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New Zealand Trip Report

Day 10 of 24

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Sunday, March 10th
Fly to Christchurch

This time, I was ready. I had the graduated neutral density filter already attached to my camera by the time I got up to photograph the sunrise. It was just as good as yesterday. I could see all the way down to where we'd hiked yesterday. I took several photographs of the sunrise before we left the sheep farm that morning. For those of you not into photography, a graduated neutral density filter is a relatively simple filter which is dark on one half, light on the other. You place it over the lens to darken an area that's too bright. It's especially good for sunrise and sunset pictures, allowing you to show detail in the darker areas of the picture. Without the filter, the darker areas would show up as black.

Sunrise at Kairuru. I'm ashamed to say, from a photographer's point of view, that I can't decide which picture I like best. So I'll show several in chronological order.

Sunrise at Kairuru

Sunrise at Kairuru

Sunrise at Kairuru

Sunrise at Kairuru

We left Kairuru around 8:30am, taking less than an hour and a half to reach the Nelson airport. As you might expect, there was no one at the Avis counter, so we called. They said to leave the key and contract and they'd take care of it. We checked in at the lone ticket counter. It turns out that there's technically a 20 kg of baggage per person limit, and we had a total of 75 kg so we were well over the limit. Fortunately, it wasn't a full flight so they let us take it all on. We again boarded a Saab 340 (seats 33), this time on our way to Christchurch.

The flight only took 45 minutes. When we landed in Christchurch it was completely overcast. Christchurch is a complete contrast to Nelson -- it's an international airport for a city of over 300,000. On the other hand, as far as I could tell the tallest buildings in the city were hotels. So I wouldn't say it's a major business hub, like Auckland.

We drove to The George hotel, where we were staying. Unfortunately they booked us into a smoking room even though we wanted non-smoking. There was no way to change it, since they were booked solid because of some cricket tournament. We had them air it out as best they could. This was just the start of an unpleasant experience with the hotel, however.

We drove to Merivale Mall, where I found a Maori music CD. I just kind of picked it by random, but it sounds pretty good. I also got some more Fuji Provia 400F, since I'd run out of high-speed film and was only left with Fuji Velvia (50). This was my first trip where I'd brought both my Minolta Maxxum 7 and 5 bodies. This made it easy for me to switch between fast and slow film, so it also meant I was more likely to use fast film than usual. Provia 400F is expensive film, but it's even more expensive in New Zealand -- $30 NZD per roll, about $13.20 USD. Ouch. In contrast, you can order a roll from B&H for $7.99 USD.

We stopped at a sushi place in the mall for lunch. One of the servers was rather odd -- he asked me where I was from and I said "United States" and he didn't understand. I enunciated out, slowly, "United States of America" and he was still confused. He disappeared into the back room and came back a minute later saying "Oh, America. You look Chinese." Very strange man. At least the food was decent.

It started to rain as we returned to the car. We went off to The Warehouse, a store where Kathryne had told us we could find the Lord of the Rings figures. We found a very small selection, but got a couple of them. When we got back to the hotel, I checked the Internet and discovered that I could get them on Amazon.com. I decided I'd return them since I didn't want to carry the bulky packages back to the states.

That night, we dressed up and went to the highly-regarded Pescatore restaurant in the hotel. We were in for a big disappointment. After 30 minutes, no one had come by our table to take our order or even give us bread. During this time we heard the table next to us complain about the horrible service. We did the unthinkable and decided to leave. We flagged down someone to tell them we wanted the bill for the mineral water they'd given us. It took another 10 minutes for someone to come over and say "there's no charge." Too little, too late. They didn't even apologize for the interminable wait. We'd later run into another couple with a bad experience at the George, but more on that later.

I've never walked out of a restaurant like that before. I can't believe such a highly rated restaurant would have such horrible service. Maybe they had the lights on so dim that they couldn't even see us. In any case, we dressed back down and went out to a hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant for dinner.


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