Published: January 7th 2012December 19th 2011
“Ladies & gentlemen, soon on your left you will see Mount Cook range…” – the pilot announced it when our flight almost landed in Christchurch. I immediately try to look for it from the window, and pull out my beloved Canon 7D camera. And there it is! There it is! The (slightly) snow capped Mount Cook is majestically there. I saw it! And not long, after the mountains, the shoreline started to show (is that Kaikoura from afar?). The plane is getting lower and lower, and the field patches started to show as well as the dots of sheeps! Didn’t expect to find sheeps this easy – even before landing!
After landing, what I noticed everywhere is the “Amnesty Bin”. Yes, you need to know that New Zealand’s custom is very strict on their bio security act. You can’t bring fresh produce (even if it’s only couple of fruits the airline gave you), woods, etc. Even your camping gear needs to be declared. Failure to declare – you could get fine like 400 NZD – seriously. No joke. That’s why there are amnesty bin everywhere, so you throw what you don’t want to declare. Read the full list of the
custom regulation here: http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/enter/declare
Personally I brought couple of processed food (chili sauce! – how can an Asian live without spice), some general medication and wearing sport shoes. I declare those and able to pass through with no issue.
I’m marching out from the airport with confidence. I know what bus number to take (as it’s the cheapest option – around 7 NZD). Well, I found a bus, but there’s no driver. There’s no sign that the bus will depart. After going back and forth for like half an hour – I gave up and took the shuttle instead, which is far more expensive (24 NZD!!!) To my horror, when my shuttle moved – the unmanned bus moved as well. Hey – apparently that bus did not just park. Then I realized, NZ is different than SG. Here, the bus doesn’t run as frequent. Just check the schedule posted (well, I saw the paper – but I’m just not sure because the bus is totally empty, locked and no driver). OMG, such a blonde moment ha ha ha…
When I arrived at Azena Motel Christchurch, it’s 12 noon and no one is at the reception desk. I
rang the bell, and waited for 15 mins or so but there’s no sign of anyone. So I put my backpack there with a post it note stick to it (and pray that it’s safe) and walk around to explore and get some lunch.
I was surprised to find 10 NZD warm jacket!!! And it’s new – not used items! Whoa – so cheap! There’s no way you can get that price in Singapore (which would be like 10-20 times more for the same item). But I guess the extreme price difference is just because of the crazy discount.
I ended up enjoying vegetarian pie for lunch, in this shop made from large cargo container. Apparently their original store was destroyed by the earthquake. I’m happy! Always wanted to try NZ pie as I heard so much about it. Back to the motel and this time someone is there. Checked in and so happy to find my room is modern, clean and nice.
It’s only 5 hours difference between NZ and SG but I found myself quite tired. I had to drag myself out of bed to go to Willow Bank Reserve – as I already booked
a discounted voucher ticket via bookme.co.nz for that afternoon. Originally it’s 25 NZD but I got it for 20 NZD (well, actually – if I chose different time I can even get the price down to 12.5 NZD but unfortunately it doesn’t work with my schedule). Again, need to wait for the bus (seriously – where the heck are those buses?)
The Willow Bank Reserve itself is like a small zoo. I can’t believe my ears. I literally hear the sound of nature! All different birds chirping, the sky is blue, the wind is breezy… Ahhh…. I saw black swans, deers, lamma, peacock, some giant chickens, goats, ostrich (!), kea, eels and many more. The main highlight is supposed to be about the Kiwi. They have this special sanctuary/room for the Kiwi and it was so dark, that I can’t even see anything. I tried to stand still and wait – but still can’t see anything. As there’s no guard there, dark and no other visitor – I started to find it spooky and decided to just walk out. It was still a nice experience though.
From there, I took a long bus ride to the Botanics Garden
in city centre (which can be entered for free). The weather is just perfect for a stroll in the park. The animals in NZ are not afraid of human! The ducks near the Avon river will just swarm you to be fed (not sure whether that’s legal though – I didn’t give any food at all). Grass is green and comfy! I wished I could just stay and read a book or something. Or maybe play Frisbee.
Unfortunately the Canterbury Museum next door is already closed. So I walked around to take pictures of the cordoned city centre from afar. You couldn’t really get to close as they put fences everywhere. But even from outside you can see the damages. To be honest, I was a bit ignorant when the Christchurch earthquake broke on the news several times. I didn’t know anyone personally here. And well, bad things happened all over the world all the time. But after I got here, and realized how nice in general NZ people are… I can’t help but feel sorry for what happened.
I will be staying in Christchurch 3 nights and to be honest a bit worry with the aftershocks that
still happens. I prayed silently – “Dear God, pls let there be no big earthquake while I’m here… Pls keep me safe….” And I also wished that the folks in this city can start to rebuild their life in peace… Tips:
• Again, please educate yourself on NZ Bio Security regulation: http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/enter/declareRather than paying 400 NZD fine, you might as well treat yourself for a skydiving or something. Or you can wire the money to me for all of the nice tips I gave you? He he he…
• Exchanging money at the airport is not recommended as they charge for 10 NZD commission regardless of the transaction amount; and the rate is not very favorable. Suggest you to withdraw from ATMs (although it is for a fee as well); and for exchanging money – do it at the city as many places willing to trade with zero commission (i.e. post office, banks).
• Pay attention to your hotel check in/out time – as the reception in most accommodation in NZ is not 24 hours. If you will arrive outside office hours, it would be best to let your host know in advance. In some cases, few accommodation actually charge you extra service charge if you want to check in/out in odd hours.
• Metro Bus in Christchurch area is divided by circles, typically you pay around 3.2 NZD and it allows you to transfer once within 1 hour. But one time I stopover more than 1 hour, they still allow me to take the next bus with no extra charge.
• If you’re unsure where to transfer – just go to the city central station first. All buses transit there. Metro Bus journey planner is here http://planatrip.metroinfo.org.nz/ibpbase/newJourney.asp
To view more of my travel pictures – pls go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/ariyanti_p/sets/72157628705874019/