Last year, defying dire written warnings against it, we overstayed our tourist visas because the marine weather didn’t cooperate when it came time to leave New Zealand and sail to Fiji. I’m generally a rule follower so I was a little concerned that it would be put on our permanent record and when we showed up at passport control this time alarms would go off, red lights would flash and we’d be deported on the next plane to wherever we came from. In the event I stuck my passport in the e-reader machine and before I even took my hand away I was informed that I’d been granted a tourist visa, the gate opened and I was in. Jack, on the other hand, was not so lucky. As soon as he inserted his passport a border agent came over and guided him to a manned gate where he was asked a lot of questions, some of which he couldn’t answer, since I’d made most of the travel arrangements. I stood by, offering subtle prompts a few times, especially when the almost incomprehensible Kiwi accent got the best of him. I felt like Nancy Reagan talking Ronnie through an unfamiliar communion ceremony except that I’m taller and my head’s not so big. Eventually the big stamp came down on Jack’s passport and he was in too. Whew!
We knew from looking out the window during landing that it was wet outside but as we walked past the optimistically sunny scenic murals in the terminal and outside to find the rental car we weren’t prepared for the bone chilling rising damp. Who, we wondered, is responsible for this dire weather during our vacation? Strongly worded letter to come.
We only planned an hour drive to end the day, enough to get us away from the traffic and construction delays of Christchurch and staged for the long drive the next day. Jack is completely converted to left side driving and we found our motel room in the quiet farming town of Ashburton with no problems. After another hilarious convo with the motel owner about our yachting lifestyle (“My husband has a yacht. I hate it!”) we got into our room, cranked the heat up and pulled more fleece out of the luggage.
It was at this point that I discovered my precious Trader Joe’s Moisturizing Face Lotion (Broad Spectrum SPF15), which is irreplaceable on this side of the globe, had opened up during flight and moisturized the inside of my LLBean travel tote and one pair of Bose Quiet Comfort 2 Noise Canceling Headphones. Why do they insist on packaging with those press-flip caps instead of a positive locking top? Strongly worded letter to follow. Right after I clean up the mess.
We suited up again and drove to a grocery store for breakfast supplies, then to Robbie’s Bar & Bistro for a nightcap and a nosh. Well, a nosh for Jack. It was lucky I wasn’t hungry because there wasn’t one thing without meat on the menu, and I’m reminded that we are again in New Zealand and surrounded by doomed farm animals. Jack had the beef schnitzel, listed on the menu under Light Meals. I’ve grown used to Australia where vegetarians are accommodated and even catered to, rather than seen as an aberration. I love New Zealand but being vego here is a challenge, and I suspect will be even more so in the farmy South Island. Strongly worded letter — ahhh nuts.