Day 17 (September 24, 2012)   Christchurch


Route for New Zealand's 14th day   We should start early this day as our target is reaching Christchurch as soon as possible. We must deliver the motorhomes and be ready for our return flight, which takes off from this city airport at 8:20 PM.

   In our way we could stop around Ashburton, where we can find another landscape from “The Lord of the rings” trilogy: Rohan. We could locate Mount Sunday, where city of Edoras, the kingdom capital, was built.

   Once all the duties in Christchurch are done, we could spend the spare time walking around the beautiful city center until the time of taking a short flight to Auckland which will link with the one to Hong Kong.

   This route is 260 Km long, which should be covered in 3 hours and 20 minutes .


Motorhome's interior before cleaning   Today is our last day on this incredible country and we’re just besides the airport where our 8 PM flight leaves from, therefore, we are in no rush. We take our time for breakfast and motorhome tasks before delivery: packing, cleaning, emptying of toilet and waste water tanks, filling clean water tank,… Our baggage is ready and just the remains to fill the fuel tank, which we’ll do in our way to Apollo office as we’ve seen a sign with the yellow Z from the gas station we’ve used so much along these last two weeks, so must be one there.

   Once ready, we have a lot of time which we want to spend exploring Christchurch. Our idea is going to the city all together in the smaller campervan and we go to there following the “City Centre” signs. Our target is finding an area with live for, in one hand, shopping and, in the other hand, finding a BNZ office in order of cancelling our account before leaving the country. The contract states there is a 5$ charge per month and we don’t want to accumulate a big debt in New Zealand with the years.

   Somehow, we cannot find the city center and, once the signs are not appearing anymore, we keep driving randomly through the streets of what seems to be a periphery area as the buildings are quite ramshackle. I’m looking in a parking building which seems to stand miraculously, as the lower floors are basically ruined. That reminds me the earthquake happened on this city last year. As it was one year and a half ago I was not thinking about that as the cause of this buildings status but then a street opens at our left and we can identify the cone shaped sculpture I know as part of the cathedral Square and, just for a few seconds as we cannot stop, we can see the remains of the cathedral too. We feel like in the “Planet of the apes”: we already were in the city center all the time. It is sad: city center is destroyed and we’re driving through the ground zero from a natural disaster, which doesn’t seem to have changed a lot on this last year and a half.

Christchurch's city centerChristchurch's city center

   This breaks our plans: it seems there is nothing to be visited here, so we ask about a shopping area to some persons in the street. All of them point to somewhere called “Westfield” and we follow the indications to reach it.

   We park in an area similar to the cities we’ve been driving across during these last weeks with one floor buildings. It seems the damage from the earthquake were concentrated in the center as there are no tracks from the disaster on the rest of the city.

   Just at the left side of the entrance to the shopping mall there is a BNZ office with free computers connected to internet. I join the row and complete the procedures to account cancellation. Then I explore some shops and meet the group. It wasn’t what we were looking for as these stores are not here for tourists but for citizens, so any missing souvenir must be got in the airport this evening.

   When coming back to the Holyday Park I can see a BP gas station with the lowest price for diesel in the whole travel: 1.559S per liter. Once in our motorhome places the next steps are clear: we bring our baggage to the Holyday Park office, book the transfer to the airport to 6:40 PM and take our vehicles for our last ride to gas station and Apollo office. Somehow, although the gas station sign is here we cannot find the station itself anywhere, so we go to the BP one we saw before.

North South Holyday ParkNorth South Holyday Park's office

   Now we’re ready and drive directly to Apollo office, besides the Holyday Park. At the map below you can see the distances:

 0- North South Holyday Park
 1- Apollo office
 2- Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
 3- International airport

   In Apollo, they mustn’t be used to be delivered three motorhomes at a time as we can barely park them here. A girl comes and checks all of them with this conclusion: the smaller has nothing, one has the back turning light broken and the other the scratch at the top from Homer’s tunnel.

Christchurch area map

   We’re seated in the table and showed the contract from Cheapa Campa, which is the one we signed, for pointing the part is stated we must pay 70$ as administration fee by accident report. As they don’t accept cash, it is taken from the deposit because of the turning light. With this, the first two motorhomes are done. The one with the scrap is the last one to close and we’re going to find out why.

   They’re pointing to the part of the contract explaining the insurance exclusions to makes us see the scratch at the top is not covered. I was already read the contract and state I knew the roof was not covered, but it is in one side. Somehow, as the word is “overhead” they show us a picture of the motorhome with the not covered area marked. All this is a preliminary to prepare us for what is coming: they’re claiming 2500$ by this damage. We just shock.
Cheapa Campa contract
    Our first reaction is answering we don’t have that amount of money and the they state how serious is this as it is a legal issue and they’re pushing us to use the cards of all the people of the group until reaching that amount. We stop them here as they don’t have any right to involve third persons here. The literally say we’re not going to exit by the doors until paying and we seem to get a dead end as they leave us alone to let us think. I’m grateful we have no pressure about the flight time as it seems we’re going to spend a lot of time here.

