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Published: November 7th 2014
Chasing that cloud.
...or a few more clouds than we bargain for...
Finally on my flight to Christchurch, which is very unremarkable except for my exit row seat. I arrive and make it through customs quickly (as long as you don't have fresh produce or soil on your hiking boots there are no snags). The plan is for me to get the rental car and drive to the hotel to meet Anjali who arrived earlier. I'm looking for the rental car company, and I hear a smart voice say, "So you're just going to walk right past me?" And there is my 5'0" gorgeous smart ass best friend there to greet me. She has her chic little furlined jacket on, and looks like an Aspen babe about to hit the slopes, and I look like a homeless person who got 30 minutes of sleep and came from 85 degree weather. In any form, it is amazing to see her, and it's great to have a partner in crime to embark on the journey. Arriving at a new place is always a bit unsettling, especially when traveling alone, so I'm really grateful. We call up the rental company which picks us up and takes us to the offsite facility. And there we meet our ride for the next two weeks: a Nissan "Sunny" of around the 1989 era in which all of the writing is in Korean. There is a cassette tape deck and the car beeps when you back up. The look on Anjali's face is priceless. I'm pretty sure she is just going to say hell no and insist on another car. She's a good sport though (I got a wicked deal) and I take it in as part of the adventure.
Since Anjali makes heaps more money than I currently do, and this is her vacation and my budget travel, we decided to split the trip up, and she pays for and books what she wants, and I do the same. It's really a great strategy. So as you can guess...the rental car was my job. I think she's regretting that one now. But I cough up more money when it makes sense, and she is cool with some budgeting choices as needed. All good.
I'm so excited for New Zealand. Every time I would tell people I was going, they would look out into the distance in a glassy gaze and say, "I love NZ." Some would even say, "No use in taking photos, because everything is so stunning you'll never get anywhere."
My first impression - meh. It's cold and overcast, and Christchurch is inland with no mountains or shore and a bit industrial. We are just using it as a stopping point, however, and I have an open mind and a huge heart and my best friend at my side. Unstoppable. We drive to the hotel and get settled. It's a nice motor lodge pretty close to downtown Christchurch in Riccarton. Motor lodges seems to be the thing here - they are often a mixture of a camper van park, hostel, cabins and a motel. However, the are much nicer than the motels you would think of in the States. They all have been super clean, provide linen, and all have a kitchen either as an en suite or as a separate facility.
We go to check out Christchurch after we load up on some groceries. Its good that I have a travel companion who eats as much and often as I do and realizes the importance of snacks. I don't know if Anjali is able to pass by a grocery store without stopping. It's chilly but clear. We walk around town and all I keep thinking is, "This can't be it. This can't be all of Christchurch. We must be missing the town."
But no. It's it. It's a tiny town which was pretty devastated by the 2011 earthquake and is still on the mend. The famous cathedral is under construction and there has been a "paper cathedral" erected in the interim. There are some cute artsy parts of the central square - a house covered in plants- and a university, and two streets with a smattering of restaurants and bars. It's seems like Mexican and Thai are the themes, so we settle on a Thai place and get some mediocre pad Thai but some delicious sav blanc from the Malborough region. The restaurant is fairly busy for a Tuesday, but again, we walk out of the restaurant and it's just like a ghost town. There is a tangible paucity of people. It feels wrong. A bit hard to explain, but I'm not convinced that a zombie apocalypse isn't in the works.
We turn in and get a fabulous and hard nights sleep (bed was so comfy) and get an early start to the morning. We are headed to Greymouth per way of the famous Arthur's pass.
Spend as little time in Christchurch as possible.
Drink as much Sav blanc from Marlborough as possible.
If the quality of your rental car is truly important, call the company directly and don't book through a third party. Or don't let me do it.
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