NZ Day 20?: Epilogue

On our last day in Christchurch we went to brunch at a healthy Vegetarian joint that had 4.7 stars. The place was not accessible but we were determined. Becca had to carry me into the restaurant. If I were Vegan I probably just could have floated up with my mind. But alas. I ate scrambled eggs with garlic, tomatoes, and herbs with toast. Becca ate a falafel masala potato hash meal with toast and greens. She also had a vegan hot chocolate and I had a probiotic greens drink. Both were excellent.

Then we headed back to the hotel to pack. We thought about doing one last quick thing back downtown but I was mentally checked out of our trip that we ended up going to the airport slightly early. But not before we went to the gas station to fill the tank back up to half way…where it was left. The car rental place is called “Scotty’s”. I’m starting to think it’s just a dude named Scotty renting out his car. Becca dropped me off with all the bags and then took the car to the rental place. It was such a low budget place that there was no shuttle back to the airport. The desk attendant ended up driving Becca back to the airport in the same car she dropped off.
Turns out it was good we went to the airport early. There was a very specific weight limit for our bags. If we went over or had an extra bag we had to pay $250. We spent about an hour rearranging our bags… and putting on extra layers to reduce weight in our bags. It was a little stressful but we managed to make it work. We were also supposed to have a carry on limit which we exceeded but no one stopped us so we didn’t say anything.
Our flight agenda was supposed to be from Christchurch –> Aukland –> SF. Our flight from Christchurch to Aukland ended up getting delayed by an hour and by the time we arrive to Aukland we only had 20 mins to transfer flights. Seeing as how I’m always the last off the plane (#lenadeplaneslast) we were a bit stressed. The flight attendant was trying to encourage people to let those with connections to leave first, but we all know that never really happens. 20 mins before we landed the flight attendant said she rebooked us on another flight that left a few hours later. Less stress, though we were now not flying direct to SF but instead to LAX and then SF. This at least gave us time to eat dinner at the food court before boarding the plane. I ate a place called the Ugly Bagel. I had a bagel with avocado, tomato, basil, and lemon fennel olive oil. As well as a “King Kong” for dessert which was a chocolate bagel with banana caramel cream cheese with almonds and chocolate sauce. Becca got Spirulina and veggie dumplings.
Then we headed to our gate. The TVs said it would be a 20 mins walk to the gate so we hiked our way up. There were moving walk ways, but those are for suckers… and Becca. I raced her up a slope. It was a good workout. Then after the second walkway (it was on carpet) I was tired so I opted to ride the third moving walkway. I wasn’t supposed to. There was a sign explicitly stating no wheelchairs. But I didn’t care, because I’m a rebel.
By now it was about 10:30pm so we used the restroom for the last time for our 13 hour flight. We also brushed our teeth. Bed time.
We boarded the plane (#lenaboardsfirst) and since we were rebooked to this flight, we were the. very. last. row. Row 63. Who knew planes had that many rows. As I was being pulled on the aisle chair, each section of the plane kept getting narrower and narrower. First class, of course, has the most room to maneuver. It’s great you get to see what you could have had (couches and lounge chairs) if you spent more money. Then there’s the second section which has more leg room and more sitting room. But less aisle room, still nice though. Then there’s the third section. Where everyone is squished together and there is hardly any aisle space. This is where we sat. There was not enough aisle space that the aisle chair i was in got stuck. I couldn’t even reach the last row of seats where I was sitting. The flight attendants had to set up their special on-board aisle chair and have me transfer onto it by the bathrooms. I’ve never had to double aisle chair transfer. That was exciting. Then they pulled me to the last row. The ones in the middle with 4 seats. Also the best part was that the “accessible” bathroom was in the middle of the plane. Very far from the last row. We laughed. We ended up sleeping most of the flight since it was midnight by the time we got in the air and settled. We slept as well as we could in the back row of the peasant section. One weird thing was that they served “dinner” around 2am. I don’t know why they would do that. That is not a dinner time for anyone. By the time we woke up we only had 3 hours left in the flight. So that was great! It gave me enough time to watch “Blinded By the Light” about a Pakistani boy in England who loves Bruce Springsteen.
We had about 3 hours between landing and our next flight to SFO. We thought that was a lot of time and was going to try to get a sooner flight. Turns out going through customs in the US is not fun and takes time. They did not like all the chocolate we brought back. And rifled through it grumpily several times. We also had to walk to a new terminal in LAX. The airport helper lady said we could take the secret tunnel to our new terminal which would take 30 mins. Or we could walk outside for 10 mins. We opted for the 10 mins option.
Once we got to our gate we only had about 10 mins before boarding. Good timing. In line Becca met Tom Proulx’s (founder of Intuit) son. She did a music video for his sister Audrey. Full circle. The son was trying to get an earlier flight to SFO and was willing to opt out of first class. We all made the 30 mins flight to SF safely.
All in all it was a good trip and we are happy to be back and away from the volcano.
And that’s the story!
Thank you for force subscribing to this edition of Lena’s travel logs. If you would like to further be forced to subscribe please send $100 to me, or… don’t do anything.

