I am still in New Zealand. Today is Thursday, August 25, 2011. Our original flight out was supposed to leave on Tuesday, however, the weather conditions were poor so our flight was postponed. I am glad for the postponement rather than a boomerang. So here is what I have been up to.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011 – I woke up at 0200 hours and walked outside barefoot for one last chance at walking on grass before heading to the ice. It was cold and the grass was wet, but I didn’t mind. Another one of the dispatchers, Pam, came and knocked on my door at 230 to make sure I was awake. I started getting all of my things together and loaded onto my luggage trolley and then there was another knock at the door. “Tori the check in time is delayed until 0700” Excellent! I could sleep longer. At around 630, Pam came and knocked on my door again to inform me that the flight had been postponed and we were going to be here for 24 hours. Woohoo! A free paid play day in New Zealand. I wasn’t going to argue with that.
I joined the rest of the masses in the lobby at 0800 to meet with the USAP rep who would be distributing our per diem funds. After getting my money, I went to the room and collected my cameras because hey, I was in New Zealand and I wasn’t going to waste the day sitting in the hotel. I stopped by the front desk to ask the receptionist if there were any good areas to go site seeing. She brought out a few bus route maps and pointed out a few locations that I might be interested in seeing. I then ran into Pat, Keith and Matt. Pat is a nice older lady from Colorado who will be the pharmacy technician on the Ice. Matt is from Larabie Wyoming and he’s going to be doing something with machinery and Keith is from Louisiana and he is with the safety department. I told them that I was going down to Sumner and they decided to join me. So off we went.
We took Bus 3 down to the shore. The route took us through parts of Christchurch near the devastation downtown, but the actual downtown area is completely blocked off from the February 2011 earthquake. I’ve never seen an area affected by such devastation. Sure, I’ve seen pictures and such online and on the news, but actually being there is completely different. Despite the devastation, the continuing demolition of buildings and the obvious toll it has taken on the citizens and local economy, I have never been to a more beautiful, clean place where everyone is polite. New Zealand, I love you. I love your beauty and uniqueness and the way your people treat each other.
On the bus to Sumner, we met an elderly gentleman named Joe. Joe is an American who met his Kiwi wife on-line ten years ago, sold all of his possessions in the US and moved here. He loves it here. I understand his sentiments. Joe told us much about the area and pointed out several areas that were affected by the quake. Before he did this, I’d been looking at the cliffside homes in awe but when I started seeing the destruction that was caused to them, I felt sorry for the people who owned the homes. I can’t imagine working your entire life and putting all of your money into a dream home and then, one day, a major catastrophic event occurs and your dreams are literally crumbling out from under you. I know it can happen anywhere and at any time, but actually seeing this saddened me. When we arrived in Sumner, Joe directed us to an indian restaurant where we should eat due to the delicious food and reasonable prices. We thanked him and hopped off the bus.
The restaurant was called IndianBlues. I had the Chicken Frankie which is a lot like a grilled chicken wrap from any restaurant at home, if you added curry to it, and a Kingfisher Premium beer (not to be confused with the Kingfisher Strong). I like indian beer. I need to find some back at home when I return. The others in the group had excellent food as well. I believe there was a chicken kebab, naan bread and some buttered chicken (which looked like chicken curry). After we ate, we started walking towards the Scarborough Beach. On the walk to the beach, I made a huge error in judgement when I saw an old white VW beetle. I ran up and playfully punched Matt in the arm. From that point, the game was on.
The water at Scarborough Beach is a beautiful blue and it reminded me much of the water in the Turks and Caicos. Normally I would have kicked off my shoes and ripped off my socks to take off down the coast but there were contaminated water signs up. Due to the problems with the sewer systems after the quake, a lot of sewage and waste went into the ocean. In fact, most of the houses in Sumner have a “Port a loo” in front of it due to the ongoing issues. I can’t imagine paying a million dollars for a home and having to use an outhouse. We walked down to Cave Rock and Matt immediately decided to scale up the side of it. He does a lot of rock climbing at home. I freely admit that I am clumsy and thought it best not to attempt to do such a thing. Pat, Keith and I wandered around towards the entrance of the cave, not going in of course, and watched as some smaller rocks fell into small piles along the cave floor. I just hoped that Matt would come down from there quickly. After he finally came back down, we went walking along the beach where we found dozens of perfectly broken sand dollars and other shells. I stopped every few minutes to take pictures of something because it was all so beautiful. The tide was coming in, so we walked up one of the beach access paths and headed towards the clock tower.
The clock tower was just that, a big tower with a clock. While walking around the tower, I heard the sound of rustling and footsteps quickly approaching me. The next thing I knew I heard “PINK PUNCH BUGGY!” and Matt nailed my arm hard. The fact that he saw it and ran to do this made me laugh instead of feeling too much pain. Yes. We brought the game to New Zealand. Why? Because we’re awesome like that. By the end of the day, the count was like 15 to 7 with Matt winning. But that is because he was seated in front of the bus.
We continued to tour the town a bit, and then caught the bus back to our hotel. Overall, it was a fantastic day.