A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand

New Zealand - in summary

by Kt

I hate to say it, but as the end of our New Zealand trip loomed we were definitely ready to leave. This was in no small part due to the weather. The New Zealand summer had been pretty much a failure and in our month there we probably only had about 6 or 7 sunny days. That sounds like a lot, but that leaves a lot of days in the cold, hanging about not doing anything. Admittedly, it wasn't massively cold and I'm sure to everyone out there suffering freezing temperatures it is most annoying to hear someone moaning about temperatures in the mid to low teens (celcius - I don't ever fathom Fahrenheit). But we had set out an itinerary to generally follow the sun, we didn't have anything in the way of thick clothes and were loathe to blow our budget investing in some just to have to get rid of them in a few weeks when we left the country for (hopefully) warmer climes. This of course led to the hugely disturbing 'Mark's fat lady jeans' debacle. He'd picked them up in the 'free clothes bin' in the Keri Keri farm stay - when we were indeed suffering in the cold and if it wasn't bad enough him wearing them there, he proceeded to take them with him and insisted on wearing them around Wellington, the cool capital city. Not only were these jeans cut to a ladies style, they were also made of the lovely stretchy denim which allows more movement and stretching. This meant of course that over time, after sitting in the car a lot, they stretched.... and stretched.... and with no belt to keep them up, not only did he walk the streets of Wellington in the unflatterying jeans, he also had to walk along keeping trying to hold them up with one hand. Add to this the fact he hadn't cut his hair or shaved for some time, and he was wearing socks with his flip flops, it did look somewhat like I was taking someone 'special' out for a walk. Happily, it was the fact that they no longer would stay up which eventually lead to him agreeing to leave them behind in Kaikoura. Oh happy days. I must confess that I too became responsible for major crimes against fashion when it got majorly cold - also rocking the sandles and socks look along with a Fijian floral shirt covered up by a leopard print cardie. However, I never walked the streets in such attire, this was purely to nip to the toilets when I had to go outside into the cold.

Anyhow, I digress, but the weather was a bit factor for us for a couple of reasons.

1. When you are in a hostel, if the weather is not nice, unless you have the appropriate attire and like going out and doing outdoorsy things in rubbish weather (no to both), you are stuck either in your small, basic room for hours, often days on end, unless you venture out into the shared living areas which are usually crammed with other travellers in a similar or in fact, worse situation if they are sleeping in the dorms. Although the idea before we left of spending hours reading was very appealing, after a lot of time, in small spaces, it can get extremely boring.
Anykind of wirless internet became our Mecca and even then that generally meant we'd coughed up loads of money for it and just had it on the laptop, which then became the biggest bone of contention and cause of arguments. Each of us pretending that the tasks we had to perform on the laptop were more important or that we hadn't been on it all that long. We really did squabble like a couple of kids with only one toy to play with.

2. When you are travelling on a budget, the alternative to being outdoors, or stuck in your room, pretty much always costs. A lot.
Save the odd gallery or museum which would be cheap, nearly everything came at a pretty tidy price in New Zealand. Even a cup of tea to get out of the cold felt like a bit or a rip off (although nothing will ever beat the 3 quid I paid for a mug of tea at Giraffe in Brighton, which I'd upgraded from the 2 quid 'cup' and was delivered to me as a mug of hot water, a bog standard Yorkshire Tea teabag and a small jug of milk).
It was partly a bad exchange rate with the pound but even some New Zealanders I met said that the price of things had gone up and that the cost of things versus the fairly low average wage, was causing problems, particularly for families. People who once went holidaying in holiday parks where now going for cheaper self catering options, even hostelling. People were trying to get together and sell to each other produce that they grow or make, vegetables and fruit in particular, which in fact, rather unfairly the government was trying to clamp down on. There was also a nationwide scandal, discussed on the various news programmes about the cost of milk.
So the cost of everyday stuff was high and so, as is the way of the world, the cost of touristy things was then very high.
Trips to do anything were 'blow the budget' high and as we sat and thought about doing any of them, it always seemed the cost outweighed what we'd get out of the 'experience'. The fact that we'd quite likely be very cold whilst doing much of them, also didn't help.

I think you'll notice on the blog that all our lovely looking, happy days out, happen to be the sunny ones (or at least sunny half days, or an hour or so!).

