Christchurch

Trip Start Oct 01, 2008
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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hello and welcome from a sunny autumnal day in Christchurch! First things first, sorry this has taken so long, no excuse really, i wanted to have some things to write about i suppose as obviously we wont be posting as much for a while, as there will be less happening!

So we flew out of Panama fine, minimum of fuss, for the 7hours or so back to LA. Copa Airlines are a pretty pants airline, minimised legroom, an 'open bar' that was open for an hour of the flight, and a dinner that resulted in about 4 pasta bows for becca! So we got to LA and got picked up for our hostel which was simple enough, i was very excited also as my laptop was waiting for me!

The hostel had a swimming pool, and a hot one at that, so we spent the next day just relaxing until we had to head back to LAX at around 7pm. LAX is also a boring airport with about 4 shops to kill your 3hours! Still all went swimmingly, no delays, only snag being that the movies-on-demand function wasn't working properly, but loads of free booze and the best two aeroplane meals you could ever have in economy class more than made up for that! So we arrived very jolly (if not a little jaded) at Auckland around 8am, and had a 5hour layover for our connection to Christchurch. We got our visas stamped with a minimum of fuss, although a pot of honey we brought with us had to be thrown  away by the vey uptight biosecurity guards...we had the last laugh though as we snuck in a lime!Ha! So we had our first taste of how nice the Kiwi people are once we had got our stamps and had the security checks done, when I said we had a long wait for our connection one of the workers put us on a flight two hours earlier or no extra fee, and thats the way the majority of people behave over here, its quite refreshing.

During the flight from the north island to the south island it struck me how beautiful the landscape is here, mountains for miles on end, so we started becoming very excited indeed and forgot about 90% of our tiredness. It was very simple to make the 7km journey from the airport to the city centre, where the bus driveress told us exactly where to go to get to our house! It turned out our house was only a 5minute walk from the city centre, and very easy to find. So we arrived, met one of our new housemates (Aileen from N.Ireland), and she showed us around and told us a few things about the city. First impressions were extremely impressive by the quality of the house, and our room was all made up (its sort of an annex-cum-garage) for us...with a big and very comfy bed which was just what we needed! Instead of going straight to bed at 2 in the afternoon, we thought that after 3days of travelling we deserved some PINTS of beer and a very long awaited scolding hot (for me) CURRY! Two of the things we both missed greatly from Central America.

We spent the weekend exploring the beautiful city (and it really is) and meeting our new housemates. We have two Chileans, 1 Spaniard (becca teaches them all!), 2 Germans and a Bristolian, who are all very friendly indeed. We started building up a knowledge of where all the happy hour bars, cheap restaurants, cheap clothes shops and whatnot are, and spent some of the weekend getting some dull tasks done such as buying simcards for phones, filling the fridge etc etc.

After the weekend we both wanted to hit the ground running with regards to work, as we had heard that work was hard to come by here recently as they are also in a recession. Becca had her first week at school which was a bit sudden but ultimately good to get some cash coming in again. So for the past three weeks i've been doing whatever temping they get me whilst everywhere looks at my cv, its not great admittedly but i'm getting enough to pay for my rent and sometimes my food too, which is pretty much all i wanted to pay for for the first month or so anyway (although being a labourer really isn't my style!). And Bex has been doing whatever teaching hours she can get hold of too, whilst looking for work to fit around it in her spare time. The main plus side of not having a job is that i now know the city really damn well! Still we know that these things take time, and at least we are not having to dip in to our savings to get by. We've started making some buddies and its all lovely!

We have managed to squeeze some day trips into our otherwise hectic schedules. Christchurch is a 20 minute bus ride from the coast, so we have spent alot of time walking along it. We have been to two main spots..New Brighton, and today we went to Sumner (Sumner being particularly spectacular in that you have the beach to one side, and snow-capped mountains on the other!). It's great to go to a place, walk along an unspoilt beach (thats one massive thing we've both noticed...theres hardly any litter at all in NZ), and indulgue in their national dish...fish 'n' chips! Still not 100% convinced on the 'chups', but the 'fush' is jolly nice, and damn cheap too! They also have a very large set of botanical gardens in the city centre, with the pleasure of the river avon running through, and they are a great place just to go and chill out in the midday sun. They seem to go on for miles and are really good indeed! Our other excursion was going with becca's school (at a generously discounted rate :-) ) to the Antartic Centre. I think we enjoyed this more than the students to be honest! We learnt all about how people live there, about the climate, how it was formed, the penguins and what constitutes an iceberg. Then you proceed to a room where they have a 'storm', which is meant to simulate Antarctic conditions. Obviously they had to tone this down (apparently it can get to minus 80 with windchill), but the temperature was set to -8 with the windchill making in -25C, and i dont really understand how people can (or would want to) live in Canada or Russia if it gets that cold! After this part of the trip we got to see little blue penguins, which were great, as i love penguins! All the ones that were there were poorly and so were being looked after by the centre. Once we have more permanent work we will start going further afield with our time off, hence having more to report.