NZ Day 18 & 19: Kaikoura & Christchurch

First off, we are not near the volcano explosion. Thanks for asking.

Day 18 Kaikoura

Went whale watching in Kaikoura. It’s very well known for it. It’s also about 3 hours from Christchurch. So we woke up very early to go there. We wanted extra time with all the motorway construction. We think NZ construction people who hold the stop and go signs for directing one lane of traffic have to be smiley and friendly as part of the job description. Every time we’d pass one they would wave to us. But also to every car.

We arrived at the whale watching place where we bought seasickness medicine because they said the conditions were choppy. They also said we’d need to transfer me to a smaller chair to then get onto the boat. Like when I board an airplane. But then they said my chair was small enough that it could just go on. Thank goodness for dieting. The lady at the center also said that because I couldn’t go onto their transport busses we could drive straight to the dock with the boat. The center is where you’re supposed to watch the safety video but she said she’d go over in person before we left. We went to the bathroom and then came back and she showed us a map of how to drive to the dock. We were worried about missing the safety instruction since we had to leave immediately. She said “oh! Life jacket is under your seat. Don’t smoke. That’s it. Common sense.” I liked our version of safety rather than watching the 20 mins long video.

We drove to the dock and the crew were all hanging out. We weren’t sure where to park since all the spots were taken and there was a no parking zone. The captain came over and said to just park next to his car in the no parking zone. I like the chill NZ mindset. No parking? No problem.

The crew helped me get onto the boat. Since I was the first one on I got the front seat by the window. The captain said whichever side I chose he’d make the priority side for the whale sightings. And the other members would make sure the window was clear of people so I could see. I thought that was really nice.

Once everyone else boarded we headed out to sea. The tour guide was a blonde woman with so many tattoos. She was obviously cool. My favorite was a whale tattoo on her leg next to a cat face. NZers are funny. Especially tour guides. They like to tease tourists about how serious and frantic they are. This one mentioned putting on seat belts because we go really fast on the water in the boat. While everyone was scrambling to find theirs (including me), she stopped and said that there are no actual seatbelts on the boat.

The first whale we saw was a baby humpback whale. They usually are underwater for a few minutes and then come up to breathe for 5-10 secs.

Then we headed out further from the coast to see a sperm whale but then one of the other boats Said it dove under. When that happens they stay under water for 45 mins before coming up to breathe. So instead of waiting around, the captain took us to see some dolphins. There were so many! They are so cute and fun. They came pretty close to our boat. And they jumped out of the water doing flips. We decided they’re the attention seekers of the ocean. And we rightfully gave it to them. Because why would backflipping your way across the ocean not be efficient?

