After a fluttery-stomached goodbye at the airport, I left Gisborne to explore more of New Zealand by myself. Ah!
I flew to Christchurch via Wellington, which was suuuper windy, predictably. And also pouring. And also about 35 degrees. And also I couldn't figure out how to zip my jacket up from those said weather conditions while walking from the plane to the terminal. Oh boy was I smiling though!
I was so busy looking at my ticket and finding the correct gate that I didn't see these for the first ten minutes of sitting right under them. I look up: two giant Lord of the Rings Eagles hello! Insert nerd freak out moment here.
I have never traveled by myself in a foreign country. In the past, for all forty or so countries I've been to, I've had friends or family accompany me. This trip made me pretty nervous while booking everything, but now the excitement has outweighed my worries. Anyway, they speak English here. If I survived getting lost in the middle of Romania, I can do this no problem.
First thing I did when I arrived in Christchurch (after hauling my food-laden backpack onto my shoulders) was visit the Antarctic Centre. It happens to be near the airport. There are even painted-on penguin footprints in a path allll the way there. Five minute walk. I've learned quickly though that a five minute walk is a ten minute walk with a 30 pound backpack on.
In the Antarctic Centre I experienced an Antarctic storm at -8 degrees Fahrenheit and 77 mph winds.
Report: IT WAS COLD. My new poofy jacket kept me relatively warm, which was encouraging for my upcoming snowy encounters.
I learned a whole lot about the history of Antarctic expeditions as well as the geography and animal/plant life.
Apparently the South Pole is one of the driest places on earth, getting only an average of 5mm of rain annually (which is less than Arizona) but it is also one of the windiest places. Lots of windstorms.
I saw some underwater creatures I'm glad we're not alive:
To anyone sure the sea was a safe place from spiders: it's apparently not.
And I also saw little blue penguins!!! I don't think I've ever seen a penguin in real life before....and after today I've decided they're the dorkiest animals out there. On land they're sort of awkward waddley things, with their wings spread out and body tipped forward to keep their balance. But in water they are super fast and graceful. Watching them catch fish falling into the water was amazing, they're incredibly maneuverable.
Im not sure how well my pictures turned out because it was a weird angle and sometimes through glass, but here they are anyway. My crappy pictures really don't do the penguins justice.
(There's a good waddle in progress.)
And this one is my favorite: the squatting grumpy penguin. All the others were preening and walking around, and this one is just sitting there all round and squinty eyed. I concluded grumpy penguin. I think it just needed a hug.
After Antarctica, I timed it out right to catch the bus into the middle of the city. Yes I had to ask someone to double check which bus to take, and which stop to get off, but yay it worked! And I did find my hostel okay but it was about a 35 minute walk (with a backpack) rather than the 15 minute walk google maps and the hostel said. At least it wasn't raining. (Right now it is, but I'm inside.)
I've met some interesting people so far: a pair of backpacking girls from London recently from Dubai; we walked a bit from the bus station to our separate hostels. One of my roomies is a lady from South Africa who's been here for a month looking for work. Her son got a job right away, but she had applied for over 300 and only just got an interview for later this week. They're both "living" at this hostel, an extended stay. She has a very unusual accent; I haven't met too many people from South Africa before.
Before it got dark I found a close trendy supermarket and bought a container of yogurt for my museli tomorrow on the very long train and bus rides. I don't mind being a weirdo. It was that or walk an hour round trip (for real groceries) to Pack n Slave while it was getting dark and starting to rain....
I leave in the morning for Fox Glacier to stay with my friend and possibly climb some glaciers. Fingers crossed.