So, first impressions of Christchurch/NZ: a phenomenal landscape, cracking people (and even better...not many people!), shedloads to do, cheaper than the UK, and all-in-all a very nice place to be based to travel the country (hopefully in a campervan :-) ) and earn the money to do so.

Happy Easter everybody, and we shall speak to you all soon no doubt

xxxxx 

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NEW BLOG!!

Good afternoon everybody! Well its been nearly 5months since we last updated this, sorry! I will do my best to fill you in on all the best bits for those of you who haven’t heard, or indeed for those of you that have heard and have since forgotten! The last blog ended with me saying about our trip to the Antarctica Centre, Beccas work at school, and myself looking for a job, so I will delve into my memory for this one, go and get a tea and a cake as this may take a while! I shall summarise as best a I can, whilst trying to miss out pointless details that only me and Bec find amusing!

Becca settled in nicely at her first school, and she had a really good bunch of students also which helped a bit, and although she was just a relief teacher they did give her plenty of hours. I worked a couple of odd days on building sites (lets face it, I never was and never will be born to be a labourer!), and 1 particularly brilliant day putting biscuits into plastic packets for Baker Boys! I must admit it was starting to really bother me that I couldn’t find regular work, but at least most weeks I was earning enough to cover my rent.

Our first month over here pretty much consisted of attaining bank accounts, looking for work, getting clothes for the winter etc. However, Becca’s birthday arrived pretty soon! For this, I had arranged for us to go to a town on the east coast called Kaikoura (about 180km‘s north), whereby you can go out on a boat for the day and go snorkelling with fur seals, so I thought this would be something Becca would enjoy, only snag being the 5am rise on her birthday! She was delighted with the idea, so we set off in good spirits. Then it went a bit ‘tits up’ so to speak as we got all the way there only for the tour to be cancelled due to adverse weather conditions! Coupled with this, the Thai restaurant we wanted for lunchtime we later missed the opening hours! However, determined to make the most of her day we went on a 12k walk around the whole peninsula, and did get to see an awful lot of seals in the colony, topped off with fizzy wine and a  bit of a picnic, so we certainly did make the most of it! Then we came home and had a birthday party, so all in all it turned out rather well.

We had made a couple of good friends in our neighbours, a Scouse lass and a Welsh guy, and Dave in particular kept me sane during a lot of my days of fruitless job hunting. Then I thought I had struck gold! I got a job in a factory where I could work 50hours a week, and was told I would probably be able to have it until the end of July (I landed this at the end of April). The work was boring, but it gave me some cash and something to do whilst Bex was plodding along swimmingly at school! However I was a victim of random selection 3 weeks in and got laid off, so I went back to being miserable again (a special credit to Becca for her frequent pep talks!).
At this moment in time we went and bought ourselves a van, young Morris!!! We were really happy at the time, got a good deal and at the time I thought I stood to make some good money when we sold it at the end. For those of you who don’t know the story, we paid a mechanic to check it, he said it was great, it wasn’t, the engine clapped out 300k’s in, so we had to buy a new one! It was all very stressful, and for me it confirmed the reasons why I’ve never wanted to own my own vehicle before, they are damn expensive! We are over it now though, and still expect to recoup as good as all the cash we spent on it. We did have one gorgeous drive to the French town of Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula, made it worthwhile!

Heading back to the work debacle, after being laid off I managed to get another job straight away, the pleasure of cleaning a medical lab from 9.30pm-1.30am everyday! That lasted 2weeks, no way I was stickin that one out, I’m not that broke! So Bex and I made the difficult decision to part accomodation wise, really not ideal, really didn’t want to, but I was starting to need regular work and could have it in an orchard only 40kilometres away. A stone fruit orchard and vineyard in the Kaituna Valley. That was at the end of may, and is where I’m at now (Bex has a teaching job, plus is a carer for  NZ care - doing a really great job helping people who are mentally disabled with behavioural difficulties, she has more patience than I thought sorry lovey!), so this next part can be more condensed you’ll be pleased to hear!

