Thursday, 19 May 2011

First week in New Zealand

Click for more pictures of my first big trip in NZ!
I've been in Christchurch for a week and I'm beginning to get familiar with the place. I've met several interesting people, including a very funny Maori guy, got around the city quite a bit (despite the off-limits downtown, which is still closed three months after February's earthquake and several tall buildings are waiting to be demolished), I tasted local beer (surprisingly decent) and made a few incursions into the countryside, which is, plain and simply said, stunning. Those wide plains where Aragorn & Co. used to run around in the Lord of The Rings movie really look like that. I've seen breathtaking mountain ranges, stunning sunsets, thousands of sheep, some seals and even a dead pinguin. But enough of that now, just look at the pictures, I've taken over two hundred of 'em. There are photos from the Banks Peninsula near Akaroa, photos taken along the way from Christchurch to Arthur's pass high up in the mountains, and lastly, Christchurch city itself.

Settling in
Tumbledown bay photo album
But back to reality. I'm still in Christchurch and after a week I'm finally getting somewhat settled in the NZ environment. The first few days were quite a strain on my mind. After years of being settled and living a relatively comfy life in a big city, I was thrown in a completely different place, where getting around isn't as easy as hopping on the tube or taking one of the many buses congesting the streets. There are just a few lines in Christchurch, they don't go very often, the city centre is off-limits and everything's quite far. I think I've never walked so much in London. On top of that, I got so lazy in the last half-year and now I realized that I'll have to live as a backpacker for a long time, with limited clothes, having to the laundry more than once a month, and all the other daily crap that comes with it. But it's ok now, really just initial shock, nothing else. There's lots of backpackers working here and staying long-term in a hostel, they're sitting around me right now, having normal meals, doing normal things, socializing. It's good.

Click for more pics of New Brighton beach
Probably the worst thing though is how short the days are. It's really weird to switch from a 9pm sunset to a 5pm one just like that. It's nothing unusual, it's autumn after all, like November in Europe, but it still takes time for the mind to adjust. On the other hand, we could dream about such weather in most of Europe at this time of the year. Nights are cold, but days are sunny and pleasantly warm. It only rained once so far and the only nuisance is the wind, but it's not that bad. Lots of people walk with shorts and just a jumper and their fine. I shiver at the memory of English or Czech Novembers... cloudy, cold, rainy, depressing...

Click for more photos of post-earthquake Christchurch
All things considered, Christchurch is quite a nice place. If only the consequences of the earthquake weren't so visible on every corner. There are dozens if not hundreds of vacant houses with knocked down walls, cracks in them, some places where houses stood are completely cleared out or there is just a huge pile of rubble. Other buildings don't show any visible signs of damage, but are surrounded by a fence and a very obvious sign "DO NOT ENTER" says a different story... And yet not all houses have been inspected yet, or a decision hasn't been made about their fate. I don't envy the owners of those houses who are still waiting to know what will happen to their home. The worst off is the city centre, though. What can be seen through the fence is not a nice view - empty places where high buildings used to stand, houses with open walls and crashed rooftops, rubble where an old English church should stand, etc. It's an interesting thing to see, I guess, as there are lots of people walking around the fence, taking pictures, commenting... if it was in the UK, they'd probably make a business of it and start selling sightseeing tickets.

Hills walk just outside Christchurch. Click for more pics
The worst thing, at least for me, is the knowledge that it could happen again at any time. There are small shakes all the time, sometimes I lay in bed and there's a couple of quick and mild shakes, which could be caused by a passing truck just as well as by a mini earthquake.

I had a really big dilemma about what work to look for and what to do next. My original plan was to catch the last fruit picking available, but it was too late by the time I got here. Then I wanted to go to Queenstown for the winter, find a job in some skiing resort or a bar or something and enjoy the winter in the mountains, but people say that despite being a nice town, Queenstown is expensive and life there consists mostly of partying, with drunk, puking people all over the place. Not a bad thing, but not my favourite occupation at the moment.

Hopefully I don't overkill this post
with yet another set of photos. Enjoy
I'm getting more and more familiar with Christchurch, I already know some people and there's tons of jobs in building that I'd be interested in, but at the same time I want to stick to my original plan - to stay away from cities. After some consideration, I made up my mind today - a German guy gave me the contact for a vineyard pruning job that's due to start soon, I rang them up today and took the job. It seems like there's some good money to be earned, so I hope everything will work well. Spend the winter in the field and then start travelling in springtime.

A bloody expensive meal
On Saturday I had some Japanese fast food, the most expensive fast food of my life. The crispy chicken was so damn hot that it burned my mouth to blisters. It got worse within a couple of days, not the usual burn that goes away after a while, so I had to see the doctor ($75) and get some ointment. I was also worried it might me the flu, so I'm taking antibiotics as a prevention as well. All summed, a bloody expensive meal for sure.

Anyway, enough chatter. Don't forget to have a look at the pictures.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic read. Shame about earthquake (and fast food). Keep us posted!


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