Then we headed out to see the sperm whale. Only males are this far south. They come to eat here. Females stay in warmer waters with their babies. The sperm whale is the largest mammal with teeth. Fun fact! While we were waiting for it to pop up the captain would go out with a special whale sonar to listen to the echo location of the whale. It looked like a big megaphone on a stiick. Then it popped up! It was so cool. And we even got to see it arch it’s back and flip it’s tail while it dove under again. Very cool. On the way back to the dock becca and I were feeling sick. Only two people threw up on our boat. Luckily we were not the two. Suddenly the captain slammed on the boat brakes because he saw another humpback. We were short on time so we couldn’t hang around to observe much but right then the whale arched its back and flipped its tail to dive so it was pretty great timing. Then we headed back to the dock. It was probably my favorite experience in NZ.

We went into town for lunch. Most of the town only had burgers and crayfish. So we opted for burgers. I got a chicken burger. Becca got a fancy mushroom sandwich thing. Then we roamed around the town for a bit. We went into this fun store called Roam which has clever NZ shirts. Our favorite was a picture of a bear that said “no bears here”. And also “New Zealand, damn better than Old Zealand”.

After we wandered we headed home. We basically drove 6 hours for 2 hours of whale glory on the open water. It was worth it. We also finished the audiobook! I know you’ve all been dying to know what’s happening with that. Well. Turns out it’s the second book in a four part series. So Spensa escaped the Krell people and figured out how to defeat the Delvers but now there’s a political coup within the Superiority in the government and also spoiler alert, slugs help ships to hyperdrive. So you’ll have to wait until next road trip in 5 years to know how it ends since the other two books haven’t been written yet.

We tried to go to Kathmandu to return my sweater for a bigger size. But we arrived just as they were closing. So we went to the nearby grocery store to buy candy instead. We each bought about $100 worth of chocolate.

When we got back to the hotel, becca conked out. I spent the time while she was napping researching our dinner. We went to a nearby Vegetarian and Seafood restaurant. We both got ratatouille rolls with a green salad. Think ratatouille in a pastry puff. And polenta fries. It was quite good.

Then we went to bed.

Day 19 Christchurch

Went to free continental breakfast and ate cereal and a croissant with orange juice. Becca ate cereal and fruit and a spirulina smoothie with orange juice. We had leftover almond milk in the fridge from our camping so she brought it down and used that in her cereal. The manager of the food place saw it and said they also had almond milk if we wanted but that no one really drinks it so they keep it behind the bar instead of out with the other milks.

Our first adventure of the day was to the willowbank nature preserve. Lots of ducks and other birds. Becca bought a cup of bird pellets to feed the birds. Tuppence a bag. She wanted to feed the kiwis. But the ducks ended up getting most of it because you weren’t allowed to feed the kiwi. Ducks are obnoxious. We also saw macaws and wallabies. And of course a kiwi! They are nocturnal so we went through this really dark make shift enclosed environment where you could only see by red lights. There was one kiwi foraging. We couldn’t find it but then a little point motioned for us to come by him to see it. We were grateful.

Becca’s one regret from going to this wildlife preserve was not taking a picture when 5 geese were surrounding me and preventing me from moving forward down the little pathway. Geese are really scary when they are essentially your height, outnumber you, and not scared of you. I was very distressed.

My one regret was not taking a picture while becca fed a swan and instead of it eating her bird pellets, it taking a bite of her toe.

After the preserve we went to Kathmandu for the 4th and final time. I was able to exchange my sweater. It fits much better now. We ate at the food court because we were hungry and it was there. Becca got a katsu bowl with rice, salad, and fried tofu. I got a Chinese food buffet plate. They don’t have orange chicken but they do have lemon chicken.

After lunch we headed to the International Antarctic Center. Christchurch is a main hub for researchers to launch out of on their way to Antarctica. We saw huskies that were really excited to see me. Maybe they thought I was a sled they were supposed to pull. Or maybe it was because I dropped some jam on my shoe.

We also went into the Storm room which is  made to mimic Antarctic conditions during the summer time. A best case scenario. We all wore fancy Antarctic parkas with Canadian goose feathers so I trusted it. The room went from 18 degrees to minus 1 Fahrenheit. It was very exciting. It felt like I was in Utah again.

