Monday, October 10, 2011

New Zealand Day One: The Adventure Begins

Didn't I tell you we had something big planned? We went to New Zealand! For 10 days! It was awesome! I hope you're excited to hear all about it, because you're about to get 10 straight blog posts, all about New Zealand!

As usual, we headed straight out after work on a Friday. Bryan and I have grown used to flying budget airlines like Jetstar and Air Asia, but this time the cheapest tickets just so happened to be through the illustrious Singapore Airlines. First, a disclaimer: they're not paying me to say this. Now: Singapore Airlines is the most awesome airline of all time. They're SO NICE, they give you a silky pillow and a real, fluffy blanket, not one of those weird paper towel blankets you get on United Airlines. The food is legitimately good, and they feed you about 10 times. The seats are comfortable and more spacious than other airlines; the flight attendants are all beautiful; the movie selection is great; the magazine has a good crossword puzzle; the entertainment systems let you play old-school Nintendo (seriously); and best of all, they give you all the free Singapore Slings you want. And they do it all with a smile. So our flight their was great. We did the crossword, played Super Mario Brothers, watched movies, and sipped Singapore Slings in style.

The direct flight from Singapore to Christchurch was about 10 hours long, and with the 4 hour time difference, we arrived at about 9 AM local time. We picked up a rental car from Omega Rental Cars, and Bryan got behind the wheel for his first try at driving on the left side of the road, in the seat that we usually think of as the passenger seat. We'd been in the car for about 3 minutes when we started hearing horns blaring all around us. Oh no! We both looked around frantically. Had we forgotten to stay left?! Had we already broken some unknown traffic law?! We quickly realized the problem wasn't us. We were on the correct side of a one-way road. Across a big grassy median was another two lanes, going the opposite direction. In that lane, we spotted the culprit: an SUV full of young Asian women, driving the wrong direction!!! Cars on both sides were honking their horns, and we slowed down to allow them to cross the median at a turning area. They drove past it. Oh geez. I was watching them and they me the thumbs-up?!?! WHY?! This was not a thumbs-up situation! We slowed again to allow them over at the next turning spot, and this time they came over, laughing and giving thumbs-up and A-OK signs all the while. Crazy.
Stay LEFT (crazy wrong-way drivers not pictured)

After all that driving excitement, we were eager to pull into a hotel and get settled. We went for the Ashford Motor Lodge, largely because it was one of the first places we encountered. It was a little early, so we went to get some coffee while they prepared our room. We walked across the street to quirky Sophies Cafe, where we got coffee with unfamiliar names - a Flat White for me, and a Long Black for Bryan. Both were tasty, especially after a long night on an airplane.
We're wearing warm clothes! Yay!!
Funky Sophies

After coffee, we checked into our spacious room. Despite all the caffeine we'd just consumed, we ended up crashing for a few hours. When we got up, we were energized and ready to explore. We started out by walking down a few of the streets around the hotel. Christchurch was devastated by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in February of this year. The quake killed over 180 people, and was responsible for billions of dollars of damage, much of which was concentrated in downtown Christchurch. The people of the city have obviously done a lot to rebuild, but seven months after the disaster, the city center remains off-limits behind barricades, as efforts continue to demolish unstable buildings and restore those that can still be fixed. Aftershocks (one occurring as recently as September 2) complicate rebuilding efforts. One local told us that 400 buildings have been demolished on the South Island since the quake, and as many still need to come down.
Knox Church, at the intersection near our hotel. Seriously damaged in the earthquake, but still standing.

Throughout the city, spray paint marked dangerous spots and indicated where buildings had been checked and cleared, to make sure there were no people still inside.
Broken window on an unstable building

Among the more official spray paint were some artistic interpretations.
Unusual street art

After winding our way through the damaged streets a while, we made it to our destination - the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. We came in sort of along the back way, off of a somewhat random path. Even so, it was lovely, with a calm stream full of ducks, big willow trees, and dainty cherry blossoms.
Botanic Garden stream
Grandmother Willow?! Man, I love these trees.
Pretty PINK cherry blossoms!
Bryan with the cheery cherry trees

There were regular mallard ducks in New Zealand, but also an unusual duck with an all-white head that I'd never seen before. Apparently it's called a paradise shelduck and it's endemic to New Zealand. I think they're very elegant!
Female paradise duck. Only the females have white heads.
Male paradise duck. Not quite as unique as their female counterparts.

