When Spontaneity Doesn’t Go to Plan

When we planned our New Zealand trip we didn’t really plan anything. We booked plane tickets and the van and that was pretty much it besides a vague idea of what we wanted to do. This is pretty unlike me, I’m a big planner, and a big procrastinator, but once I sit down and start planning I get pretty into it (trip advisor is my bible). We wanted this particular trip to be spontaneous and just go where we wanted when we wanted. It all started great…

roadtrip beginning

And then we realised we’d driven an hour in the wrong direction. Thats when Daniel started driving and I took charge of directions (men!).

We were off to Hamner Springs. On the way we read all about it and its natural hot springs, which came highly recommended in the free pamphlets guide books. That’s when we got to thinking, did we really want to go to what sounded like a real touristy destination or would we rather continue a bit further to what looked like a smaller potentially more unique hot spring? We were umming and ahhing when we drove right past the turn off to Hamner Springs, it was a sign!! A sign that that was our first mistake.

Our second mistake was not turning around when we started to rethink our decision as we were driving along a dark winding road through the forest that we could barely see a couple feet in front of our car. Finally we reached Maruia Spring … and drove right past it. What looked like a small town on the map was in fact a one building resort. We should have just cut our losses and turned back for Hamner Springs at that point, but no! We were on the road there was no going backwards!

I’m going to blame it on our exhaustion from driving in the pitch black on seriously windy roads but for some reason we thought that the next ‘town’ on the map, Springs Junction, would be better. Nope, once again New Zealand had gotten the last laugh. Springs Junction is in fact, just a junction. Two roads meet, there is a little roadside shop and a petrol station. That is all. That bitch spontaneity failed us again. So we went back to the original plan and drove to Hamner Springs and it was the best decision we could have made. The drive back sucked and desperately trying to find somewhere to stay for the night was stressful. Luckily the family that owned the holiday park paused their game of twister to take pity on us and let us stay the night in the field with the goat.

Hannah with goat

Hamner Springs was worth it all. I can’t believe we almost missed it for the sake of spontaneity. It was beautiful and I swear if I suddenly woke up there I would think I was in North America. Our one bit of spontaneity did pay off though, we skipped the springs. They were touristy as we had thought, not the natural rock ones you imagine, they were just giant pools fed by the springs filled with kids (human soup, not appealing).  Instead we climbed Conical Hill and had the best view out over the valley.

look out Hamner Springs

red and white mushroom Hamner Springs

Conical Hill

Conical Hill Hamner Springs

Hamner Springs

Hamner Springs Cafe

For the rest of the trip we didn’t give up on spontaneity all together but we did try to have a basic idea of where we were going to stay each night with at least one potential caravan holiday park there. We definitely learned our lesson about these supposed ‘towns’ on New Zealand maps.

A city in ruins Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch.jpg

 

I was really interested to see Christchurch and how it was progressing 3 years on from the tragic earthquake in Feb 2011. I hadn’t been to Christchurch before so didn’t know what it looked like prior to the earthquake, but I still remember hearing all about the devastation when it hit. Its really hard to comprehend what a city might look like after such an event.

It first became apparent to me how much damage had occurred when I had difficulties finding a hotel in the heart of the city that was more than a small 2 story motel ( I really wanted a high floor to be able to look out over the city). We ended up staying at the Ibis, which is right downtown and one of the few hotels to have been rebuilt. This was good and bad. It was great for really seeing the impact of the earthquake, as we were pretty much staying in the epicenter, however this also meant it was basically a ghost town around us so finding restaurants was tricky (especially without a car).

You really cannot understand just how devastating the earthquake was until you see the city. At first it felt like we were staying in the ghetto part of town. Its very open ( lots of parking lots), kind of dirty, everywhere is still boarded up, there are funky little makeshift places, basically it just feels dodgy. It wasn’t until we had been there a day and wandered all around the city that we started to stop and look closer and realised where we were would have been the heart of the city, the trendy, up market area. You start noticing dusty signs to boarded up expensive restaurants like Wagamama, what would have been artsy extras like trendy benches, flowerbeds, rubbish bin covers, now all run down. This sounds naive but if you haven’t seen the city before as we hadn’t its hard to picture what it was like.

IMG_2988

Christchurch construction collage

Three years on and the city of Christchurch is still a virtual ghost town with blocks of abandoned buildings or empty blocks where buildings have been torn down, old buildings propped up with scaffolding to try to keep them standing. Sure there is quite a bit of construction happening but considering the time frame it just doesn’t seem like much.

Building held up by scaffoldingpropped up building The poor people of Christchurch, what happened to them? Where did all the businesses go? There are so many large corporations who’s buildings are abandoned, what happened to the workers? It was sad to see the city in ruins, but it was also fascinating. They have done a great job at trying to maintain some of the vibe of the city. They have pop-up style marque covered clubs pumping at night and a creative shipping container mall which had some unique shops. There was even a bank in container with a built in ATM.
Shipping Container Mall

 

They also don’t have simple fencing around, most of it has colourful patterns which stops it from feeling too depressing or ghetto-like.

colourful fencing

I was particularly impressed with the lack of graffiti and vandalism.

Christchurch in its current state shouldn’t be discounted, it was still a cool city with really beautiful botanical gardens that we spent an afternoon exploring, they are huge!

Harry Potter Tree

IMG_3003water wheel

 

 

Christchurch Cityscape

We also stumbled upon the most delicious Italian restaurant, just thinking about the amazing pasta and pizza we had makes me drool. It was super trendy style inside as well with exposed brick walls (seems to be the rage right now) and artsy pictures all over. It had a great vibe (and I’m all about the vibe).

Christchurch has a long way to go, but for now its pretty unique.

New Zealand by caravan

New Zealand Collage.jpgWhat’s the best way to be sure you can handle living with someone? Spend 2 weeks in a caravan. Before announcing to my family that I was going to move to Berlin with Daniel, I wanted to be sure we could actually handle living together. Sure we had practically been living together the last couple of months he was in Australia, but that doesn’t compare to the stress of moving to another country and only having each other to rely on. Living in a caravan in a foreign country for a couple of weeks I’d say comes pretty close if not goes beyond. And so came our first trip… 2 weeks traveling around New Zealand’s gorgeous South Island.

Now I say ‘caravan’ pretty lightly, because in reality it was just a glorified mini-van (mini being the operative word).

Happy Camper

Not a full picture of the caravan but you get the idea. Clearly I was pretty excited about the whole living in a van concept at this point.

You know what else was mini? The bed. And guess what’s not mini? Daniel and I. With him being 6’3″ and me almost 6′ it was pretty damn cosy. I love cuddling as much as the next girl but sometimes I just want to sleep and in a position that isn’t dead straight with my arms stuck my side. Anyway needless to say we more than survived. We had a truly amazing 2 weeks together and just loved New Zealand. Seriously I keep recommending it to anyone I talk to. New Zealand had never really been on my ‘must see’ travel list (even though it seems to be the latest trendy location on everyone else’s) but it was so much more than I expected. I’d always thought of New Zealand as a similar but smaller version of Australia but it isn’t at all. It is completely unique with the most diverse geography. We’d go from mountains, to ocean, to rainforest, to rolling grass fields all in one day. Keep posted, more of stunning New Zealand to come!