Monday, 31 October 2011

New Zealand: First Impressions

Good morning. Or should I say Good Evening as England is bedding down for the night now...New Zealand is waking up. This is the start of our first full day here. After what was, I have to admit, a pretty gruelling journey, we have had a full night sleep in a very comfy bed and awoken feeling refreshed and raring to explore.

We arrived yesterday (Monday here, Sunday evening in England) at around 4pm NZ time. We are both further than we’ve ever been from home, been higher is the air than we’ve ever been before and, if you don’t count last year when Martin and his Dad drove to Florence in one day, more tired than we’ve ever been in our lives. Having never been jet-lagged before, the feeling was somewhat disorientating. We hungrily accepted about 3 or 4 full meals on the flight, but by the time we got to Sydney, the smell of food just made us feel sick!

As the Captain announced we would be landing in Christchurch in approximately 25 minutes, the plane began to make it’s decent and as the clouds dispersed, we caught our first few glimpses of what will hopefully become our new home: snow capped mountains and ice blue alpine rivers. It was breathtaking. I couldn’t take my eyes off the scenery, literally feasting on what I saw. After nearly 30 hours of air travel, and nearly a year of talking and thinking about the place, we were finally seeing it for the first time. I was feeling slightly emotional due to being over-tired and got quite teary! The whole thing was just a bit over-whelming.

We managed to find the motel no problem as the car rental people provided us with Sat Nav. Our apartment is bijou but has everything you need and the owner even brought us a complimentary bottle of milk and told us the best places to eat nearby. After a much anticipated shower and change of clothes, we hopped back into our little silver Yaris to have a drive around and see what’s about. It seems unlikely you can enter the centre of the city by road as there are many diversions directing you away from the main site of earthquake damage. Every where we went you could see houses and fences propped up with wooden stilts and there are huge mounds and cracks in the roads.

We ended up driving towards New Brighton as this is somewhere I quite fancied living and couldn’t resist pulling up to have a look at the sea. We had to walk up a sand dune to get the beach and I could hear the waves roaring from the other side. I have always harboured a great love of the seaside and couldn’t resist running up the rest of the slope to see the other side. I was speechless. It was half past eight at night and there were still people surfing and jet-skiing, walking casually along the sand. I hardly dare believe that living here is within our reach and capabilities. It just seems so unreal. But amazing.

On the way back, we stopped at a supermarket called ‘Countdown’ (hehe) and got something to eat and some bread ect. Food prices do seem a little higher, about 7-9 dollars for a packet of cheese, but it was hard to tell without working it out. We still couldn’t really eat when we got back and after a packet of crisps and some lemonade, we ended up turning in and feel asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows.

After being awoken at 4.55am by my padres anxiously enquiring as to our safety (thank you Papa!) the day dawned just as lovely as the last, heralded by peaceful bird song (some slightly tropical sounding!). Martin has left to go for his first interview and I am contemplating where to visit this afternoon. I have yet to see a kiwi, even though we have seen a fair few plump flightless birds. We’re planning to go down to New Brighton pier this evening and visit Sumner on the hill. I am in love with the houses, which I really didn’t think I’d take to seen as though they’re all one storey and a bit dated inside. Each house is different from the last, a real random assortment. They all look a bit care-worn and weathered but I think that gives them character. They don’t seem to own land-mowers here either which I think is great! Even in the parks the grass is allowed to grow long and meadow-like; it’s so....natural. Bushes, trees and flowers grow in abundance, unhindered by pruning and clipping. There are lots of giant Hydrangeas, my favourite, and willow trees line the banks of the River Avon.

I do feel very VERY far from home and everyone I know. It is scary. But we have both awoken this morning feeling strangely full of calm, our minds uncluttered. This is a nice feeling and I could get used to it.