New Zealand has a very uncommon ecology. They have hardly any native land mammals, but over time some mammals (such as rabbits and possums) have been introduced from places like Australia and the UK. Some introduced mammals have thrived in the absence of any serious predators, so now New Zealand does maintain some mammal populations. However, bird life is really where New Zealand thrives. In the absence of land mammals, birds evolved to fill all sorts of niches, and there are birds there that aren't seen anywhere else in the world. As with the mammals, there are also a lot of birds there that were introduced from elsewhere. The botanical garden was our first introduction to local birds, and it was fun seeing a lot of them for the first time.
The non-native chaffinch
Song thrush
Common blackbird
Silvereye (aka wax-eye) in a cherry tree

It was early spring in New Zealand, so a lot of the flowers were just beginning to bloom, and the trees were starting to fill out. We stopped by the rose garden, but it appeared to still be mostly hibernating. Even in its somewhat barren state, it was still lovely and peaceful.
The only ones in the rose garden
Dainty spring blossoms
So pretty
A perfect daffodil

After the rose garden, we headed over to the so-called New Zealand garden, which was full of local flora. Ironically, one of the first things we saw in the NZ garden was a mother mallard duck with her ducklings. Mallards are considered an invasive species in New Zealand.
Mama mallard and ducklings

There were some interesting flowers in the NZ garden, but I couldn't identify them.
Growing right out of a rock crevice

It was so nice to stroll around the gardens in mild, even chilly, weather. We're so used to stepping outside and being immediately drenched in sweat. It was like a dream to walk around comfortably in a hooded sweatshirt. People don't know how lucky they are to have 50 degree weather!! Eventually we left the garden and headed back through the city toward our hotel. On our way out we saw a neat photo exhibition along the street.
Extensive, nature-heavy photo exhibition on the street

It was strange walking through the city. Parts of it, like the area around the photo exhibition, are totally pristine, and then a block later the earthquake damage is evident.
Freshly reinforced historical building
Christ's College. The peak of the building is crumbled in front of the door.
Serious damage at the college, but on its way to repair.

Damage got more and more severe the closer you got to the city center, which is still completely inaccessible, and blocked by fences. Walking near there was eerie, kind of like stepping into an apocalypse movie.
Eerily still and quiet

The clock tower was still prominent and beautiful, even though it looked a little unstable.
Christchurch Clock Tower

All the walking through the city and gardens had worked up our appetites, so we weaved our way over to Spagalimi's (Spag's for short), a restaurant we'd passed a few times. As we got closer, we were lured in by the smell of garlic, and I was super glad we ended up stopping there for dinner. Our pizza was amazing, and we got to try a couple of local beers that they had on tap. We also got a taste of some quality service, which is always a nice change after Singapore's truly abysmal restaurant service. The restaurant started really clearing out around 7 and the waitress told us we'd better hurry if we were going to catch the All Blacks game!

When we were planning our trip to New Zealand, some friends of ours told us that our trip would overlap with the Rugby World Cup. Bryan and I aren't too interested in rugby and since our trip would be over before the semi-finals and finals started up, and most of the games would be on the North Island (which we were skipping), we figured it wouldn't really matter much. Anyway, after the waitress mentioned it, we figured we would grab some local beers from the store, then go back to our hotel room to watch the New Zealand rugby team (the All Blacks), just to see what the hype was all about.

It was awesome. Rugby is SO FUN to watch! Especially the All Blacks! They're amazing! We had a great time watching them and as soon as the game was over, we were wondering when we'd get to see them play again!
Go All Blacks!!!


  1. How exciting! Jeff's in Christchurch right now on business. I wanted to go but it was a whirlwind trip.

    Glad you had a great time, even though it's kind of sad to see from your photos the damage from the quake. BTW, you can get flat whites here. That's what I always get.

  2. So beautiful! Especially that photo of the Willow!! And SQ sounds amazing!!!

  3. Thanks everyone!

    Flora- I had no idea about the Flat Whites! Awesome.

  4. Glad you had a great time in Christchurch. If you ever come back check out, it's helping to promote local, independent businesses after the quake.

  5. My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

    SEO Services Singapore

  6. hi Ive been to nz road adventure trip with mahira holiday homes who has a numbered of very well appointed holiday bungalows in perth australia. the host are really friendly and generous. they do also organized trips to many other countries around the world. I have joined in their adventure road trip to south island new Zealand personally conducted by the host daughter named SITI. a very professional and amazing trip plus I only paid SGD$ 4100.00 for the whole 11 days 10 nights full board trip which includes return air fare, return airport transfer, accommondation in beautiful and clean self contained apartment , the whole journey with tour coordinator and with meals! surely recommend this to anyone who wants to visit NZ with package. her contact number +60123360098

  7. New Zealand is a land of wonders and it is a must visit in your lifetime if ever you get the opportunity. Millions of visitors come to this land to tap the great experience with the amazing tourist attractions. It is one of the most popular destinations for vacations. Because of its vast beauty spread out through all its regions, sometimes choosing a vacation spot in New Zealand can become a challenge. There are different islands you can choose to make your holiday a perfect visit. Here are options for new zealand tours, new zealand coach tours, new zealand self drive tours, new zealand tailor made tours, new zealand escorted tours and new zealand adventure tours.

