A day I will not soon forget

Trip Start Mar 30, 2010
Trip End Dec 13, 2012

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What I did
Run from earthquakes

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Before my arrival in New Zealand, I knew really only about Aukland and Wellington.  That was the extent of my Kiwi geography.  But little did I know how much Christchurch would become a life time memory for me.  This is one city that I will NEVER forget, or the amazing people that I met while here.  I appologize that there is no pics to go along with the first part of this adventure, but the ones later on will make up for it.
    I arrived at CH CH airport with little more than a hostel booking and my bags.  I had heard that New Zealand was an outdoors ethusiast haven, just as Tasmania was.  I had all this new camping equipement and wanted to get my moneys worth from it.  When my turn came to clear customs, I approached thinking no big deal, commonwealth country and they speak english...easy enough.   I always try to choose the most pleasant looking customs officer.   I don't know I do this, because just about everytime, it backfires on me.  The lady that I chose this time was right angry at the world, or just me in particular.  She was rude and demanding, and I stood there with a shit eating grin taking it like it was nothing.  She asked me if I had a return ticket out of NZ and proof showing so.  I can't remember the last time I printed an airline ticket on this trip.  I just go to the airport, hand in my passport at the check in counter, and go simple as that.  Here they wanted to see the document, so that meant that I was taken by a big burly Kiwi man who was kind enough about it all , to a small room where they took my passport to look into my story.  35 mins later the man returned and said everything checked out, and I was free to "go".  I had to go back to the grumpy lady to get my stamp of approval, because she had given me the wrong stamp.  Now my passport has a New Zealand stamp with a big CANCELLED across it, which just looks suspicious.   I went to gather my bag from the carousel, as it was the only one still going in circles.  I was also at this point the only non employee at the airport, only customs agents and custodians.  The remaining customs agents had lots of time to give me the up and down and decided to search the entire contents of my bag, which included taking out my tent to a seperate room to clean, as well as my boots because of seed contamination.  Just a heads up, if you want a free shoe shine when you get to NZ....Go with dirty boots.
        I took the local bus to the city center, known at Cathedral square.  My hostel was located less than 50 meters from the Catherdal.  I had made quick contact with a couchsurfer, Hoi from Singapore, that was planning on touring the east side of the south island for about a week.  After I had dropped my bags, I sent an sms to Hoi to meet in the square and talk over the details to make sure that it would work for the both of us.  It was a Sunday night, so it was rahter quiet, not that I would imagine Chirstchurch would ever really get busy.  Even though it was the south islands largest city, it was hardly more than a collection of single level homes, some of which look as though they were built shortly after the second world war.    Standing in the square for a few mins, looking at Hoi and this other fellow, we realized that we were the ones the other was looking for.  Hoi introduced me to her friend, Fred who had been traveling with Hoi already for roughly a week if I remember correctly.  We found a place to eat and talk over the plan.  Our choice of dinning....Wendy's.  It had been a long time since I had even seen a Wendy's,  so some greasy burgers would hit the spot just perfectly.  Over dinner, we all seemed to make a good connection, so Fred and Hoi agreed that it would be no problem for me to join them.  Little did I know that this small agreement, may have been the desicion that could have saved my life.  More on that later.   They informed me as well that there would be one other joining our trip, a girl from Argentina named Romina.  So our plan was all settled.  We would meet Tuesday morning, get the rental car together and head off.    
     I headed back to my hostel, which seemed like the place to be while in CH CH.  For some reason, my room was upgraded to a "Penthouse" room.  Sounds fancier than it was.  It was still nothing to shake a stick at.  We still had to sleep in dorm rooms, but we had a kitchen to ourselves, a lounge room with our own TV, and a nice balcony with BBQ.  Everyone that was there already had pretty much broken off into clicks, one downside big time to hostels over Couchsurfing.  Sometimes it's acutally nice to not have to always introduce yourself, do the whole meet and greet thing.  Everyday, I seem to be repeating myself by meeting new people and explaining my story for the 1000000000000000000th time.   I thought a nice quiet night would be in order doing some internet sutff, because I knew that we would be camping and roughing it from here on out.  Just as I thought that my quiet night would start, a very talkative guy introduced himself to me as Kurt. He was Kiwi, from the north island heading down to Dunedin.  It was a little cool to meet an Kiwi while staying at the hostel I must admit, usually you make more friends from other countries than from the country you are acutally visiting.  He was wanted to go out and party in CH CH, because it was his only night in town, and was looking for a wing man.  He seemed like a good kid, and I mean kid becuase he was 21, but head on his shoulders for a party hardy kid.    We roamed this streets and ended up at some Irish pub, as it was one of the only places open late on a sunday night.   We downed a few pints, played pool with some other people from other hostels, and somewhere around 3 am, we threw in the towel, Kurt had to catch a bus in the morning. 