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So, we spent a lot of time in New Zealand not doing things. We'd done much the same in Fiji, but when it's warm, tropical and you're by the beach, that's a satisfying kind of 'not doing'. In New Zealand, were were quite frankly down right bored a lot of the time. And yes I know that 'only boring people get bored' but you really do have limited options when you're carrying your life around in your bag and you just don't have that plethora of things that you have at home to entertain you and you don't have your own space in which to do anything. If we were different types of people we would have gone off and hiked up something, despite the crud weather, but having never owned a fleece or a sensible pair of shoes, it was never likely going to happen. I can get much more with the concept, like in Fiji, of trekking when it's somewhere tropical but the chilly, drizzly greenery on offer wasn't going to make me have a change of character.
It's not to say we didn't enjoy or like New Zealand, it's just that we felt we spent too long there because while we were there we started to feel fed up and frustrated due to the weather and cost. When we spent the week in the lovely seaside town of Kaikoura, we could have easily whiled away the hours happily on the beach if only the sun had stayed out for more than a few hours.
Instead, the highlight there was when we said 'sod the budget' on our last night and had an exceptionally good meal at one of the restaurants along the seafront. We had started at the nearest pub, in a slightly ropy hotel down the road from our hostel. We'd been there briefly when the sun was out as they had the most fantastic beer garden. Oddly, it doesn't seem the New Zealanders appreciate them as much as us as the only people in the garden that evening were a bunch of mainly expats celebrating someone's birthday by having a bbq.
So, upon our return to this pub, we had to be in door as the weather was pants as usual. Well, if you could take all the folks from 'The hills have eyes' and put them into a room, that would best describe the clientele. We are no stranger to weirdos or ruff'ns in Brighton - but this was on a different level. We have generally found that the pubs that have pokies or gambling slips for the horses etc in, although cheap, are often best avoided. So, after one drink we ran away from this place and ended up in a rather lovely boutique hotel around the corner where the wine was good and the menu had us drooling. But the plan had been to have a quick one and then go back and do battle in the hostel kitchen to make some kind of pasta meal with our left over food. So we left the boutique hotel and half way down the road concluded that maybe one more drink wouldn't go amiss and ended up going into a restaurant bar of a place which looked pretty non-descript from the outside and was a bit dark wood/old skool inside. We made the mistake while supping our drinks to read through the menu. Big Mistake. All sense of will-power went out of the window and we convinced ourselves that we had 'saved' hundreds of pounds by not doing the various activities/trips which had seemed so pricey so we ought to spoil ourselves. And of course, the determination that 'we'll just have a main course' slipped quickly to the wayside.
The meal was, unexpectedly, one of the best meals I've had in the last 9 months, including some of the best of Brighton. The decor and definitely the outside of the place did not convey the delights within and despite a hefty bill, it was a fabulous treat when we had been denying ourselves so much.
The name of the restaurant, by the way, was The White Morph. When I posted a picture of the sign on Facebook and commented that this was what Chas has been doing in his retirement, I was extremely disappointed that none of my UK friends picked up on that - shame on you!!

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Anyhow, it did feel a shame that it was cheaper (and it wasn't cheap, I can tell you), to go out and have a mind blowing meal than it was to go out for a couple of hours on a boat. But hey, that really was a great meal!

I think basically we just didn't enjoy our New Zealand trip as much as we could have, but that really that isn't a reflection on New Zealand itself, but more on our expectations and bad luck with the summer's weather, the realisation that staying in hostels all the time isn't for us and us struggling to budget in a country which felt like home and the where the pound was so weak.
I also think my lack of planning and knowledge of the country before we went didn't help. I'd do the planning while in Fiji, which was scuppered when our macbook died. So we were doing a lot of things on the fly and I'm sure if we'd got ourselves in gear and got in touch with
Sally earlier, she and Adrian's local knowledge would have put us on a better path (literally).

So that is my summary of our trip, but here is my summary of the country, which oddly is a contrast.

