I’m going to start this post off with one of the major lessons I learnt on my adventure: 30 hours of travel is not fun. In any way, shape or form. I mean, don’t get me wrong, if some kind person (hint, hint) were to offer me a ticket back to New Zealand tomorrow, I would do the journey all over again. But I can honestly say I’ve never felt so exhausted, disorientated or in need of a good hosing down in my entire life (by the time I got to Christchurch the clothes I wore on the plane essentially needed burning)
I really don’t have much memory of the trip out to New Zealand. At Heathrow, I had booked myself into an airport lounge – they’re especially good for the solo traveler; with unlimited food, free wifi, comfy sofas and BEST OF ALL unlimited free drinks. So, by the time I boarded my flight from London-Dubai I was already fairly well lubricated. From then on, I spent a good portion of each of my flights (London-Dubai-Bangkok-Sydney-Christchurch) downing miniatures of gin – with the consequence that during 25 hours of flight time I watched 1 and a half films. I genuinely have no idea what I did for the rest of the 22 or so hours. Well, apart from inanely babbling on to my poor seat-neighbour about my whole life. Oh dear. I do have to just say that Emirates was absolutely amazing – friendly staff, great food, awesome entertainment – couldn’t fault them.
Landing into Christchurch and emerging into the New Zealand sunshine has taken on a dream-like quality in my memory. My overriding thoughts were – get to hotel, get in shower, get in bed, sleep forever. Luckily I’d had the foresight to book myself a shuttle service from the airport to my hotel (essentially a minibus that drops its various passengers off at their various hotels). It was really easy to get, and much cheaper ($25) than a taxi (roughly $50-$75). As I was slumped in the front seat, practically drooling from exhaustion and hoping no one else on the bus could smell me, I remember thinking ‘eh? where’s all the mountains, rivers, lakes and stuff NZ is famous for’. Let me tell you, your first glimpse of NZ from Christchurch airport, and into the city, does not give you any indication of the outstanding beauty you will witness in the rest of the country, so do not be disheartened.
After sleeping like a dead person from 6pm-6am, I want to say I leapt out of bed, raring to begin my Contiki tour. But, this simply was not the case. I was like a very very disorientated zombie on the morning my tour began. If there’s one piece of advice I can impart it would be this – when you get to NZ, if you have the time, make sure you give yourself a day or two to adjust to the time difference and shake off the jet lag before embarking on a major tour, trek, road trip or whatever you have planned.
Anyway, I dragged myself to the lobby – where I met my tour guide, Monique, who registered the new recruits (there were a few of us joining the tour, which had already been to the North Island and was now doing it’s Southern leg) and initiated us in tour etiquette – essentially we were to burn the candle very brightly at both ends. I don’t know what I expected when meeting my fellow tour mates – there was a massive 53 of us in all – but I was genuinely surprised at how welcoming and friendly everyone was. Despite the fact most of the group had already been on the coach together for 10 days, they integrated us newbies into the fold straight away. (Monique did give us a short tour of Christchurch before we boarded the bus for Franz Joseph – but I’ll be talking more about the 2 days I spent in Christchurch at the end of the tour in a later blog post so I won’t talk about that now)
As we journeyed out of Christchurch I FINALLY got my first glimpses of the stunning scenery NZ is famous for. I was already in awe (little did I know it was going to get even better). Sadly, also, as we traveled west the weather got increasingly worse until I regretted wholeheartedly my decision to wear shorts. We drove through Arthur’s Pass which was just absolutely beautiful and stopped at Hokitika en route. Hokitika is a charming little town, famous for it’s authentic jade carvers. I couldn’t resist purchasing myself a gorgeous pair of jade earrings. The traditional practice is to have someone buy jade for you but, hey, as a solo traveler I think I was entitled to take certain liberties.
After a very disorientating, and long, day, we arrived into Franz Josef. First impressions = wet, cold, misty, where the fuck is summer? I’d like to say the weather improved over the two days we were there but, unfortunately, it just didn’t. The west coast of New Zealand is famously dreary weather-wise and I can see why, once we arrived at our hotel (Rainforest Retreat), we were immediately advised to spend the night drinking. Our hotel even had an on-site bar with the slogan ‘it rains, we pour’. Classy.
Anyway, here I must stop. I want to do my adventures in Franz the justice they deserve, so will dedicate my post next week to them (including my first experience quad biking – a truly memorable event for all those who were in the same group as me).
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post. If you have, I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment.
See you next week!
To see more posts from my adventure, check out the links below 🙂