Just like home

Well, not exactly, although there are lots of similarities:

  • Rolling green hills covered in gorse bushes.
  • Driving on the correct side of the road.
  • Fields full of sheep and cattle.
  • Speaking English.
  • Expensive.
  • Rainy.

On the other hand:

  • Snow covered mountains dotted with skiers and snow boarders.
  • Penguins, seals and albatrosses.
  • Clean air, wide open spaces.
  • Thermal springs and earthquakes.
  • Relaxed and laid back natives.

The lists could go on but those are the things that stick most in my mind. And yes, there are snow covered mountains in Great Britain, and thermal springs and  the occasional earthquake but there are more of them in New Zealand.

After five days hanging around in Christchurch for post (which still hasn’t arrived) I gave up and got on the bus to Kaikoura. The scenery on the way, as everywhere else in New Zealand was beautiful. Snow capped mountains in the distance on the left, rolling green hills between them and the road, ocean on the right. In Kaikoura the mountains come really close to the shore giving peaks, beach and ocean in a 50mm field of view. I thought I’d left the crappy weather of the last few days behind in Christchurch but by the evening it had caught up.

As far as the diving school was concerned it was still winter so they weren’t doing weekday dives. The bad weather meant the dolphin and whale watching boats weren’t going out either. So I walked the Kaikoura peninsular track in the rain on Wednesday morning, grateful to the hostel manager for the loan of a pair of gumboots.

It was still raining on Thursday, another travel day – to Auckland by bus and inter-island ferry. A lot of people have flocked to New Zealand on account of a game played by big hairy men with a funny shaped ball. Apparently there was a game in Auckland at the weekend and hoteliers were using that as an excuse to vastly inflate their prices. My bed for Thursday night cost NZ$25, the cheapest I could find for Friday night was NZ$85. Too expensive for me so Friday was another travel day, up to Rotorua.

Rotorua is an active geo-thermal area, riddled with hot springs, bubbling mud pools and geysers. I was expecting a lot more rotten egg smell all the time. In fact there were only infrequent whiffs unless I was standing right next to one of the thermal features. The town boasts some of the same adventure activities as Queenstown including jet boating, flightseeing and tandem skydives. The sun was out again and I was content with a walk through the redwood forest on the edge of town. Wandering in the peace among some of the largest living things on the planet I felt a strong urge to get naked and run around. My conversion to free spirit is obviously incomplete since I resisted the temptation.

Next day in Rotorua the rain was back and it followed me up to Auckland. See, just like being in England.

There’s just an hour left before I have to catch the bus to the airport and there try to retrieve my walking boots from the MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry) people. Rentokil finally cleaned my boots (and charged me NZ$20 for the privilege), sent so many months ago from Thailand so I wouldn’t have to carry them all through SE Asia. MAF inspected them again and declared them safe to be out and about in New Zealand. But by then I was in Rotorua and just a couple of days away from leaving New Zealand. It seemed like the surest way of getting them back would be to collect them at the airport. Was that tempting fate? We’ll see. Messrs Sod and Murphy be warned! Stay away from the airport today!

Later I’ll get back all the hours I’ve lost in time zone shifts flying eastwards by crossing the dateline. My flight departs at 17:10 today (Tuesday), and arrives in Santiago de Chile at 12:40 on the same date, four and a half hours before taking off. A kind of time travel. What are your travel plans for today?

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