New Zealand is a great place. The people and life-style is much more laid back than the UK. It's quite possibly more like the UK was years ago and possibly is in small corners, where you can leave your windows and doors unlocked. You are friendly to people you know as well as strangers. You help people out. It's safer to let your kids out to play.
Obviously there's dodgy areas, especially more in the citites and dodgy people to boot, but not so many. That could possibly also be down to population. According to some google statistics, there are 4,367,800 people in New Zealand compared to 62,218,761 in the UK. That's a huge difference considering New Zealand is only slightly larger than the UK. I think in New Zealand they know that as the population grows, so will crime and social issues, but they've got a way to go. Not that they don't have social issues of their own. There is, like in so many places, a wannabe gang culture amongst the disallusioned, usually poor teens and youngsters. Adrian, who we stayed with, works with young people and he told us that the red/blue colours, synonymous with the old school gangs in the US, are taken so seriously that his sons prefer to avoid wearing those colours, just to avoid any kind of trouble. Yet this is in the same area where Sally leaves her car door unlocked and the kids can play freely in the streets. It seems to be more about acceptance, machismo and boredom rather than wanting to trash your neighbourhood. But of course over time things can escalate and perhaps an issue for some of New Zealands poorer young people is that they don't really have many options of where else to go.
But for now and probably for a fair while to come it is a safe country. We found it quite alarming when we stayed in the Keri Keri farm hostel that there wasn't even a lock on our bedroom door and they certainly didn't lock up at night but we the longer we were in the country, we got more and more used to not worrying so much about security and being more trusting of people in general. So much so we realised we'd better wise up to go to Oz, or we'd be in real trouble.
The friendliness, the helpfulness and the safeness are all reasons I can totally understand why people move here, particularly when they have kids. Although the weather is temperamental and you can have four seasons in one day and we have experienced a non summer, the weather is generally milder and life is much more outdoorsy - another bonus for families. Of course finally, outside the cities and even in the cities to a large extent, the size of the property you can get for far less money is also a big thing. It's difficult not to stare into the estate agent windows and gawp at the house prices which with a lousy exchange rate seem crazy compared to the UK and in particular South East England. In some areas we could have a veritable mansion with acres for the price of our Brighton flat. But it's not really about those extremes or being greedy about what you can get, it's more about being able to get a reasonably priced, usually detached nice family home with a nice garden and space to park your cars. That's pretty uncommon back home. Detached in particular comes at a big cost and although we've done well from the rising house market over the years, it has gotten to a depressing point where your average family often struggles to afford a quite basic, small, family home.
Of course the kids over here like the same things as all kids - TV, computers, mobiles etc, but they do also get more freedom and more of an outdoor existence, probably more like I remember when I was young. It was most charming when Tori and Jasmine, the two little girls we stayed with, whilst giving me a rundown on their life, listed their many pets, their neighbours pets and then went on to tell me about lots of fishing expeditions with their dad and holidaying down at the Coromandel. I only learnt that their favourite TV show was Sponge Bob Square Pants (yey - kindred spirits), when I specifically asked!

So there's much to like about New Zealand and I could have easily settled down for a few months, but would have to be earning to counterbalance the cost of things. I was quite keen on Wellington and Auckland, Wellington in particular. Enough of an artsy scene to keep it interesting, with the seafront to let Mark lose on (if he'd ever be able to afford to dive) and lots of vintage shops. I think I'd find it tough in the smaller towns, where you definitely get a everyone knows everyone and everything that goes on vibe.

An important lesson I have learned here is that travelling the hostel way, you are in a bit of a bubble, you tend to barely talk to locals. For the younger travellers I think their backpacking experiences are more about meeting other travellers and having lots of major experiences, but we found that wasn't really for us and definitely staying at Sallys and Adrians was a highlight to just chat about every day stuff and ask daft questions about stuff you've observed. Day to day life is more interesting, to me, maybe not Mark, than the big experiences or even hanging out at the beach. And funnily enough, when we felt at home with the New Zealanders, the sun finally came out big style!!!!!

New Zealand highlights, faves and funnies:

The thermal activity, despite the smell.

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Staying in jail. Oddly fun.

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Kune pigs - I love these ugly things:

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Kia Ora means kind of hi/welcome in Maori, so it's the first thing you see when you fly in and it pops up all over the place.
However, being around in the 80s, any kid who went to the cinema knows Kia-Ora as the soft drink with the cool advert.

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Reminisce or enjoy this classic advert for the first time here

So we couldn't help it, every time we saw it, we thought, if not said, 'it's too orangey for crows' and 'i'll be your dog'

Irish bars:
In all the Irish bars we went in, in New Zealand, they unashamedly played Westlife and Ronan Keating. Of course they are Irish, but no self respecting Irish pub I have been to anywhere else would class such music as worthy. It just always made me smile, I do like a bit of Westlife - I'm not ashamed. Oddly when we were in Fiji, from the not huge catalog of songs played on guitar and sung by the guys in both our Tuvunnu and Maqai resorts, they played both a bit of Ronan and Westlife too.

