After some slight issues in the airport including a major bag repack to get under 32kg (yep we’ve acquired a lot of stuff), we made the 3 hour flight to Christchurch. Time to see what New Zealand has to offer! Lucky for us, Alisha, my childhood friend, had moved to NZ when she was 10 and even though I’d only seen her once in the last 13 years we’d been in touch and she offered us her spare room and a lift from the airport, what a belter. She also offered us a free salsa lesson! Times have definitely changed since we were 10, neither of us could dance then, turns out only one of us can dance now! Alisha teaches a beginners salsa class every Wednesday so me, Rod, Alisha’s boyfriend Steve and her mum and dad, Diane and Andy all went along. My coordination is not good at the best of times but add some music, give me Rod as a partner and ask me to count to 8 without saying 4 and it was a bit of a disaster. Good fun though! We all went for a post dance pint to commemorate our first salsa experience had a good chinwag, so nice to catch up with everyone, it’s like they never left!
Both Alisha and Steve are real grownups with jobs as teachers so whilst they were out educating the young minds of New Zealand me and Rob went car shopping. We need some way of getting round the country and campervan rental fees are a bit out of our price range. We had an unsuccessful day scouring the local car dealers, note to self, never trust a car salesman. On our second day of looking we found Susie the Suzuki, great car, low mileage, enough room to sleep in the boot and the guy was flying out the country the next day so we got her for a bargain. Or so we thought. Life lesson to be learned here, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Even though it drove like a dream on the test drive come the next day it was stalling, juttering and altogether acting like a pile of crap. How convenient that they guy we bought it off had left the country and was unreachable! Never buy a car off a backpacker! Took us 4 trips to the mechanic and almost half as many dollars as the car cost us but they finally found the problem and it only took a bit of super glue to fix it, typical!
When we weren’t at the mechanics we spent our time exploring Christchurch. It’s still in a bad way from the 2011 and last year’s earthquakes. We went on a free walking tour round the city and learnt about all the damage and work to rebuild. The old cathedral had been ruined but they’ve made a pretty cool replacement out of cardboard, sturdier than you’d think as well! Parts of the city are beautiful like the botanical gardens and the park, and other parts are still pretty ruined like you’d expect after a major earthquake.
With all the last minute car selling in Australia we’d only been able to give poor Alisha 2 days notice before we rocked up in Christchurch so we couldn’t blame her for already having plans for the week, Steve had already arranged a nice romantic Valentine’s night out for them both on the Saturday but they were kind enough to let us crash it! We started our night with a punt down the river Avon through the botanical gardens and back again. Next up was a meal at the rather fancy Curators house, it overlooked the gardens and the food was top notch. After that we headed to Hagley Park to look round the Chinese lantern festival, any animal you can think of they’d turned into a paper lantern, impressive! We finished the night off with a stop at SoYo for a desert of frozen yoghurt. Good work Steve!
Sunday we all went for a drive about an hour outside of Christchurch to the seaside town of Akaroa. The weather wasn’t exactly on our side so the beautiful view over the bay that Akaroa is famous for was actually just one big grey cloud for us! Still it was a lovely town to have a walk round, we stopped for the world famous fish and chips, I even tried the fish and didn’t spit it out, must have been good! We spent a few hours looking round the town and walking the harbour and then headed home, Diane and Andy were cooking us Sunday dinner! Definitely one of the things I’ve missed most whilst travelling is a good old fashioned family Sunday dinner. We got to try our first New Zealand lamb and had all the trimmings, we even had pavlova for desert, so good! Felt right at home!
Our last day in Christchurch was spent gathering all the gear we’ll need to live out of our car for the next couple of months! Tent, airbed, pots, pans, gas cooker, we even treated ourselves to camping chairs, we’re going to be camping like royalty. We were treated to a home cooked meal by Alisha and then we had just enough time to go round and use Diane and Andy’s spa, good way to finish off the week!