Riding the bus from the airport into the centre of Christchurch, we had a sensation similar to the one we experienced entering Argentina coming from Bolivia. Then, it was as if someone had beamed us back to Europe or at least close to there. This time, we felt a similar irritation: we felt utterly displaced after arriving from the Pacific Islands.
Everything was so Anglo-Saxon, the houses, the street signs, the food, the architecture! It was so suburban USA / Canada: the streets are lined with one-story residential buildings, surrounded by manicured lawns and neatly trimmed bushes and flowers… Okay, people speak with an accent that Gilles finds very strange and drive “on the wrong side of the road”, but otherwise so far we have not discovered anything completely new or mildly exotic!
Also temperature took us by surprise. After being exposed to heat and sun for months, we were looking forward to a more moderate climate, but it is not! Our first day in Christchurch was so cold that we thought about buying gloves. The following morning at Mount Cook had us shiver at 4 degrees Celsius, whereas in the late afternoon we melted away at 29 degrees!
Prices here are not very different from Europe. We noticed it when we both went for the long due haircut: Gilles paid 23 Euros (ouch!) and Heidi no less than 78 for a bit of colour and a cut!!!
The positive “whow” experience was the supermarket. After spending 5 weeks in the Pacific, where fresh food was such a rare commodity that we bought whatever veggies people grew in their private garden, New Zealand is simply paradise. The sheer abundance of fruits, vegetable, meet and fish and the wide variety of products in general was truly exciting for us!
“Man spricht Deutsch” is another phenomenon: guests at backpacker hostels are primarily young Germans. It has been so extreme that we started to do some research finding out what brought them to New Zealand. Some simply travel for a few weeks, others spend months on a working holiday, while a few study here and all the latter have friends and family visiting. We also came up with the daring conclusion that only young Germans can afford such a trip.
Last but not least, what blew out mind were the tons of brightly coloured free brochures that can be found in every hostel, café, tourist information. Tourism is so professionally marketed here and right in your face that we look back to travelling in Latin American in sad nostalgia! Here everything is heavily advertised, restaurants, accommodation, skydives, bungee jumping, flying across mountains, glaciers and fjords in small airplanes, excursion to see wild life of all kinds and what not…
There was a certain innocence to travelling through Latin America that we only become aware of now and miss immensely.