Old buses:
For some reason, all over New Zealand, north and south islands, in the middle of nowhere or in towns, there were loads of properties which had old buses outside. Just the one, that clearly hadn't gone anywhere for 20 years at least. It just became a really odd thing that I noticed time and again. Maybe they use them as mini house extenstions - somewhere dry for the kids to hang out? Maybe bus owners get charged a fortune to scrap them after use - I have no idea. It's something I observed but am clueless to the reason.

Bad, bad, buskers:
I have never known a place with worth buskers. Everywhere, they were terrible and for some reason, usually playing electric guitar.
From the metal head in Auckland with his amp up loud making a row, to the guy down the road doing some kind of jazzy jamming which may work ok at home but did nothing but sound a wreck for the masses. No matter where, they were always just terrible. Although, the really drunk bloke in Christchurch belting out irish songs, although not officially a busker, was at least entertaining.
For a nation which produces some good music, they really should up their game and at least ban electric guitar busking!

The latest 'don't drive and drive' ad campaign:

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Auckland tipping:
Tipping isn't a big thing in New Zealand and it tends not to go on the bill but there is often tip jar on the counter of restaurants and bars.
In Auckland, the bars tended to have little amusing signs on the tip jars. I can't remember most of them, but here are the two I liked enough to remember -
- Tipping is sexy
- Everytime this jar gets filled a Justin Bieber fan dies

The fact that the supermarket trolleys are called trundlers:

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The accent:
I LOVE the New Zealand accent. I always have and this trip did nothing to discourage that. I could listen to it all day. It's not quite so enjoyable of course to listen to Marks tragic attempts. Considering his attempt at an irish accent usually consists of him saying 'I'm Irish' in a mainly west country accent, it was never going to bode well for his attempts further afield. He started the trip to New Zealand solely talking in an Australian accent/with Aussie phrases which I was sure would get us beaten up. So, I suppose at least I could be grateful he finally noticed the difference and gave it a go. And he hasn't ruined it for me, thankfully. Shame they got rid of Shortland Street at home :(
I also love the Maori accent and having watched the fantastic film 'Boy' at Sallys, have copied 'Whale Rider' from them, I at least can get my fix of that while travelling in Oz.

Posted by KtandMark 21:04 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

End of New Zealand - a treat on the day of the treaty

by Kt

So, we finally released from the Jailhouse in Christchurch, not without being put on record first of course..

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We then hopped on a short flight back to Auckland where we were met at the airport, very kindly, by Sally, who's home we would be staying in for the next couple of nights.
Sally was great mates with Marks sister, Karen, and had moved to New Zealand about 11 years ago. Mark hadn't seen her in probably 15 years and I'd never met her, but she graciously offered us to come stay withb her. She lives about half an our south of Auckland airport in a small town called Pokeno. She lives there with her husband Adrian, two gorgeous girls Tori and Jasmine. Adrian has a bunch of older boys too who stay often, who's room we knicked and Cane, the 19 year old who lives in the garage and has it too good to ever leave. We can understand that having stayed for a few days - it's a lovely, chilled out place to be and was an incredibly welcome break after traipsing around the hostels for the last 2 months. No matter how nice or interesting the places we had been before, you can't get that sense of normality and comfort that you can in someones home. Just sitting chatting, watching TV, listening to the kids place make-believe, playing with the pets, Venus the cat, Freddy the mouse, Princess Chocolate Face the rabbit and the visiting neighbour's one-eyed dog, Oscar - it really was what we both needed at a time we were starting to feel homesick.
Plus Mark and Sally had a massive catch up about everyone from their school days and looked back at some old photos and her year book from school with some particularly interesting photos of Karen that I had never seen before. They had a great reminisce while Adrian and I rolled our eyes and watched a fantastic documentary on the demolition derby up northlands in New Zealand. If you can find away to watch 'Kaikohe Demolition' - it's a blast!
We'd arrived on Waitangi Day which is a bank holiday to commemorate the day a, still controversial) treaty signed in 1800s between the Maori chiefs and the british. So, everyone was off work and school.
It was nice to chat about New Zealand from an insider perspective and to ask about the odd things that I'd been wondering about or noticed. Adrian is Maori so knows the place inside out and Sally has been there along time but us being there reminded her or some of the silly little differences you notice.
The weather finally perked up and we had a drink down at a bar just outside of town, down by the river which was a lovely settings. It re-iterated to us one of the big differences in New Zealand, outside the cities, much like in the US, if you want to go to a restaurant or pub/bar, you have to get in the car. Although many village pubs at home are closing, it's not that often you don't have somewhere you can get to on foot.
We then had a major treat of a lamb roast - oh how we'd missed roasts, which Mark cooked, most impressively, while we chilled out in the garden. We had to honour the 'land of lamb' with this huge leg of lamb, accompanied by Kumara, the sweet potato cooked traditionally in New Zealand along with silver beat, kind of like swiss chard, grown in their garden. Yum.

