On the plane from Sydney, I struck up a conversation with a fellow passenger, a British gentleman who owned property near Christchurch, the South Island’s largest city. As we approached the airport, he told me that the flight into Chch (as it is affectionately shorthanded) is one of the most picturesque airplane-portal-window views you can get. Sadly, it was late at night and there was nothing to see.
New Zealand customs is very strict: similar to Australia’s policy on interstate travel, there is a fruit, nut, produce and meat quarantine on all items coming into the country. Fortunately, I had no offending articles. Furthermore, they ask if you have any items that have been used for camping, hiking or other bush activities — unfortunately, I had my tent, sleeping bag and hiking shoes. A refreshingly friendly customs agent (yeah, i know, friendly customs agent? But it’s true!) told me she needed to check my tent and told me that she’d bring it back to me after her friends x-rayed my bags. She brought it back properly re-packaged and even chatted with me for a few minutes about good hiking and camping areas!
There is a shuttle that takes you to your appropriate hostel which costs $20. However, if you are part of a group, there’s a base rate of $20, plus $5 per each additional person. Therefore, if you have a big group, the price is only a fraction. I was informed of this after my driver collected money from two girls after having already taken mine. I filed that one under “Good To Know When Flying Into Christchurch.”
I reached my hostel, Stonehurst, and was happy to see clean, though traveler-sparse, facilities. I hadn’t eaten in a while, so I inquired about late-night eating and made my way to a 24-hour mart to dig something up. I settled for some kind of greasy, egg-pastry concoction and ate it on a lonely bench in Cathedral Square, Chch’s cultural center.
I didn’t know it then, but the next few days would change the course of my life and travels for the next 8 months. Life on the road can zig and zag that quickly and dramatically, if you’re willing to let it.