The orchard is really beautiful, and in my first few weeks it was all that kept me going! It was basically a 4day week due to the weather, but that’s pretty much the equivalent to a 5day week in the city due to my rent and outgoings being next to nothing. The thick frosts took more than a little while to get used to mind! Pruning isn’t as bad as it sounds, the supervisor is an idiot on a power trip, but we have a good group in myself, an Argentine, and French guy and a local Maori, we have all become really good friends and it is a shame two of them leave this weekend! I have pruned a whole range of trees, cherries, apricots, peaches and nectarines, but do not ask for me to do any of yours when home! Uniformity through creativity they say, not really sure what that means but we just nod and get on with it! Now all that is  pruned we have moved into the vineyard, which is pretty pants to be fair. Once you have pruned all the vines the tasks get more and more menial, but as I said the company is great so it’s all ok really, and between Bex and I we are starting to build the cash to start our assault on NZ at the end of September! It has been tough living apart, but we still manage minimum of 3nights a week with each other so its not the end of the world, and on the rare occasion I have not had a ride to the city I have hitchhiked (sorry Mum!), it’s really easy here, everyone stops, and the 2times I have done it my longest wait stands at 3minutes!

As for New Zealand, we are getting towards the back end of winter now, officially spring starts in September, but there are baby lambs, sunny days, and a few flowers in the orchard. Lots of piccies to arrive when the blossom arrives, as I have been told, and can imagine, it is stunning.

So we have just had my birthday weekend! A massive thank you to Becca (and all of you who contributed) for organising a skiing weekend for us! We both really really enjoyed it, it’s a shame it is expensive, but I’m sure the ski fields will get our money one more time before the season is over! Had a lot of fun, but it is harder than it looks! We had the pleasure of Becca’s pal Pippa from home for this, was awesome to see a familiar and friendly face, the first in over 10months! They also had their own 2day adventure that they can share with you all as I don’t know the full details yet myself!!!

Now it is time for a little insight into what we shall be doing with our time over here (as we are finally close to some sustained travel again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!yippee!!!!!!!!). The plan: our contracts both finish end of September. Then it will be a week tour down the south east coast where we hope to see plenty of penguins, spectacular walks, and hopefully an albatross or two thrown in for good measure! This mini trip shall also encompass a wee trip to Stewart Island (south of the south island), where we hope to spot the elusive Kiwi bird. It would be great if we get there for our anniversary, as we both think it will be really quiet and lovely at that time of year! After this we shall head to central Otago (you need to look at these places on a map really I know!), where we shall try and cram 5-6weeks work before Beccas buddy arrives! Hopefully this will be fruit thinning leading into cherry picking, as cherry picking is really quite lucrative if done correctly. We then have about 20days with Maddie (the last 5 just us 2 again) to explore the rest of the south island.

Next! We will try and get some apple work just for 2weeks, before we shoot over to Melbourne Australia for a week to see Becca’s bro and wifey for xmas!!!! We are both REALLY excited about this, we organised cheap flights between the 4 of  us, and it should be a really cracking week! We then fly back to the North Island where we will bomb around the island, before selling young Morris, and working as much as possible, before heading to our next destination…..

TONGA! It is possible to do something called Woofing (world organisation of organic farming - ing) in Tonga. This should be 2 to 3 weeks, whereby we work on a farm for a few hours every morning, in return getting a bed and 3meals a day! Leaving the rest of the timee to Scuba dive, snorkel, and be beach beer bums! This takes us ‘til the last week of march, where our plans become less clear. Roughly, it will entail flying to Bali, travelling Indonesia Thailand and Vietnam, with a couple of months of Scuba work for me, and a couple of months of teaching (hopefully somewhere amazing like Japan so I can have a wee holiday!) for Becca. This is our ultimate goal, but it could change somewhat as you all know! Anyways for those of you who do not know, that’s the rough plan, and we're going to be home for bex's cousin's wedding early October next year so that is the absolute latest we shall return!

I apologise that this has been far too long coming, the next instalment will probably be mid-September, just before we start our mini trip, or possibly straight after with more exciting news other than cutting trees and wiping bottoms (that’s Bex’s job!).

In short, we’re having a blast, good to earn cash again, but equally we have itchy feet to see some of what we are here for! New Zealand is an incredible country, beautiful, relaxed, fairly cheap, but ultimately we believe too far away from anywhere to live forever!

Love, hugs, kisses and misses from the happy couple, and we will touch base soon(ish)  with another blog we promise!

xxx

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