Land of the Hobbits

July 28/29 was one of the longest days ever, partly because it was actually two days in one since we crossed the dateline, and partly because we spent about 10 hours in the Auckland airport. When we planned the trip, we booked our flight to Rarotonga/New Zealand first. Then when we started looking at prices for taking a campervan on the ferry from the North island to the South island, we thought better of it and decided to just fly from Auckland to Christchurch. As usual, the cheapest flight turned out to be the most inconvenient one and had us leaving from Auckland at 8:00 PM – 10 hours after our flight from Rarotonga came in. And, as usual, it didn’t seem like such a bad idea at the time. I now know the Auckland airport intimately. Go ahead, ask me anything. The best part was when it was time to board the flight, we went to the gate listed on the monitor, and then an announcement was made that the gate had been changed. We exited that gate and went through security again to the next one only to be told that the gate was changed back. So we shuffled back and forth between gates like characters in a Beckett play until someone finally parked the plane and ended the absurdity.

Our accommodation in Christchurch kicked ass, though. We booked it because it was cheap, but it turned out that The Jailhouse hostel is exactly that – an old jail. It was bought and renovated just a couple of years ago. All of the rooms are actual cells and they left a couple of them as is so you can see those as well. The crazy thing is that this was an operating prison until very recently. Kind of creepy, but also really awesome.

Next came the campervan. After picking it up and going crazy in the Pak-n-Save stocking up for the trip, we hit the road. Adam is my hero as he can drive a manual campervan on the left side of the road in any weather conditions. If it was up to me I would be parked on the side of the road, curled up in the fetal position in the back. The absolute best part of the day was when we came upon hundreds of sheep in the road being herded to a different location. The guy in charge of the sheep (I hesitate to say shepherd, because that doesn’t quite sound right), told us that we could go ahead and drive through the sheep. However, he told us, “Don’t go slow because then you’re pushing them. Just go quite fast so they’ll move out of the way.” Go quite fast? Into hundreds of sheep? Again it was Adam to the rescue with me alternately snapping pictures and squealing when it looked like we were going to take out a sheep. Luckily a driver who was more experienced at driving through sheep came along and paved the way for us.

We spent the night in Geraldine after driving to one campsite and finding it closed. It was a small holiday park and there weren’t very many people there. I found that going to the bathroom in a campervan park in the middle of the night is terrifying. I mean, what better place for a serial killer to stalk his victims than in a nearly deserted campervan park bathroom with numerous toilet and shower stalls to hide in? It got tedious looking through each one of the stalls every time I had to go, so eventually Adam got talked into coming with me and standing outside the door, “listening for my scream.” I guess that must have deterred the killer.

The first night it rained HARD all night. As far as the campervan itself, well, as Samir says in Office Space, “This is a fuck.” And truly, it was. More to come.

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