We also got to see the penguins being fed. This center houses disabled penguins. Penguins that would otherwise not survive in the wild. My people. Some were blind, paralyzed, or amputees. One had one of its flippers torn off because he survived a shark attack. The penguins we saw were Little Blue Penguins. There are a lot in New Zealand. Apparently Daniel our kayaking guide saw one while on our trip. I think I was too distracted trying to dodge a ferry to pay attention at the time.

There was also a 4D movie showing of Antarctic landscape. It was a strange experience. You wore 3D glasses and then sat in deats that moved up and down. Sometimes water would spray at you. Or fake snow would fall. The movie itself was not informative. We mostly got wet. We saw the next movie too. Little foot synopsis. More informative.

After going to the other exhibits we left in search of dinner. We went downtown to an Italian restaurant. It was that or Indian but we decided Italian since we’d be eating Indian food on the plane and also the Indian place becca wanted to go to was out of business. I ordered pesto linguine and becca had gnocchi with vegetables. Mine was okay. I like my homemade pesto better. Becca’s was better. We also had bruschetta for appetizer. I opted for still instead of sparkling water. Poor choice.

Then we headed to the botanical gardens in the park next to our hotel. We were trying to find a place where Becca could time lapse the sunset but it was chilly and there weren’t many clouds out so the time lapse would have been lame anyways. We did meet some nice Pokémon Go players though. So overall it was a success.

Then we headed back to the hotel and packed to leave tomorrow.

We have been singing Frozen 2 songs all day.

NZ Day 17: Christchurch light show

Day 17

Everyone in NZ says “sweet as” as slang for “cool” or “nice” or “sounds good”. When they say it though it doesn’t quite sound like that since they never actually say what the situation is as sweet as. So instead it just sounds like they are complimenting my body. I don’t mind.

Spot the Mormon doesn’t count during church or in Utah. Half points are awarded at Disneyland.

We woke up and went to hotel breakfast. We upgraded to the hot breakfast which included hash browns, French toast, baked beans, and green curry. I ate eggs French toast hash browns and toast with orange juice. Becca ate hash browns toast and fruit with orange juice. Oh and we both had spirulina green smoothies.

Then we walked to church which is close to the hotel. There was a bridge going over a creek to get to the church building. I think all church buildings should have bridges, but probably not moats.

We started with relief society. As soon as we walked in we realized that upgrading our breakfast was the wrong thing to do. There was a huge Christmas feast with cake, fruit, chocolate, meat pies, punch, hummus, and more. We had a 5 mins lesson about Christ and then we ate and socialized. Tis the season. I didn’t eat any because I was so full from breakfast. Becca had chocolate and Pavlova which is like a meringue pie.

During sacrament meeting becca was coloring on her iPad. The 6 kids in front of our pew was fascinated by her skillz. Two seminary graduates spoke. Turns out you can finish in December. #christmasmiracles and then a older missionary husband spoke about how his muffler fell off on his way home from the slc airport at 3am. I don’t remember anything else he said.

The church is right next to Mona Vale which is a nice garden. There are different flower sections. We went to the rose garden, fuchsia area, and the fernery. Then we walked back to the hotel because Lena wasn’t feeling good with all her allergies.

We were supposed to pick up our rental car today. There was a slight miscommunication with the rental agency but we figured everything out after becca called the urgent hotline. Becca says it’s nice being back in a small car. She’s an expert now. It’s an interesting car… the agency is kinda sketch. It came with half a tank of gas and it’s own spiderweb. The middle console is cracked. Becca speculates someone uses a wheelchair on it. Or a dog. Also all the buttons are in Japanese. Based on all the button pushing we’ve been doing we are stuck listening to the Gotye CD we can’t figure out how to eject.

We ate dinner at Pepes Mexican grill. When we went in the server asked if we’d been there before. We said no. She explained it was like subway where you choose your Mexican base (burrito, nachos, or salad) and then you choose your toppings. Becca got a salad bowl. I got a baby rice bowl with crushed chips as a garnish. I also got refried beans. The server was nice enough to explain to me what they were. Crushed up pinto beans. People here probs don’t much about Mexican food. She was a very good at explaining.

Then we headed to a Christmas light show on the edge of town. Turns out we passed this show on our first day on the South Island while we were driving so many hours with Thai food at night. We thought it looked random and cool and that we’d never see it again.

