I’m writing this entry from our home for the next couple of years in Christchurch, New Zealand. A city that is, like us, going through something of a re birth (or Re:START) after the damage caused by the 2011 earthquake.
Our visas, or rather my visa which had to be processed by snail-mail, eventually arrived back in Stanley and events happened rather quickly after the long wait. We booked our flights immediately and were off on the long flight: Mount Pleasant – Punta Arenas – Santiago – Auckland – Christchurch. The delays didn’t end with the visa process of course. The flight out of the Falklands was delayed by 24 hours due to northerly winds which tend to close the airport at Mount Pleasant. The major knock-on effect was that thanks to delays on other flights into Santiago the flight from Santiago was packed and seats were allocated wherever they were available meaning that we were given seats several rows apart. Thanks to a nice Brazilian chap who swapped with me we were able to sit together.
On arrival in Auckland one of our bags didn’t appear on the carousel so off we went to the lost bags desk. We waited in line for what seemed like and age (lost bags on LAN from Santiago are the rule rather than the exception according to the staff there – must be all the dodgy South American connections) and filling in a very long form we were just leaving when a chap turned up with the missing bag – seems it had fallen off the truck somewhere! After that the bio-security team took forever to clean our tent resulting in us missing our connection to Christchurch. Getting a seat on the next flight wasn’t a problem though and we were only delayed by an hour because of that.
In Christchurch we were lucky to have a house to move into, somebody from the University was on sabbatical and needed house, cat and chicken sitters until the end of January. Unfortunately a couple of the chickens clucked their last during our tenancy (I’m sure it wasn’t our fault though), however the cat thrived and quickly got us trained to her routine and how she liked things done.
One of the first things we had to do was to go car shopping as this is definitely car country. We ended up with a Subaru Impreza because the price was right. It’s a bit sporty, a bit too low to the ground and a bit heavy on fuel so I might try to trade it in for something a bit more practical such as a Subaru forester or similar. With a car sorted out we went shopping for what camping gear, that we didn’t bring with us, so that we could get out exploring over the Christmas holidays.
The weather over the Christmas period wasn’t great but we did get out to the Arthur’s pass area for a few nights and for another overnight trip to the Mount Hutt area. Exploring the tracks out to the lakes in the Mount Hutt area is where we learnt that the ground clearance on the Impreza isn’t up to handling the gravel tracks in the more out of the way places. The remainder of the Christmas period was spent learning our way around Christchurch, browsing the properties for rent on Trademe and trying to work out in what areas we should look for a house to rent.
As soon as the holidays ended we started viewing properties; which was a monumentally depressing challenge. We looked at some quite well built and equipped small apartments but they seemed to have been built as an exercise in providing the most depressing environment possible. Whilst they would have been quite suitable for us, within our price range and cheap to run (because they were insulated and double glazed etc.) we just couldn’t face living in such an environment. Most of the houses we looked at were crap, dirty, old, and badly maintained, you name it! This is understandable in a way as the target market were students due to the fact that we were looking within walking distance of the university.
We did find a nice place which we applied for and were hopefully that we would be accepted as tenants because the owners told us that we were top of the list. However that obviously wasn’t the case because they gave it to somebody else. Eventually we found the place we are staying in now. A pretty run down, wood borer riddled, ex-government semi that will be freezing in the winter but it is convenient for Paula’s work, has a nice little yard and the owner is nice and helpful; especially now that he has realised that we will look after the place and are capable of actually improving it for him – he has offered us all the paint and materials that we want – funny that! We plan on building a couple of raised beds to grow some veggies but for now can’t afford the materials or the soil to fill them so that will have to wait.
We have been out sailing a couple of times. Once with Stephen and Hazel (Stephen and Paula are colleagues) who took us for a windy beat to the mouth of Lyttelton for lunch and back on their boat “Heavy metal”. Last weekend we went to a raft-up with the Little Ships of Canterbury cruising group who we got to know after they asked me to give a talk. I showed photos and spoke about my sailing experiences in South Georgia, Antarctica, Tierra del Fuego and the Falklands with Pelagic Expeditions. Paula is going to give another talk on the 16th February on our voyage from the Falklands to Tahiti
The Little Ships group got to hear about me via an advert for my business that the Naval Point Yacht Club kindly put in their newsletter. As I mentioned in a previous post I intend to work as a freelance marine electronics engineer here. That has got off to a slow start but I have picked up a few customers; a rewiring job, autopilot and fish-finder installations and repairing cables that rats had chomped. The first by word of mouth thanks to Stephen and the others via the BoatNZ boat shop who have kindly recommended me to their clients. The other chandlers in town have also been very receptive and have a stock of my business cards to hand out to customers buying electronics. Hopefully the talk and the exposure in the club newsletters will help. I’m hoping that business will gradually pick up as time goes on otherwise I’ll have to make a new plan. Head over to my business website at TweedsMarine to find out more.