Christchurch New Zealand, Left Sided Driving, Meeting Elwin and Angelique

9 02 2013

I flew out of Palmerston North, over the infamous Cook Strait and landed at Christchurch, New Zealand. Cook Strait is one of Earth’s most dangerous crossings. There was a storm approaching from Antarctica that day, and we were taking a slightly diverted route to avoid turbulence. I will never forget what I saw, looking down at the strait. I saw over 30-foot continuously breaking swells – you could see the foam piles behind the swells stretching for hundreds of yards! These swells were just running amok on fire! That would be super un-cool to be out there in any craft.

The flight left at 7:10 a.m. and landed at 8:30 so I was in Christchurch for the better part of the day. Elwin and Angelique were to land from Sydney, Australia about 3:30 p.m. They’d just spent a month in Australia. I rented our car for the month from Apex Rentals, and then set about finding our apartment at Avalon Motel & Suites. Needless to say I was more than a bit nervous about jumping in a car and driving on the left side of the road! The turn signals and windshield wiper activators were on opposite sides than in the USA, and of course the car is right-side drive. So when turning I would activate the wipers DUH. Or when getting into the car to drive come up on the left side, DUH.

Apex Car Rentals is a good deal in New Zealand. I rented a Toyota Camry with unlimited mileage and full collision coverage for a month for $1,450. It is $40/day for the car before insurance. It was not new – a 2006 – but the car was perfectly adequate for the curvy/hill-packed roads and comfortably sized for the three of us. Gasoline was approximately $115/tank. Most of New Zealand highways are only one lane in each direction – so you need to pass if you want to move on. The Camry had adequate power for passing, even with three of us and luggage. How did we work the money? Since I spent so much on the car, Angelique and Elwin would pay for the hotels and gas until their spending caught up with mine.

I got in behind the wheel. Holy bejezus. I hadn’t driven in a left sided country since 1983. There are lots of roundabouts in New Zealand and at first they can be a challenge! I took some time in some side neighborhoods to get used to what I was doing! I checked into our apartment which was pretty sweet. It had two bedrooms (one with twins and another with queen) and a living room equipped with kitchen and even a washing machine. Pretty up to date actually.

I had a few hours to kill so I headed to the waterfront. There are miles of beaches so I watched swimmers, bathers and surfers doing what they do. Here I was. The surf here was fairly challenging but folks just went at it.

It was time to go back to the airport to pick my co-wanderers up! Once they came through customs, it was a bit emotional to see them again! The last time we were together was in Buenos Aires! We had been all over Chilean and Argentinean Patagonia together, and now it was time to see the “other down under” the Kiwi side!

Tomorrow we’d meet up with my friends Yurira and Oscar, kayak guides I know who work here in the New Zealand summer. This was going to be great!



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