Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

We Are in New Zealand

Ioan's iTouch flew off Ileana's hand in a restaurant in Surat Thani and the life that we knew has changed. The glass shattered, it was still working, but we instantly decided to get him a new one. It was on the top of our things to do when we arrived in Christchurch 60 hours later. I looked online, I found some service stores and learned that we can get a new one for a reduced fee.
The flight from Kuala Lumpur was uneventful, 10 hours, we got some sleep, we saw the ocean, and at some point we saw the West coast of the South Island. Amazing landscape and just a few minutes later, the ocean again, the East coast, the plane would make a loop and land in Christchurch.

With a population of 350,000, this is the biggest city in the South Island. It was settled in 1850 as an ordered Church of England enterprise, with the farming land deliberately placed in the hands of the upper class. It was meant to be a very English city in the South Pacific, with a conservative structured society and churches rather than pubs. The main attraction in the city was the Anglican cathedral in the central square. A year ago, they had a terrible earthquake, it hit mostly the center of the town. We bought our flight on March 8, 2011, we let some people know and everybody knew where we were going because it was all over the news. The earthquake leveled some buildings and killed too many people, but it seems that it weakened most of the structures in the center. It is now closed, fenced, and a touristic attraction in itself as people take pictures of what's left. They decided to take down most of the affected buildings, there are still more than 100 marked for demolition.

On one of the days that we were here the city council decided that they will not restore the Christ Church Cathedral, the symbol of the city for the past 125 years. They will leave the exterior wall as a ruin. The parishioners and their bishop apparently had no interest in restoring it, they want something new and modern! We couldn't see it, it was somewhere in the middle of the closed area, obstructed by other ruins. The earthquake affects the tourists as well, we were surprised to see all the motels with "no vacancy" sign. With all the hotels in the city center being closed, it is very hard to find a room here. Prices have shot up, they were high anyhow, but I booked this motel in April of last year and we had a lower rate. We planned to spend a few days in Christchurch, have a couple of day trips to nearby attractions, rent a regular car to get used to the right-hand driving before getting our campervan for the next couple of weeks.

So the first day was mostly spent in the hotel, making calls to Apple centers, doing chores and getting some rest. At some point we realized that we couldn't find the Kindle, it wasn't anywhere, it might have been lost on the flight from Malaysia! Calling AirAsia was not at all helpful. It will probably remain a mystery, what exactly happened. With the Nook dead in Kathmandu and the Kindle gone, we are now left with no e-reader!
The iTouch is an ongoing saga. Three trips, first exploratory one on Friday, I decide to get a replacement for half the price, but I forgot to make a backup, I didn't know if Ioan had any important stuff left, we have plenty of time, I will return Monday. When we got here the second time, all excited, we expected to hand over the broken one and pick a new one. "With any luck it will be here Wednesday." What? "Oh, we don't have them here, we have to order it." Stupid guy, he should have said that earlier... We decided to postpone our drive toward the South, going North to Kaikorua for a day, return to Christchurch the next day, pick up the iTouch and then go on. We did the first part, but when going back, we learned that the iTouch didn't arrive yet. It will be picked up when we leave New Zealand.
We received a call from the airport, the badminton racquets have arrived. They were lost on our previous flight and dropped off by AirAsia as a courtesy (?!). I asked the lady if she has our kindle. She looked in the safe, she mumbled something unintelligible with a couple of kindles in her hand and she went in another room. She came back 10 minutes later, enough time to be plenty happy that our kindle has been found. "Sorry we don't have it!" She took this time to look all over their lost and found items, the kindles that she had belonged to other people...
We donated our warm clothes to an orphanage in Kathmandu in December. We didn't need them much after that, but we would need something here in New Zealand. We will go South, we will see glaciers, we might get some snow. I looked for second hand shops, got four addresses in Google, but on the ground, they were all gone! They were all in the closed, fenced-off center. Saturday, we drove to a Salvation Army store. The traffic was slow and we arrived there at 1.02, the lady in the store waved through the window, they close at 1. A minute later, Ioan sees a "previously loved clothes" sign, we stop, check it out. About $40 for a coat, I explained that we need another layer for just two weeks, would she take them back? The lady says "I never do this, my husband will kill me when he finds out, but..." She would just give us the clothes, no money exchange, if we take good care of them and bring them back. She had very limited choices, but she a had a couple of boxes to go through. We planned to return Tuesday, before leaving Christchurch, unless we found something else. I sent her an email to thank her and let her know that we eventually found out a Salvation Army store and we all got dressed up for $40!!!

So in Christchurch, we visited the Antarctic Center on Ileana's birthday, Saturday, and the Botanical Garden the day after. Monday we booked a "swimming with the dolphins" experience in Akaroa. This is a small village on the Banks peninsula, 80 km South from Christchurch. It was a volcano here some many years ago, now covered by the sea. It is the only French settlement in New Zealand and the village maintains an unmistakable French flavor. Many businesses have the signage in French I have no idea if it is just for touristic purposes. The drive is quite nice, we were lucky to get a pretty decent weather, everything looked good. It was meant to be a delayed present for Ileana. When we arrived at their offices, they told us that there is a swell of about 2 meters out in the ocean and we have to be very confident swimmers. In the protected gulf everything looked good, but we had to take their warning seriously. After some debate, with mixed voting results, we cancelled. We got our money back, $540! We walked around the village and took a touristic drive up the mountains to return to the main road toward Christchurch. The scenery was unreal, we stopped every few minutes to take some pictures.

Tuesday we exchanged the rental car for a campervan and took off on our two weeks tour of the South Island. More to follow.


  1. Have you found any hobbits yet? :D

  2. We actually DID!

    On the movie posters and flyers. It was an out-of-this-world experience and we went back to looking for paperbacks soon after.


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