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The next day Sally, once again very kindly, dropped us off at our airport motel, but not before we all had a min science lessen in the form of how frogs become tadpoles. They had a tank of tadpoles at the front of the house, which just as we were leaving, Sally noticed, had started to turn into frogs. It's not since primary school have I seen tiny, baby frogs and more interestingly half tadpole, half-frogs in various forms, tadpoles with just back legs or frogs still with long tails. Not particularly fascinating thing to blog about but it just took me back to when I was young and had more time to look at such things. It's a good metaphor for New Zealand as a whole. It's a more laid back, chilled out place and also from a slightly more innocent times. Sally rarely locks her car door, parked out the front of her house. The kids can happily and safely run around the neighbourhood. I can definitely see the appeal of New Zealand for people with families. You not only get so much more space from a property, it is safer and priority is on family and home much more than work.

Anyway, after a lovely few days, our last night, predictably from an airport 'lodge' was a bit bleak. The place, although it had a pool, was a bit battered and grim. Our room had clearly at some point been an office as it was off the main lounge, had a 'Private' sign on the door and an empty corkboard up on the wall. Most strangely though was on the bedside cabinet they had 3 cards with pictures of dogs - I can not for the life of me imagine why.

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We went to the hotel next door for a bite to eat and had probably the only bad meal we had in the whole time we were in New Zealand. Calamari that appeared to be re-constituted fish rather than have any squid in it. Garlic bread that you have in the freezer and has a tiny bit of garlic butter that melts when you heat it up - nothing wrong with that, but at these prices! Marks lamb curry, he is convinced, came out of a tin of dog food. I, myself, was not surprised but was quite disconcerted that my usual 'safe' choice of spaghetti in tomato sauce was also pretty gross. How on earth can you get that wrong???
We should have settled into the hotel with a sandwich and a packed of crisps from the garage but hey ho. We needed an early night as we had to get up at 5am to catch our flight anyhow.
Auckland airport was, as ever, super efficient and to our surprise, our cheap flight to Adelaide with Pacific Blue, ended up being with Air New Zealand. This was pure luxury, especially compared to the 2 hideous 10+ hour flights we'd had on the way over to Fiji.
Comfy seats, individual TVs with tons of TV choices (have you noticed TV has become a major luxury in our lives).
The video for the in-flight safety talk was hilarious and culminated in a naked old lady - has to be seen to be believed!!!
The flight was longer than I'd thought, being around 4 and a half hours. Happy with that! I settled down to the pilot of 'New Girl' which I liked so much I watched twice - then a bunch of other great new shows, such as Modern Family and Mr Sunshine with Matthew Perry. Mark, disturbingly, watched first a Susan Boyle documetary then Brittany Spears in concert!!!??? You know that you can know someone a long time and sometimes find that you never really knew them at all? Hmm.

Posted by KtandMark 17:26 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Christchurch

by Kt

I hadn't know what to expect from Christchurch. I knew a year on from the last major quake that it was still struggling to get back on it's feet. When I'd seen the New Zealand news, there were reports on the numbers of families who are giving up trying to get their homes sorted and just leaving the area and sometimes the country altogether. There is also much discussion about the christchurch politicians and how they've been slow and inept with the funds. There seemed to be a lot of frustration that things weren't moving quickly enough in many respects.
First driving into Christchurch you don't see any signs that anything could be wrong. We drove in through the suburbs, around the ring road and got to our hostel, only 20-30 minutes or so south of the city centre, without noticing much, other than what we'd seen so far wasn't especially inspiring. The suburbs seemed ok, but the area around the hostel and south of the city centre is mainly made up of out of town type places, big stores, garages, maccy ds, burger kings etc. There is also a lot of cars here. Aukland and Wellington always seemed pretty light on the traffic so that was a big surprise.

