Day 1 did not seem like a different day than Day 0. There was minimal sleep and we were still traveling. But the calendar shows it was March 15 and we left on March 13, so…
We arrived in Auckland about 6 am, 18 hours before restrictions kicked in. There were many people handing out health flyers and dispensing hand sanitizer, but otherwise everything was fairly normal. We retrieved our bags and cleared customs—so long as you declare your snacks and don’t have fresh or unpackaged food, you’re fine—then found the domestic bag recheck counter. We’d met an American expat couple before the Auckland flight who’ve been living in Christchurch for 15 years. Among other things, they advised us that the terminal change in Auckland (international to domestic) was a bit of an ordeal. Thanks to them, we knew what to expect, rechecked our bags, kept our cart (free!) and asked for directions to the walkway to the domestic terminal. There’s also a shuttle, but, well you know… This meant we got a few minutes outdoors and a little exercise. It is necessary to go through security again (shuttle or walking), but it was not a big deal.
Apparently the aircraft for the flight to Christchurch had been changed, since our seats numbers were changed as we boarded. Overall, I found Air New Zealand to be a little frugal with their information. This is hard for someone who pretty much wants to know everything. It was a modern A321, so I forgave them, since it was such a huge step up from the sad, leased 777. It also came with free wifi for the whole flight. I used that and also finished watching Frozen 2. Sadly, that, or my extreme fatigue at this point, led to losing my earbuds, which I had probably had for 7 or 8 years, so I guess I got full use out of them—it just means I currently have no compact headphones.
When we arrived in Christchurch, we once again collected our bags, then searched for a SIM card purveyor. We went with Vodafone for Maureen’s phone and I sought out our ride to the hotel while the young ladies at Vodafone struggled (for no apparent reason) to get the SIM working. The Super shuttle driver turned out to be knowledgeable and entertaining and we shared the ride with a Maori woman from the North Island who was in town with her young son for a friend’s funeral.
We were dropped at the Quest serviced apartments around 10:30 or 11. We were informed that we were “quite early” and our room was not available. I inquired whether it would be possible to upgrade or pay extra to get into a room, but was told that changes could only be made through the travel agent. It was Sunday morning and I knew she (TA) was slammed with cancellations due to the self-isolation rule, so that was a no go. My American brain couldn’t quite fathom that a business was not willing to take more of my money for a service, especially knowing that hard times were imminent. So we rearranged our luggage, changed our shoes, brushed our teeth, left the big bags in the baggage room, and headed out on foot.
We did a little reconnaissance to find the grocery store, but realized we weren’t ready to buy food until we saw our room, but we were ready to eat some food. A combination of real time and pre-trip research led us to Bunsen, a cute cafe inside the Arts Centre. I had frittata, Maureen had chicken pie, and we shared coffee and an amazing kale and parsnip salad. And used their wifi to catch up on world events.
The Arts Centre is just across the street from the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, so of course we had to take a look. The trees in New Zealand are amazing.
The flowers aren’t bad either.
The New Zealand Garden was another highlight—especially when we spotted some playful fantails.
We stopped in the gift shop on our way out and were successful in finding a New Zealand bird book (the local teacher we met on the train the next day commended our choice, so I think we did OK).
Eventually we decided to complete some more errands before heading back to the hotel. We started with the search for another SIM card. We wanted to have two different carriers to maximize coverage, but alas, the Spark store was out of $29 travel SIMs (um, seriously?) and 2degrees was closed (Sunday), so we got another Vodafone SIM. The process was quite a bit quicker in the store than at the airport.
By chance we happened upon Rollickin’ Gelato Cafe as we were looking for an ATM or something (we were quite tired by this point). Of course we had to try it, as the trip was already low in ice cream consumption. We had “Who’s Your Paddy,” the St. Patrick’s day special, which was coffee and whisky gelato with Oreos and mint syrup. It was sweet, but good. Ah. We asked the server where to find an ATM, and it was right across the street (haha), so we finished that chore and headed back to the hotel. Fortunately, it was 2 pm and our room was ready.
A shower was very welcome at this point. While Maureen showered, I started (machine) washing our travel clothing so that we could shed any of the grime and germs we’d carried in from airports and such. Once that was done, we headed out to get some breakfast foods, since our shuttle pickup the next day was scheduled for 7:25, well before other breakfast options would be available. We found yogurt, pineapple, and walnuts, but better protein options were challenging with only a refrigerator and microwave. We also acquired some chocolate and peanuts, and Laughing Cow and crackers, for snacking purposes. And maybe a Crunchie.
We retrieved our clothes and I finished the drying process by using the stand fan and hangers in the closet. Apparently LG laundry machines in New Zealand are more like European machines and less like American ones. It makes me wonder what the Koreans make for themselves. And why they can’t all be as good as what we have in the U.S. If anyone knows, please fill me in.
We decided to eat dinner at the fast casual and somewhat (four locations) chain-y Malaysian-inspired Hawker & Roll. We both had the roast duck and hoisin hawker roll and shared the vegetable dumplings. Happiness. Very satisfying. I would choose this again.
Sleep beckoned. It had been days now. We returned to the hotel and made it so.