Hello from NZede/Godzone! (Day 1) 21 February 2006

It is about 7:30pm here (about 1:30 am Tuesday, your time), and I got about 4 hours’ sleep on the plane last night from San Fran to Auckland, so have been up for about 30 hours except for the fitful airplane-seat snooze. I have kept busy today, hoping to sleep like a log tonight!

NZ smells like San Diego, because it has a maritime climate, and when we landed in Christchurch (CC) this morning at 8 am, the city was still blanketed with what Dave & Susie would call the “marine layer” of fog.

I am staying in a delightful, very inexpensive ($20) women’s hostel about 3 blocks from the city center and the old cathedral that is the centrepiece of CC. The hostel provides free bikes to guests, and I had planned to bike up into the hills to an old rest house that looks like a castle, and have tea and scones, on the suggestion of the young woman shuttle-bus driver this morning. But the *mountain* bike is very old and rusty, and the helmet is old and dirty, and it was about 90F today, so I lazed-out and rode around town instead, getting used to riding in the left lane (Patricia, you would have freaked out at my daring!). I poked around the no-car streets, had a smoothie, and then followed the Avon river around through Canterbury University (a beautiful stone Scottish setting) and past the Botanical Gardens. I stood around filming a bagpiper for Brandi, and then walked my bike into the gardens and discovered an absolutely amazing Sequioa tree. For all that the bike was great – It was a lovely afternoon, and I am now feeling my tiredness, and my bum. So now I am headed to find some dinner and then hit the sack early for a 6:30 am bus ride to Aoraki (Mt. Cook) National Park. FYI, I am carrying only a (too-full) backpack, and a 1/2 filled duffle bag which did not make the transfer in SF, so they will be sending it on to Mt. Cook… nice!

Here are some visual and sound images from the day – hopefully I can load a couple of pictures of CC to my site the next time I get to a cafe (likely to be Friday night my time).

* They don’t have liquid soap, it is “flowing soap”.

* I saw Mt. Tongariro (the extinct volcano I hope to hike just before coming home) from the airplane window, poking above the clouds.

* When the streetlights change, there are 3 cycles – traffic and pedestrians one way, then the other way, then a high-pitched beep-beep-beep-beep-beep sounds and folks cross in every direction – car traffic is stopped in all directions.

* On the plane as we landed in CC was a tune that kept repeating “and the sign said ‘long-haired freaky people need not apply'” – I have to find that CD!

* NZ is refered to “enzede” and “Godzone” – a take-off on some famous person (I forget who) referring to NZ as “god’s own country”.