We dropped off our rental car and got advice from them where to head up to in the city and they marked off the redzone for us on our map. We crossed the wide, busy roads, passing the streets still full of the blocky trading estate type buildings, until we came across our first sign that something big here had happened. It was a huge, catholic church which was fenced off and had been undergoing/was due demolition of parts of it, as clearly it had been affected, with either side of the main columned part of the building missing the frontage. It was odd to see inside these rooms. Like when they do the demolitions on the mass blocks of flats in London and you can see into the rooms and see the flowery wallpaper and whatever was abandoned.
There was a safe hanging off one of the inside walls which caught our attention. Most impressively the main frontage of the building with huge, tall columns and intricate statues up top, remained in place. I don't do religion but if I did...

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As we walked on further we saw the odd building boarded up. Nothing other than the church had stood out as particularly unusual though. There is always so many boarded up buildings at home - particularly in places which are mainly working towns like Slough, Bracknell etc , that it didn't seem strange. Then all of a sudden we hit a road that was cordoned off, the beginning of the 'red zone'. The street went on quite deep and had other roads going off in different directions at the bottom of it. Interesting streets with shops and restaurants and bars, all abandoned. As we moved around you could see large office blocks with half the windows boarded up, tall buildings, tilting a little to one side or with shonky roofs. The thing that was most shocking was realising the size of the area, how much was in it and how, more than anything that this was slap bang, totally in the centre and the heart of Christchurch. If you look at any of the tourist maps (much of the literature hasn't been updated), most of the areas you are directed to or would head for are in the red zone. When we'd watched the movie set in Christchurch in the 1950s, there had been a part at the beginning showing footage of the city centre at the time. That seems more poignant to us now that we had seen where much of this was caged off. It really does look like a ghost town. Stuff still in the shops, signs still out on the streets, bikes still chained to railings. As you walk around the safe areas there are still a huge amount of shops and businesses shut down. As you head up towards the park at the edge of the city centre, Hagley Park, the huge arc at the bridge or rememberance is cordoned off so no-one can get too near. It looks sound enough, but I guess there's a real worry with all these buildings that someone can get hurt and they have to be sure of their safety. It seems so cruel that it should be this 'heart' of the city that was taken away. That's a tough thing to come back from. The places in the UK that had their centres trashed in the Blitz or wiped out by dire 1960s city planning (to be fair, often as a result of the former), never have the same appeal as the ones with a the old buildings, creating the natural hubs. Coventry and Farnborough being two examples that spring to mind. I do hope Christchurch manages it and they don't lose too many people or motivation in the meantime. You have to admire all the Christchurchians who are doing what they can to bring back as much life to the centre as they can. I can't imagine the complexities of how to sort it out. You could have 75% buildings in there perfectly fine but it's too much of a risk because of the dodgy 25% and the cost of sorting them out is huge and it takes time. In the meantime of course, the 75% are left to decay, adding another element to the problem. Mind bending, I think. Whether the politicians deserve the criticism they are receiving, or not, I don't envy them this task.

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But things are looking up and looking good. They've created an amazing shopping area around that abandoned area, using huge shipping crates, transformed into shops and restaurants. They have lots of cute food carts around there and music and there's lots of colour (and the odd colourful character). On the plus side for the shopper or the tourist, the parking is darned cheap. I guess they have all these buildings they've had to flatten and so there is large open spaces around providing ample parking and as it's so cheap and as more things open (or re-open) hopefully it can lure more people back to the city centre and away from what I guess their main rival, the out of town mall. We've had the displeasure of walking through one of their main ones in the suburb of Riccarton and I, never a fan of such places at the best of times, really hope that's not what becomes of Christchurch.

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But the silver lining could be that some of the non-descript suburbs/areas of Christchurch become hubs for displaced business. Areas such as the one our hostel is in, which is mainly garages and older and more battered business are becoming renewed as some 'cooler' business move in. I have read that in a particularly industrial area of Christchurch they are working with the existing architecture to create interesting spaces to bring in, in particular the creative businesses. I did notice that the old warehouse area in Auckland, near to where we stayed, was a fantastic example of how to do such renovations well. This has a lot of designer furniture stores out there which work really well with the aesthetic of the big, looming brick buildings.
Not far from our hostel, tucked behind a shell garage, behind a newly built coffee shop and deli, we found a fantastic bar/venue which had been setup in this grungy, industrial space. It was very cool, having been designed with the exact amount of comfort and style with a major nod to the buildings origins. A small stage, great music playing on an incredible sound system, comfy leather sofas, japanese inspired bar menu, great beer and wine - what's not to love. We only wished we'd found the place sooner.