  8. holiday activity in the country. The two classic trekking routes either to Everest base camp or the Annapurna circuit are not easy and the challenge you'll face on either route will have a lasting effect. The Manaslu route trek around the world's eighth largest mountain is more remote but no less beautiful passing through stunning bamboo forests, villages filled with prayer flags and culminating with spectacular views from Larkya La. Mustang is an easier cultural trek, suitable for those with good general fitness but not necessarily any previous trekking experience. The language, culture and tradition of the Mustang region are still mostly Tibetan making this one of the most culturally interesting treks. There are shorter treks up the Langtang Valley and Helambu which are still hard work but also deeply rewarding. They generally begin in Kathmandu, leading through large grazing areas covered in flowers, dotted with stone huts used for butter making, Sherpa, Tamang villages and the homes of yak herders, right up to the Tibetan border.

  9. Thanks so much for sharing your itinerary! This will definitely help me plan our trip, but it also makes me feel like I need to extend our trip by about two weeks haha. Also available on Budget accommodation in New Zealand.

  10. Thank you very much for sharing information that will be much helpful for making coursework my effective.

  11. Thank you very much for sharing information that will be much helpful for making coursework my effective.

  12. Thank you very much for sharing information that will be much helpful for making coursework my effective.

  13. Information is pretty good and impressed me a lot. This article is quite in-depth and gives a good overview of the topic.
    Corporate Travel Agents Singapore

  14. Redline Run Car Rally is the best road trip adventure where like-minded people across the globe come together to explore the best roads and experience the very best of New Zealand. Drive along the roads in your best cars and interact with everyone at night party organized by the Redline Run team.

  15. Treks Himalaya an indoor outdoor trekking and tours operative company takes you that further way to guarantee you has a memorable trip that you have been dream with Treks Himalaya is part of your choice. Trekking in Nepal is delighted to welcome you tiny but amazing country. Nepal trekking is final purpose for trek in Nepal offers numerous options walking excursion to meet snowy peaks, their foot hills, valleys but however there is amazing for each who hope hiking in Nepal hill, mountain area. Nepal as unique combination of natural glory, spectacular trekking trips to hard climbing and trekking most rewarding way to skill Nepal natural beautification and cultural array is to walking, trekking, width and the height of country. We are specialize in organize Nepal travel activities excursion such as:- Trekking, Helicopter Tour, Peak Climbing, Mountain Flight, Honeymoon Tour, Sightseeing, Rafting, Jungle Safari, Pilgrim’s Tour, Hotel Reservation, Air Ticket, Tibet and Bhutan Tour many more.

  16. one of the best blog i really like this blog, we providing best seo singapore service at best price.

  17. Nice blog. Thanks for sharing this adventure trip to New Zealand. I love New Zealand Adventure Holidays

  18. The stuff in this blog is in not only incredible but also providing the great knowledge to the people.

    Truck Rental Auckland

  19. Special Holiday is Wholesale Tour Operator in India, recipient of National Tourism Award presented by H.E The President of India, International Quality Award from Europe & also World Travel Brand Award, to name few. We have our own transport fleet and offer most attractive deals for tour packages, hotels and car rentals.

  20. Are you tired of seeking loans and Mortgages,have you been turned down constantly By your banks and other financial institutions,We offer any form of loan to individuals and corporate bodies at low interest rate.If you are interested in taking a loan,feel free to contact us today,we promise to offer you the best services ever.Just give us a try,because a trial will convince you.What are your Financial needs?Do you need a business loan?Do you need a personal loan?Do you want to buy a car?Do you want to refinance?Do you need a mortgage loan?Do you need a huge capital to start off your business proposal or expansion? Have you lost hope and you think there is no way out, and your financial burdens still persists? Contact us (

    Your Name:...............
    Your Country:...............
    Your Occupation:...............
    Loan Amount Needed:...............
    Loan Duration...............
    Monthly Income:...............
    Your Telephone Number:.....................
    Business Plan/Use Of Your Loan:...............
    Contact Us At :

  21. Your vacation is very pleasant. Thank you for sharing your experiences and knowledge about holidays.