Moody Melbourne to Colourful Christchurch

– Do you know when you’ll be leaving New Zealand? Do you have that itinerary with you?

– No. I haven’t decided that yet. But I’ll be there about 4-5 weeks.

– So, you have no outbound flight?

– No, I don’t.

– Well, then, do you have your entry Visa for that?

– Um, no. I shouldn’t need one. I’m from Canada.

– Well, yes. Many countries don’t need an entry Visa to enter New Zealand. But that’s with an outbound flight booked. If not, you’ll need a Visa to get in.

– Really?!

– Yes.

– Shit. Ok. Can that be acquired now?

– No. It’s too late for that. You’ll need an outbound flight in order for me to check you in for this flight.

(You know… I knew there was a reason I always show up just a little bit earlier than required to airports.)

– You can either book something with Virgin at our flight services desk at the end of the row or there’s a Flight Centre desk just behind you at the airport’s entrance.

– Ok. Um, I’ll be right back, I guess?

Earlier, I had spent such a lovely last afternoon in Melbourne. From wandering a park where kids were apparently practicing their long jump (I kid you not!) to admiring the details of the royal arcade to taking in the juxtaposition of the street performers and the uninterested crowds going about their day along Bourke St. It seemed like the mood and contrasts of every scene and building I explored were perfect for black and white photography and it was a people watcher’s ideal day.

My anxiety was peaking with this exchange at the airport, though. I wasn’t sure when I was leaving New Zealand or from where – that was the whole point of this ‘free spirit’ trip thing I was doing! Australia didn’t seem to mind that they didn’t know when I was leaving. Why are you so much pickier New Zealand? eh? Well, I guess it was my fault for not reading all the fine print details.

But, the whole plan was to NOT have a plan. I was going to take my time to figure all that out but now you’re telling me I have to decide – all within the next 20 minutes! – not only when I’m flying out, but from where and to what destination?!

I don’t know! I had been toying with the idea of spending my whole time down on the South Island. What if I just didn’t want to leave the mountains? And how long would I want to spend down in total in New Zealand? I was going to play it by ear – and maybe see how quickly money was running out. I basically gave myself another 5 weeks before heading home (roughly). But, would I want to stop somewhere before heading back? South East Asia maybe? Another visit to friends in Vancouver or somewhere else? My head was spinning.

Ok. Just pick something. Start with a date, I told myself.

June 17th. (No reason for it. It just looked like a good amount of time on my phone calendar.)

Ok. Now, where from?

Let’s say Aukland. (I’ll assume I will want to see at least a bit of the North Island. If not, I can always fly up or take a quick train ride to make my flight.)

Ok. Now where to?

Well, let’s see what’s cheapest, I thought. If I need to scrap those plans, then maybe I can just deal with losing a bit of money. Hmm… Sydney is only $150. Done.

Ok. Run back to the check-in counter.

– Ok. I’m back. I’ve booked a flight for June 17th.

– Do you have that itinerary with you? 

(oh geez, this again?)

– Yes. Just on my phone.

I pass her my phone. And as she clicks around on her computer, her brow furrows about something. Then she signals for her supervisor.

(oh this can’t be good…)

– Well, it appears that with the ticket you booked, there’s no baggage allowance.

– I’m sorry, what?

You aren’t allowed a bag with the ticket you purchased.

– None at all?

No. Well, it would be $120 dollars.

– WHAT?! A hundred and twenty dollars?

Yes.

– But the ticket itself was only around $200.

This is where my anxiety spikes the second time in just a short 30 minutes. This time not about making a decision but about the wasted money!

– You’re kidding, right?

No. Unless the itinerary you got from Virgin says you’re allowed a piece of baggage. If not, I have to charge you.

– Well, I didn’t book through Virgin directly and it didn’t show anything. I guess this wouldn’t qualify for carry-on, would it?

She glances down at my semi-large backpack and just shakes her head no.

– It actually did on other flights, believe it or not.

Well, the size might be ok, but you’re double our max weight limit for carry-ons.

– Oh.

Sorry.

– Well, I guess I’m paying. I can’t very well leave it behind.

I never thought to check for that. I assumed everyone would be allowed at least one bag to leave a country… I was wrong.

Anyway, that was the shaky start to my trip to New Zealand. I had actually commented earlier in the day to my friend that it was funny that I was traveling on Friday the 13th. Maybe not so funny after all…

I did, however, make it safe and sound to Christchurch and spent a lovely first day yesterday. It’s not what I expected. I guess I thought it would be more of a big city than it is. And, all you can hear is construction – and it was a Saturday! Everywhere you look you see crumbled buildings or construction. (Still remaining from the earthquake 5 years ago). Or street art. More often than not, all three together.

But, later on, I wandered down to the botanic gardens just across from my hostel and the scene was quite different. The quiet hits you almost immediately and the amazing colours of fall were all around. It was a whole different place – and everyone was there. A dramatic contrast from the city as it seemed almost like a ghost town with how few people you could see around.

Since I discovered it later in the day yesterday, I decided to head back today to enjoy a full sunny afternoon there with a good book. Tomorrow, I am hitting the road again; the mountains are calling.

 

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