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Posted by KtandMark 13:24 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Jailhouse Rocks!!!

by Kt

Never one to shy away from a cliche, eh? It was Marks idea, once again. He is now officially in charge of blog titles.
Anyhow, the hostel that we have come to in Christchurch is an absolute blinder!! It is by far the best we have gone to in New Zealand, it's only downside is it's location isn't that great, but then with the current state of Christchurch, it doesn't seem that anywhere is.

The hostel building is a former prison, built in the 1800s and in use up to 1999. It was bought in 2006 and converted into a hostel. On the hostel side it is the dream hostel. I thought it would be dark and pokey but they've built a glass atrium on the front so it's full of light and has lots of large open spaces. An internet room with macs, a tv room as well as a cinema room, a brilliant kitchen with everything you could possibly need and nice things too rather than skanky old saucepans and plates. The bathrooms are great so I'm actually squeaky clean for once.

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Anyway, back to the former prison side of things. We are sleeping in an original cell. The cell viewing windows have been replaced by mirrors so you have privacy but from outside it looks like you can see into the cells. Bunk beds again - but I'm not silly, Mark is up top this time. Funnily enough this room, despite being a real cell, is larger than the room we had with bunks in Rotorua! There is a cell setup with old stuff from it's life as a jail with a mannequin of a guard (more of him later) and there's various artifacts in glass cases about the place.

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There is also a cell which has artwork on the walls done by the inmates on the last day the prison was open in November '99. A guy name 'Willy Two Worlds' features heavily. Can't help but wonder what has become of ol' Willy.

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The creepiest park is at the back of the building where you can go up some stairs to the old isolation cell. This is a small (obviously) room which horribly also has a trap door down to a lower level of even worse isolation which had little light or space. As we followed the stairs round we heard this screaming and wailing which rather freaked me out, but fear not, it just turned out to be the cinema room where you can watch dvds in surround sound on a projector - think they were watching Lord of the Rings or something of that ilk.
That leads me to our interesting discovery - stay tuned fact fans . Routing through the dvds which are an odd mix of slapstick, thrillers with a bunch of prison and crime movies thrown in, we came across a film at the bottom of the pile which had a label slapped on it saying 'Pauline stayed here'.
The film is called 'Heavenly Creatures' and when later in the evening, having discovered the cinema room empty, we made a run for it and got in there with it. Because people like to have a good look around the hostel (as we did) when they first get here we had the odd person wandering through from time to time. But I felt fairly safe in the knowledge most folk who looked up at what we were watching wouldn't take much interest.
The story, set in the early 50s in Christchurch, starring a very young Kate Winslet, is a true story about two school friends, Pauline and Juliet who kill one of the girls mothers. I'm not giving anything away, it's obvious from the start and it's a good film - worth a watch. Anyway, they live in a kind of fantasy bubble and write books together and think they are genius, kindred spirits. This, bizarrely leads to them blugeoning Paulines mother, pretending it's an accident but they don't get away with it as Pauline has recorded everything in diary that she had kept for years.
They tried to plead insanity but that was denied and they were too young for the death penalty but were sent to seperate jails. The shocking part of this story, we thought was that they were released after only about 5 years. Seemed a bit foregiving but hey ho! A condition of their release was that they never contact each other again.
What we THEN discovered, after a little googling, is that Juliet moved immediately to England and has lived in the States for a while and now lives in Scotland. She fulfilled her childhood dream of becoming a writer and is a very successful writer of historical crime fiction, going by the name of Anne Perry.
Pauline, meanwhile, at some point also moves to England, gets married and runs a kids riding school in Kent. She now lives in the Orkneys. All very peculiar and it seems so odd that they should end up so close to each other in their 70s, on the other side of the world to where their story began. I'd so like to know the ins and outs of their lives.

