Whoosh! Level 3, everybody! Recover all of your hit points and mana. I know it’s been awhile, but everyone who’s played AD&D knows that it takes a bit longer to get from level 2 to level 3 than it does from level 1 to 2. I know what you’re wondering. What’s going on with Justin in New Zealand? Good question. I wonder that pretty often myself. On the plus side, I have loads of pictures for all of you nerds out there. Speaking of, the above picture is from my recent hike to the top of Bridle Path in Christchurch. (Cheers to Liz for giving me permission to use her image in one of the best pictures I’ve taken in NZ so far. Mostly because I figured out how to use the panorama function on my camera. +100xp)
When we last left off I had just broken out of prison and was preparing to find my way down to the South Island. The trip was crazy complicated to arrange. First, a bus trip down from Napier to Wellington with an overnight stay in a hostel there. Luckily there was an American girl (Tom Petty reference +100xp) who I got to talk nerd stuff with most of the night as she and her friends just finished doing a LOTR tour that day. Woke up, made myself a pancake and then bussed to the airport. I really love the airports here. The Wellington Airport had this hanging about:
Yes, that is a giant sculpture of Gollum. I’m glad you asked.
In addition to that one, there’s also Gandalf riding an eagle, and another eagle flying around nearby. It’s a pretty impressive place. Except for the onsite bookstore that was selling YA titles for $30 each… That was a bit jarring. Sometimes prices of things still give me culture shock. Like when I realized that gas being priced at $2.11 was actually awful because they charge by the litre… not by the gallon. For our metrically impaired friends, 1 gallon is a bit under 4 litres. (+100xp. Knowledge is power.)
From Wellington Airport, I caught a flight to Christchurch. For the most part Christchurch is still recovering from a series of earthquakes a few years back, which destroyed much of the city center. Even so, the view while we were coming in for a landing was incredible. Instead of fences, people had hedges to define their property lines. It was like looking down at a real life Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past map.
When you enter the Dark World it turns yellow.
I had a few hours to kill at the Christchurch airport before taking another bus (+100xp for patience) to Greymouth, a sleepy coastal town on the South Island. This one was at least transalpine though, which meant that I had some very scenic views complete with snow, mountains, and rivers. Of course, there were also sheep. The scenery went something like this: Sheep, sheep, mountain, river, sheep, mountain, forest, alpacas, (double-take… Yup, totally alpacas,) sheep, sheep, cows. Whoever owns the sheep port around here has to be making a killing.
I arrived in Greymouth without much incident and spent a month working in a quaint little hostel called Global Village, which I have to say is probably the nicest hostel I’ve seen so far. It’s run by an older Kiwi gent and his Japanese wife (Hajime mashite. Dozo yoroshiku,) who were super sweet and really cared about the place. The whole town had a vibe that reminded me a lot of my hometown, Brentwood. I made a lot of friends there, and for awhile I had my own private apartment which was awesome. (+250xp) Enjoy a few pictures of this super chill place:
I won a lot of chess games in this room.
I did a few other cool things while in Greymouth. One day I walked to the local Dairy (convenience store sometimes with a built-in Fish & Chips shop) and ordered something from the menu.
“What are corn balls?”
“It’s like a ball of corn pieces, deep fried.”
“Cool, I’ll try that.”
“You have a very loose interpretation of the word ‘ball.’” (+50xp for snark.)
Oh, and I also found Lombard St. in Greymouth as well:
It’s really different from the San Francisco one, guys…
One other super fun thing I did while in Greymouth was take a bike ride out to Shantytown on a whim with a nice Finnish veterinary student. Shantytown is a cultural heritage park that preserves pieces of a gold rush town from the New Zealand Gold Rush back in the mid 1800’s. Adorably, when I told my companion that it reminded me of home I had to explain that California is the way it is largely because of the 1849 gold rush. When you travel you really learn a lot about the things you know that you take for granted. For instance, according to many of my German friends, I know a lot of words. (+50xp for vocab, kids. Keep reading books.) Here’s a quick pic of part of Shantytown for you.
It’s a lot bigger than this, that’s just one of the better pictures. The place actually has a few buildings still intact from when it was an actual town.
When I left Global Village I had the honor of cooking a traditional American meal for everyone. I ended up going with baked Mac & Cheese with some green vegetables, Sloppy Joes, and S’mores for dessert. It was a big hit. (+100xp)
Since Greymouth I’ve gone back to Christchurch, where I’ve been for the past month and a half. Predictably, I’ve run a bit short on funds (traveling is expensive but well worth it,) but that hasn’t stopped me from pursuing new experiences. All of which I will cover very soon, (I promise,) in level 4. This will include my trip to Christchurch City Center, the Re:start Mall, The Canterbury Museum, and the Christchurch Botanical Gardens, as well as my aforementioned walk up Bridle Path.
In the meantime I will leave you with the view from the New Brighton Public Library.
Ways New Zealand is smarter than the US.
1) Bus trips in major cities are often charged by distance traveled instead of flat rate.
2) Electrical outlets have their own power switches so that currents are only running when you want them to be.
Also, here’s what police cars look like:
Oh, and it’s winter here, by the way. Like, I’ve woken up to a light snow a few times. Happy July. Enjoy your time, nerds. Stay tuned for Level 4.