Kiwi Jack: Chapter One

We landed in Christchurch, New Zealand a little over 30 hours ago, which roughly equates to the travel time that was spent to get here (give or take, 33 hours door-to-door). As we’re ending our second night here, I continue to be amazed, as I always am when I travel, how much we’re all alike across the world. We’re truly pack animals, humans. We’re social. We work, we congregate out at bars, we bitch about our jobs/bosses/significant others/traffic/weather etc, have laughs over new or old stories and we truly enjoy good company. I’ve certainly done enough of that with my traveling companions on this trip.

That said, I am pretty convinced already that New Zealand is one of the friendliest countries on earth. Everyone here has greeted us with what I truly believe is genuine smiles (rather than the strained, toothy version that Americans pass off for customer service in the 21st century). A man at the Farm Barn café that is literally at the corner of No and Where stayed open way past his closing time just to provide us three weary travellers with coffee and hot chocolate on a cold day without being the least bit troubled by it, for example (see below). I’m not usually a people person, per say, but I see how I could become one here.

Speaking of friendly, the wife had a enjoyable meet and greet session with a penguin today. Though she didn’t get to hold one as she had wanted (apparently the oils in human hands screw up the oils in their feathers), Toto the 21 year old penguin (already 3x past her life expectancy of 7 years) came running into the room, promptly took a crap, then tried to climb alternately into a green crate and Liana’s purse. Can’t remember the official names of these penguins, but apparently they metabolize so fast that one of these tiny things can actually eat 61 minnow-sized fish in one sitting. Sounds like my dog.

There’s a great video of this as well; it will probably take some time to upload (the internet here is NOT fast), so I’ll probably post it separately tomorrow before we hit the road.

Christchurch is still a city devastated by the terrible earthquakes last year. Though it didn’t have nearly the death toll of Haiti for sure, it’s Central Business District is still closed off and basically unusable. The people make passing reference to this as if it’s a minor inconvenience, such as: “Well, you can’t go downtown, since there is none, but you should go here…”

Didn’t enjoy the scenery right outside of Christchurch as we left this afternoon. It’s mostly farmland, but it seem to stretch on forever. After hearing so much about the beauty of the country and with that in mind, it was hard not to feel a bit let down. Not that it was ugly so much, but it reminded me of so many parts of the USA which I had already been to.

But it didn’t take long to get better. Once we hit the foot of the Southern Alps, things started to change significantly. Due to the cloud cover, I don’t have a picture that really did it justice, but here’s a start. More to come.

Tonight we’re staying literally a stone’s throw from Lake Tekapo, a truly beautiful sight even though we’ve only seen it at dusk and in the dark. Will definitely get some shots of it in the morning and share with you all. From here it’s on to Queenstown and the center of the Otago wine district, home of some of the world’s best Pinot Noir (in my estimation anyway, but need Rex Pickett to come and verify it for me), and I plan to sample all of it. Ambitious, I know.

The most consistent source of entertainment is watching my father try to navigate in yet another country that drives on the wrong side of the road (or is it us Americans that drive on the wrong side?). Mostly this is due to the reversal of the windshield wipers and the blinkers, so every time we need to turn right, the windshield wipers seem to assert their presence, seemingly of their own accord.
Time for some sleep, my loyal readers (hi Mom!). Catch up soon.

10:35pm, August 3
Lake Tekapo, New Zealand