So, after an evening spent watching that movie, which wasn't scarey as such but quite dark and dramatic, I was left a bit spooked. Mainly, when we paused it for Mark to go to the toilet and I was left in the dark room on my own. The realisation hit me that I have to sleep in an old prison. Me! Scared of the dark and ghosts and everything that could possibly go bump in the night. I hadn't really thought about it when I booked it as a treat for Mark who has a (frankly morbid) obsession with prisons. After I came out of the shower room at around 9.30 they'd dimmed all the lights and as I came down the stairs I could see a dark figure looming at the back of one of the cells. Yes, I am being overly dramatic and yes it was the mannequin I mentioned earlier, but colour me creeped out!!
I am typing this sat in my cell, on the bottom bunk, wondering how I can convince Mark to leave the light on all night!!! Wish me luck.

On the upside, Mark is having a ball. Ever since we got here he has been wandering around talking in an east end gangster stylee going about 'screws' and 'lockdown'. He apparently wants to score some scag (whatever that is) and has decided to give everyone who walks past a prison nickname. 'Beanpole', 'Greeny', 'Mr Big' to name but a couple. And I have indulged him by coming up with a few scenarious - like the young lad with nickname 'Chipper' - he's called that be cause his dad is also banged up in here and he's a chip off the old block! We also have the 'Prof'. He is a former tax accountant in here for murdering his wife and kids but he is innocent and was framed by his former business partner. Because he reads books of any kind he has been labelled the Prof and helps the other inmates out with their legal paperwork and so therefore he is looked after and 'safe'. No cliches here - no sireee!!! And OF COURSE Mark made the joke about going in the jail showers!! We are on day one but I don't think he's going to tire of this readily.

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Posted by KtandMark 23:21 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Life in Kaikoura

by Kt

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The Albatross hostel (named as there are trips to go off and see the nearby big birds) is situated in the old post office building so has a couple of sweet features, like the massive safe door.
It is decorated in a funky way and has some interesting things to do, like musical instruments and art corner where you can do some painting.

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Cooking here has been fairly good - there's not a huge amount of room but have cooked at odd hours so could take more time. The best thing is that there is tons of stuff on the free shelf so have been able to use herbs n spices at long last. They even have fresh herbs growing outside that you can use.
This has come at a particularly good time for us as we had a sad, lamenting conversation in Wellington about how much we miss the maldon sea salt in our nigella salt pig at home. What this says about us, I do not know. Suggestions not welcome!!

The weather has been pretty hit and miss and seeing as pretty much all the things to do around here are mind bendingly expensive, we've ended up a bit fed up and bored at times. The hostel is nice on a sunny day when everyone is off doing stuff but when it's wet, everyone is in and it's too small for that really.

We did entertain ourselves at a little farm park just outside the town. They specialised in Llama treks (didn't need to leave sussex for that I know) but it was the rest of the menagerie that turned out to be fun. Doesn't matter what mood you are in, you can't not be happy to see pigs and rabbits surely? I am totally besotted with New Zealands own Kune pigs, as they had in our farm stay. They are just so darned ugly, you have to adore them.

Much of the area the animals mixed freely with each other and with you. They had a tame dear, lots of crazy turkeys who liked to chase the collie dogs. Tons of ducks and chickens with chicks and ducklings - awwww.

In one of the areas we were met affectionately by the pig which was a normal pig mixed with a wild boar who was rather cute/ugly and took a bit to much of a shine to me - the girl came and penned her in which alarmed me after she said that she was on heat and acting strangely. What that says about me, I don't know. I won't go into the story of the goat that scared Mark so much that he ran out and hid behind a gate - that would just embarrass him.

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They had some emus, fenced in, at the top field. They are funny, almost dinosaur like creatures. They were making very peculiar noises and got very ancy when one of the donkeys came up close to the fence next to them. Who says donkeys are stupid.. basically the emus get all territorial and try to attach the donkeys. This means pointlessly kicking the fence, but also launching themselves over the fence to peck the donkey. This clearly has little effect on the donkeys thick backside other than presumably to give it a good scratch, as it happily sat there until the emus eventually retreated to sulk in the corner.

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We are leaving here tomorrow to go to Christchurch. We are definitely ready to go at this point. Kaikoura is a cute little town and when the sun is out it is lovely. I'm sure in fact it's a nice place to live, but when you're hosteling, as we have found in New Zealand generally, if the weather isn't good and you haven't got much money to spend (or warm clothes to wear) it can be a tad frustrating. As ever, I am looking forward to heading to a city with a bit more going on.

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Posted by KtandMark 19:31 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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