To the Land of Adventure and Beyond! Jessica's Great Journey to New Zealand. travel blog

The truck came early this morning to take our suitcases to the ferry that would be transporting us to the South Island. It was three hours or something obnoxious like that on the ferry. We traveled across Cook Strait, through Marlborough and Queen Charlotte Sounds, sleeping some, and taking in the views. There was a motorcycle gang on the ferry with us, so they provided some prime people watching opportunities, though secretly I was sort of scared. On the deck above, Kiera, Luke and I continued to build on a story we've been telling Dan, from the UK, about the elusive "Drop Bear." Apparently, the "drop bear" is a joke that all Aussie's tell tourists...leaving Japanese tourists walking around Australia with their hands protecting their heads. Dan is buying the story hook, line and sinker, and it's reached a hysterical level. Over the past few days, Kiera has made Dan believe that the drop bear, which is exclusive to Australia, falls out of trees onto people below and then attacks them. She took it to a whole new level today when she pretended to be looking for drop bears in the ferry ride on the way to the south island, telling Dan that a drop bear was spotted in the ocean headed toward New Zealand. I think Dan's catching on, but he's so funny that I can't tell if his questions about drop bears are serious or he's just playing along. Either way, it's hilarious. When we got to the south island, we traded out coaches with a Contiki group who had just finished touring the south island and was heading to the north, doing the reverse trip as us. We left our coach on the north island for them. As we passed the other group in the parking lot of the ferry, we all noticed a sense of competition with them. Like, "our group is better" and "we're a closer-knit group." It was sort of weird. They definitely didn't look like they were having as much fun as us. :-)

We loaded onto our new coach and headed down the stunning kaikoura coastline, stopping at the Ohau Seal Colony to take some pictures of the seals, and then continued on through the country's largest wine region to Christchurch, which, on September 4, just two months ago, was rocked by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. The city has since had a total of 3377 earthquakes, mostly unfelt aftershocks, but still....

Our driver, Danny, is originally from Christchurch and he recounted his memories from that morning. His tour had ended the night before and he was at home in Christchurch visiting his parents. His father had left for work and, at 4:35 a.m., he awoke to screams from his mother. She just kept screaming, "It's not going to stop! It's never going to stop!" Danny said everything was flying everywhere in his house and they thought that they were feeling the impact of "The big one" that was predicted to hit Wellington, which sits on the Alpine faultline. Wellington is well-prepared for a massive earthquake, structurally and mentally. They've been waiting for it. There are earthquake directions in every restaurant bathroom and hotel room in the city. But no one expected "the big one" to hit Christchurch. Part of the city are in ruins and many historical buildings have been demolished. There are large sections of roadway that are blocked off and bulldozers in the middle of streets. Large empty lots can be seen where buildings have already been cleared, but, even two months later, there are still many buildings standing, completely destroyed. Our hotel in Christchurch was only operating at 25% capacity and, from Megan's and my room, we could see clear into the other building of the hotel, as all of the windows and doors had been removed and the building was essentially just a shell. We got a rundown of what we should do if an earthquake hits while we're here because, apparently, Christchurch is still very active, with several earthquakes each day being recorded.

On our way to the hotel, we passed through downtown Christchurch and saw a 9/11 memorial...some of the metal from the 22nd floor of the second tower. I think it's really interesting that people all around the world felt 9/11, yet I know very little about the tragedies that have hit other countries. I'm realizing on this trip that Americans are very self-involved and isolated. We really do only care about ourselves and I am inspired to start learning everything I can about other places and people.

We also passed a memorial to Kate Shepherd, who won women the right to vote in 1892. New Zealand was the first country in the world to allow women to vote, apparently. That's what the plaque said, anyway.

As we pulled into the Bealey's hotel parking lot that night, we passed a "stag party" at the patio bar at the hotel restaurant. Jackpot! Tons of hot we decided that was the perfect spot to eat dinner and say goodbye to Kiera and Luke, who's journey with Contiki ended here. They were going to do the South Island on their own.

My dinner was amazing. A flaky pastry filled with chicken, cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, apricots and some other stuff. It was called Castle St. Chicken Pastels...or something like that. Delicious!

Sometime during dinner, the Kiwi boys disappeared. All of them. I guess we were so wrapped up in our meals that we missed it. lol. So we decided to go downtown, to a very cool area called Sol Square. There are two very cool areas to party in Christchurch. Sol Square and "the Strip." To get to Sol Square, we had to walk down this little, dark alleyway. At the end, it opened up into a huge courtyard with about five bars that compete with each other to have the coolest additions. One bar looked like a flourescent-lit church, with bicycles running up the side of the building. Another had a car hanging off the side and another had a piano on the roof...with no way to access the roof. lol. Drinks were expensive at $11-$12 NZ a pop, but that didn't really stop us. We shared a cab back to the hotel and got ready for our trip to Franz Josef Glacier Township tomorrow.

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