more were not cleared at all. There are advertisements for various initiatives to rebuild and recover plastered on buses and around the city, but it looks like the work is really only beginning.
I strolled through a nice park on my way, which seemed to have fared much better than the other side of the street.
I eat up some thai food (every city in the world has thai food!) at a small but tidy restaurant across the street from Christchurch Casino. I’m one of maybe 6 customers here in the early afternoon. After hot food, a cold beer, and a lot of fiddling with my new phone, I had back to the hotel to crash. On my way back I snapped this shot of two ducks napping together in the water-flooded wreckage of yet another building. I think that they have the right idea.
I force myself not to nap for too long to try and avoid screwing up my biological clock. I think I’m going to go grab a coffee and explore the city some more, but I wanted to post this entry now since I will probably make it an early evening. Tomorrow I get to pick up my bike and actually begin the vacation in earnest.
Until then, Happy New Year everyone.