New Zealand Adventure, The Beginning: Christchurch

This article was written during our holiday. But only today, over two months later, have I gotten around to posting it. It describes our first day in Christchurch after a long flight, rescheduled itinerary, and lost luggage.

Ours was an auspicious beginning to an expensive trip. Clair and I purchased roundtrip tickets on Qantas through Melbourne. The flight to Christchurch left us only a couple hours to change planes. But the route back included an 18-hour layover. We decided to turn this into a special treat with our friend Stuart by exploring Melbourne with a local. It never occurred to either of us that we’d need an Australia visa for this.

It never occurred to Qantas, either.

As we prepared to depart for Christchurch the JetStar staff (who were operating the Qantas flight) informed us that we could not fly to New Zealand. Lacking an Australia visa we would not be legal to leave New Zealand on 3 January. Without a legal right of return New Zealand would not allow our entry.

Obtaining an Australian visa is trivial but we could not do it before the flight for Christchurch departed. Genuine apologies from Qantas staff, assistance with a visa, and a reschedule to a later flight helped some. But we arrived in Christchurch after the camper rental lot closed. So we were forced to scramble for warm bed for two nights until the lot re-opened.

Our disappointment was profound. We had only 10 days in our camper van and losing two from a flight delay was quite upsetting. And while we got lucky with a clean, modern hotel in the charming Christchurch, the day we spent there (Christmas) was quiet. Perhaps the stillness was appropriate for Christmas, but it was not for a holiday.  Also, Quantas lost our luggage.  They provided us clothes to sleep in and a travel kit so I could shave and we could brush our teeth.

Loaned Clothing

The day we spent in Christchurch was interesting.  Christchurch, basking in the warm sun and draped by cool blue skies, was a ghost town.  I assume more life on a non-holiday.  But it is clear the 2011 earthquake devastated the city.  We heard later that 5,000 builds were destroyed by the earthquake.  And today it seems a third remain standing but condemned.

Christchurch Cathedral

Clair and I strolled the city, taking pictures and enjoying the December sun.  The city surrounds a large garden park where a few residents and tourists relaxed.  Cool streams cut through the city and park and brown trout were visible under the glazed surface.  Christchurch provided the relaxation we needed to counter-balance the previous day’s stress.

Dance Floor, Coin-operated Stereo, and a Disco BallChristchurch Park

The next day we woke early to be first to our camper and start the trip. And from there our moods swelled. The camper exceeded our expectations. It is luxurious, spacious, and well-equipped. In the days that followed we made use of the attached grill, gas cooktop, microwave oven, LCD TV, and built-in toilet. Although a suspect install of the sewage canister resulted in a toilet leak that suggested Clair and I should ration its usage.

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