On the other side

July 18, 2007 (Day 1)
Christchurch, New Zealand

We arrived today in New Zealand after a day and a half of travel. Yes, 32 hours after departure from Columbus I arrived halfway across the world in the country most near to the South Pole. I have traded summer for winter and the comforts of home for the open road, and yet I could not be more excited.

Despite the long journey, travel went very smoothly. When I arrived at LAX airport I met up with Kathryn, Marian, Kelly and Kevin – friends that I met on my last Contiki in Europe. When we boarded the plane to New Zealand, I very soon fell asleep and when I woke up we were near our destination.

So far, from what I’ve seen of this country it is beautiful. We flew into Aukland, which is in the northern tip of the north island, and were greeted with a beautiful rainbow. Then after a short layover we flew south over the Southern Alps and what I presume to be much of the scenery from the ever-so-popular “Lord of the Rings” movies to our tour’s meeting spot – Christchurch.

We’re only going to be here overnight, which I think is a good thing because the town doesn’t seem particularly exciting. It’s a very British looking city (more British than England itself according to some UKers we met) complete with a beautiful town square, brilliantly designed churches and a 200-hectare park (second largest to New York’s Central Park). The people are also quite genuine and cordial here. As soon as we arrived at the hotel, the receptionist informed us that Marian had left her passport at the airport and they had it in safekeeping until she could return to retrieve it. We were flabbergasted by the fact that the airport took the initiative to hunt us down – and with such speed and precision. We were even more blown away by gestures of the hotel staff to drive Marian back to the airport free of charge. “Don’t worry,” said the desk woman of Marian’s driver. “He’s a married man.”

After taking care of that business, we spent the day familiarizing ourselves with the cold weather and roads (they drive on the opposite side of the road here) of this country. Having had trouble back at the hotel with my converter, we embarked on a mission to find a hairdryer and flatiron that we could share for the next two weeks. (Remember, we are girls and hair is important.) Due to the guidance of more helpful New Zealanders – or Kiwis, as they are affectionately known – we found ourselves at The Warehouse, a store for discounted household items, and we made our purchases.

Afterwards we decided to rest up and try our bests to recover quickly from the jet lag. Then we met up with the people with whom we will be sharing this glorious adventure. Nearly two-thirds of our group is Australian and they don’t seem to be as rambunctious as our European tour (though I’m ready to be pleasantly surprised.) Our tour manager Johnny and our driver Eddie are both natives so I’m sure they will be able to show us the ropes with ease. I’m looking forward to the next two weeks and I have no idea what will be in store.

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