Kia ora from New Zealand!
This week I covered a bit of the South island and have arrived in Auckland. All of New Zealand is so diverse and it’s known for so many different things – sheep, Lord of the Rings, kiwis, landscapes, rugby, etc. and I saw a fair amount of that on the south island. I didn’t go too far south, though, because it’s cold! I’ll have to put that on my “when I go back” list.
I spent the first few days in Christchurch, which was a real shock. While aide is headed to Nepal right now to help with the earthquakes, Christchurch is a demonstration of how long of a road is ahead. The city was devastated by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, and it still shows. Everything is under construction. Everything. Except the main cathedral, which sits in the square, half crumbled, awaiting a decision on what’s next. The city is quiet and empty, less the sounds of construction. On the flip side, what was amazing to see was the resolve to not just rebuild what was there, but reimagine. There is a mall built from shipping containers, full bike lanes going in everywhere. They are taking the opportunity to build a city from scratch with all the resources available today. But the end is nowhere near.
A friend was recently in NZ and her pictures of the Pancake Rocks were enough motivation for me to rent a car and head west. The drive across the country was breathtaking, and the visit up the west coast and to Punakaiki were nothing less. It is definitely a must for anyone going to NZ.
Unfortunately, there was a snafu with the rental car key, and then my alarm to catch the bus back to Christchurch to catch my flight the next day (phone reset to Melbourne time in the middle of the night), so I was stuck on the west coast, and decided to dare to do something I’d always wanted to – hitchhike.
NZ is known for being an incredibly safe place to hitchhike, so where better to try? I first got a ride to the next town and worried then that I would be stuck in that middle of nowhere town with no options. Then, Jeff pulled over. He is a sales rep covering all of the south island and was headed back home to Christchurch. He was a delight – former NZ military, in the business world now, but would never move to Auckland, and made the 3 hour drive into a pleasant chat. He wouldn’t take gas money (it was a company car) and even took me straight to the airport! Luck strikes again.
I’ll be back to the south when it isn’t so cold!