It was… an experience to say the least. It sort of just looked like a dude that put together a bunch of Christmas lights and decorations and then charged people to watch it. It reminded me a lot of the crèche in the sense that year after year it got more and more exponentially out of control. The lights were all synchronized to songs by New Zealand bands. But like… not Christmas songs. Just heavy metal songs. Imagine a bunch of Christmas Santa decorations and lights synchronized to Evanescence. We thought it was bigger than it was. It definitely was smaller than the crèche. My favorite was the Halloween skeleton band with Santa hats playing fake instruments. A bat dropped down and scared a little kid. I got a kick out of that. I’m a terrible person.

Tomorrow we go whale watching!  🐳

NZ Day 16: Christchurch

Day 16 Christchurch

Woke up and went to the free continental breakfast for Hilton rewards members. It consists of cereal and toast. Normally it is $25. If you want the hot food which is French toast and eggs and tater tots you have to pay an extra $8. I ate berry muesli with toast and orange juice. Becca ate fruit and toast with vegemite. I also had a bite with vegemite. It tastes like spreadable soy sauce. Which you’d think would taste amazing. It does not. We looked up what a vegemite sandwich is. It has cheese and sometimes tomatoes and avocados. We think it’d be better in this form than just on toast.

Also becca was able to spot the Mormon in the hotel. She’s winning 2-0. The guy had a bonneville flats tshirt on. So that was a clue.

We then showered for what felt like 5 hours. I watched the Simpsons while becca was in the bathroom. I’ve watched more Simpsons in the pasts day than I have in the states in the last decade. I used to watch a lot growing up. Also showering is so wonderful. I like the smell of the bathroom shower products the hotel gives us. I can’t tell if I like the smell because it smells good or just doesn’t smell like campervan BO. Maybe both.

We walked to a nearby mall. I tried to return my Kathmandu sweater for a bigger size. But we ended up at an outlet instead. They did not have my sweater. But becca did buy more clothes. So over all it was a productive trip.

We then realized we were hungry so we went next door to Alligator pizza with large slices. I got salami pepperoni and becca got veggie. We decided the generic cheese on pizza here isn’t very good. Not as bad as Rio though. We may forgo future pizza here. But the crust was good. Oh! Also Hell pizza is a chain and exists here too. Glad to know Hell exists everywhere, not just Wellington. The sign to the store literally just says “Hell”. I like that.

We then walked by a gelato place. What. How have we not been eating more gelato?? We shared a double scoop of Hokey Pokey and Gold Rush. Both have NZ candy in them. We still don’t know what they are. But the base flavors were yummy. This gelato place had one flavor for every color of the rainbow. It was pretty. They also had a chocolate fountain. Which we of course added to our gelato. The most expensive item on the menu has 9 scoops of ice cream. We did not get that item.

Then we headed to the local cinema. We watched frozen 2. Don’t judge. We really wanted to watch it. I got a movie themed snack and bought two cups of ice. I have no regrets. Also… um… that movie was better than the first. The storyline and the songs. Change my mind. When we left the theater it was about 6:30. We were walking out of the mall and everything was shut down. Guess they shut things down super early here. I am worried about what young hoodlums do if they don’t have malls. Maybe drugs. Or rugby.

We got stuck on the second floor and could get down to leave the mall. The elevators were out of commission. We had to take these moving escalator ramps to the lower floor. We weren’t supposed to because there was a barricade but the NZ mall cop who was a teenager let us use it anyways.

Then we took an Uber (a Prius) to a park where there was a global Christmas festival with food and free performances. It sounded big online. I think the only people there were the families of the performers. It was wonderful. It felt like those global diversity assemblies in high school. The MCs were terrible. Maybe this was the first year they were running this event. Our favorite was the Peruvian drummer whose Japanese wife danced with different percussion instruments to each song. She was so good! We also ate a smothered samosa and caramel donut.

After the Filipino fashion parade we took an Uber (first not Prius) back to the hotel room where I recounted my day for you enjoyment.