   When the woman come back we try to strike back in some way: as everything is based on the specified in the contract we accept the area of the scratch is not covered by the insurance but we put forward such amount of money is not appearing anywhere in the contract and that’s the reason we’re not ready for paying it. We’re offered to call to anybody in Spain, whether family or bank, to help in getting the money but, although she is living in a country everything is closed beyond 5 PM, she cannot understand we cannot do anything it is 3 AM in our country and we can do nothing.

   They finally take our point about disagreeing on fixing such scratch in a fiberglass surface could be so expensive and tell us they’ve called their accident unit people and they’ve valued the repair: our debt goes down to 1500$.

   We will still be in the office more time with no step beyond this point until accepting the charge to the credit card. Then we’re offered transfer to the airport, but we refuse it because we don’t need it and we’re angry with them. We still wonder how far we could – and them – have gone.

   Some days later, when we were already at home, I could check we were right: the contract sent to us states the damage in the roof are excluded and doesn't appear the word "overhead" there, as I remembered. You can check this at page 5 of the document of the picture, just by clicking it. So, be aware, if you rent with this people, take all the info and contracts with you or you can be charged a big amount just because you cannot find your defence.

Road sign to Willowbank   We’re back to Holyday Park after a short walk still feeling bad because of the experience we’ve just got and that makes us to refuse a taxi ride to Willowbank when we’re told it’s 30$ for it. So 5 of us walk along the road to there recalling the words of the girl at desk yesterday, who said it was at walking distance. When doubts are coming to us about what we’re doing, a picture with zoom to a far sign gives us the information we need to going on.

   We must be the first visitors arriving to here by walking. The kind girl at desk take the 25$ per person of the admission fee with no ticket in return, but a map of the place, and we get into what seems to be a big garden ready to enjoying the only visit of the day.

   We soon realize this is not a zoo and is something different than what we’re used to in terms of animals watching places. There is a closed itinerary which starts and ends in the building with the desk, gift shop and coffee shop. On this track you can watch some animals in jails, another behind fences and get into the area where some others are living and, in all cases, you’re free to interact with them.

Main entrace to Willowbank Wildlife ReserveBlack swans in Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

   This is the way we pass through different sort of ducks, one ostrich, deer… Lemurs, monkeys and gibbons are showed like in a zoo but some other animals like the funny and unknown – by us – wallabies are not. We just discover these Australian animals as a sort of little kangaroos and we’re happy we can interact directly with them. They have a strange behavior, like if all of them were connected and move as being part of a game by turns: all of them are quiet and, at a specific moment, all of them move to different places to stop after a few seconds all at a time. It’s funny.

Lemur in Willowbank Wildlife ReserveWallabies in Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

   A part of this itinerary goes through a farm with the animals we’ve seen on the roadsides’ areas and some other new ones.

Llamas in Willowbank Wildlife ReserveKunekune pig in Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

   Then we get into the New Zealand’s native animals, which is the one we really have come to see, as we want to see the ones we’ve missed around our trip. Almost all of them are birds, and we can see the falcons we already could see from our vehicles several times, the keas and wekas, but we can be in front of some other we’ve missed because they’re rare and hard to see, as Tautara, the only living dinosaur and in a special hut set as a nocturnal forest, of course, the kiwi.

Tautara in Willowbank Wildlife ReserveKiwi in Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

   We’re surprised because, after seeing the image a lot of times around the country as New Zealand’s icon, we have our own idea about them: they’re bigger than expected. We find one very close to the track, making a peculiar and repeated noise with the beck hitting the ground. Then, it goes up to where its forest ends with a wall and starts to run, one time after another, left to right and right to left, with no stop. The other kiwi we can see in here is doing the same. What a waste of energy! I hope it is a symptom because the captivity because, otherwise, It’s not strange they’re in danger of extinction. Energy is very precious in nature.

   We’ve liked a lot this visit and, as the coming way by walking has been quite hard, we ask for a taxi for return. Price is the same: 30$.Christchurch International airport

   It’s some minutes before 6 PM when we meet all together again in the Holyday Park and, as everything is done now, we agree on asking about the chances about going to the airport as soon as possible instead of waiting still one more hour. There is no problem and we’re at airport at once taking off our passports again after two weeks resting.

   We’re not exactly at weigh with some bags, but we can check in directly to Hong Kong with no issues. As we have time here, we spread ourselves between the different shops to the final souvenirs, as all of us have kiwi dollars to spend before leaving the country.

Christchurch International airport   Then we board to a short flight to Auckland - no screens here – and, once there, we surprisingly need to leave this terminal to the street for taking a bus to the other terminal. The one we know from the first day here. We manage to do all this changes because of our decision of following the Chinese passengers from our flight, assuming they are going to Hong Kong too.

   In our wait to this flight we find more shops and our last minutes in New Zealand. When boarding in the big plane to Hong Kong, we realize it is an older model than the ones when coming: there is no power plug here, the screen a bit smaller and the entertainment system is different. But there are different movies, which can be good news.

   We’re flying at night, so we spend the time on it at dark, sleeping or trying.