   I caught up with Kurt in the morning and walked with him to the bus stop, as I was going out exploring.  He gave me his number and told me to meet him when I got down to Dunedin, as it was supposed to be the party of all party's in New Zealand.  It was the first week of Uni there, and he assured me a good time.  He told me my accent would come in handy ;)  Roaming around town solo, I was a little hungover and wasnt feeling like taking pictures as I knew that I would be coming back to Christchurch, and could do it all at the end of the time there.  Little did I know......  The Cathedral had all kinds of flower arrangements and there was a small market infront of  as well, but I didnt bother looking.  It's only temping myself to buy more things than I can carry.
      I had no idea that the morning I woke up to meet Fred and Hoi would have stuck out so much.  It was a tuesday morning, Feb 22nd.  We said to each other that we would meet infront of the Cathedral at 10:20 am.  Which worked out perfect for me because check out time was 10 am at my hostel, less than 50 meters away.  As I was packing my things, one girl staying one of the other  "penthouse"  was up early watching TV.  I hopped in the shower to get clean before heading off.  When I got out from the shower, the girl was freaking out a bit in the living room.  "Did you feel that??"  she paniced.  "What do you mean?" I asked, wondering how much she had had to drink the night before.  "The earthquake!"  Now I remember this specifically.  She said that to me at 9:42 AM.  I didn't think much of it, because I had heard that earthquakes were rather common in NZ.  "Nope....." I replied, and dismissed her as crazy.  I said my goodbyes and off I went.       I was nervous that perhaps plans had changed with Hoi and Fred, and if so, they would not be able to contact me as they were running late, and my cellphone was having issues. It seems to always have some problem when you change countries bi weekly. Who figured.  Well would Lucikly enough, Fred and Hoi eventually made it and we headed off  to go and gather the car.    Fred was a little tired of driving, and I was more than eager to get behind the wheel of a car again (i miss driving, espcially motorcycles!!), and Hoi didn't seem to interested in the whole driving idea. Score for me.   We made our way back to Cathedral square to pick up our final passenger Romina, During which time I cut off a few drivers because of silly Kiwi driving rules.  If I had to guess, that placed us there around 12 ish at latest.  We went to the local Pac and Sav grocery store to buy our food for the week.  Now there was something about this particular group of people I could tell by the simple task of buying groceries, we would get along.  Joking around, trying to find the cheapest can of peas, sharing things immediately, compramising because I dont like tuna......It just had a good feel to it.    We got back to the car to get this venture underway, when I asked if buying some wine might be a good idea.  Everyon agreed, so we went back into the store, quickly grabbed a  4L bag, yes bag not box, of the cheapest wine we could.  It became a running joke of our time in NZ.  Can I offer you some bag wine??  Nothing but the finest.
   Finally we were set, 4 people, 4 backpacks, enough food for 4 days....time to hit the road.  We made our way onto the main road, and about 1 km from the store, we realized the front tire needed air.  After a quick pit stop we were off again.  Driving down the road we were all getting comfortable because we knew we had several hours of drving to get under our belts....then as we started to drive over a bridge  the car jumped like 1.5 meters to the right, then 1.5 meters back to the right!  What he F&%^?!?  I tried to straighten the wheel thinking the alignment of the car was off, that was when I noitced all the cars in front of me putting their brake lights on.  This isn't just my car this is happening to.  I could see the street lights on the bridge swaying over back and forth....just like the bridge was made of water.  Earthquake!!  I had never felt ANYTHING like that before in my life which is why it took a few seconds to process.  It all happened so quickly in my head, that to be honest I never got really freaked out.     I  conituned driving down the road, while Fred turned on the radio to hear any information regardin the quake.  We could see people from all businesses and shops gathered outside their shops.  As we kept driving, the aftershocks continued to pound the city every 10 mins or so at first.  We drove past people that were screaming and running from buildings and thought they were simply overreacting.  Ambulance after ambulance went screaming in the opposite direction as us towards CH CH, as we found out later, they ran out of ambulances.  All paramedics were being called from the entire south island to CH CH.   The whole mood shifted in the car after we heard confirmations on the radio of loss of life.  There was just silence in the car.  We heard the prime minister also come on saying that CHCH was in a state of emregency.   Every now and then we would crack a joke trying to lighten the situation, but I think all of our minds were thinking in overdrive.   Romina was giving us updates from her boyfriend Guiellermo that was still in CH CH.  "The Town is destroyed!"  How can that be, we were just there literally minutes ago???
   Part 2 to this entry will come very soon....I promise.  Too good of a story to not share :)
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