Saturday, March 26, 2011

On the Road: Traveling Solo

Picking up where I left off before Blog4NZ, Kaikoura (where we swam with dolphins) was one of the last stops on my road trip with Louise. That was the day before the earthquake, and Louise was meant to fly out of Christchurch the day after. After testing the runways, it was announced that international flights would begin again midday on Wednesday (a couple hours before Lou’s scheduled flight to Australia). By the time we had confirmation on this, we had to rush back to camp and pack up everything (making sure to sort through and divide our belongings after 10 days in a wee car together!) We managed to get her to the airport in time for her flight and I sorted out the juggling of rental cars.

Lou and I part ways... sad day!

I had arranged to “relocate” a car from Christchurch back to Nelson after our trip. That way, I would be able to see some Nelson friends and join the Flying Kiwi bus again from there. Rental car relocation is a nice opportunity to get from point A to point B with a free rental car. There are some stipulations – you have to pay for petrol, and you have limited mileage in a certain time frame – but it seemed ideal for what I needed! In retrospect, it may have been cheaper to take a bus, but I wouldn’t have had the freedom that comes with driving.

I checked in to pick up the new rental, transferred my belongings, and then returned our “Rocky” at another agency. While standing at the counter, the agent seemed a bit agitated. At one point he froze, interrupting his sentence, then looked at me with concern and confusion. “Did you not feel that?” “Oh, no… I guess not.” The fact that I was an outsider, unable to relate to him about the reality he was experiencing, seemed to be uncomfortable for him. I assured him that my friend felt the aftershocks all night and for some reason I could not feel them. He did not seem at ease by this, and instead rigidly finished finding my paperwork and led me to my car.

During the time Lou was waiting for her flight, there was a serious aftershock.
It was shortly after I had gotten on the road, so I was already out of the city when it hit. She told me later that people were screaming in response to the shake, and things were falling from the ceiling. There was even talk of evacuating the airport. I guess things settled down enough for Lou’s flight to board and I only found this out after she was safely in Melbourne, but it’s amazing how close – and yet so far – this earthquake came to affecting me. I am quite happy to be alive and well and able to reflect on the experience. Perhaps my reflection is a further attempt at understanding the reality of the situation. As I said in my last post about the quake, it is a strange feeling to be so close in proximity but so far removed from the devastation this earthquake caused. I am extremely lucky to be able to reflect and move on from that day with no significant personal trauma!  

Somewhere between Christchurch and Nelson

Hitting the road in my very own (rental) car was a great way to start processing – and get away a bit – from the earthquake. I drove over Lewis pass for the 5 hour drive to Nelson. This was only the second time I got behind the wheel by myself in NZ, and it felt wonderful! I certainly enjoyed having company on the road trip, but driving solo is always a bit therapeutic for me. There aren’t many radio stations up in the mountains (which was probably a good thing since most were inundated with news from Christchurch) so when I stopped I set up my netbook and put iTunes on random. There is just something exhilarating to driving down a highway (or two-lane winding road as it often is in NZ) while singing at the top of your lungs!

"Ixam," if you will

The car was also great. It was a green Nissan sedan and reminded me of my beloved “Maxi” – who I sold to afford my plane ticket to NZ – only backwards! (Call him “Ixam”? Yup, apologies, I had to go there…) Along the way I spotted a DOC (Department of Conservation) sign on the side of the road marking a short walk to a waterfall, so I promptly found a turn-around spot and broke up the drive with a nice walk! It was cool and damp in the woods and I followed a footpath along a stream up to a couple waterfalls. This is one of the things I love about NZ. You can be driving in the middle of nowhere but since there are so many amazing hidden gems, often there is something to see if you stop. Lou and I had a couple picnic lunches on our road trip where we simply pulled off at a lay-by, walked a few hundred feet, and found a spot with fantastic views to set up our blanket!

Waterfall walk in Lewis Pass

I felt like this drive was a nice transition back to traveling solo. I explored the waterfall and was happy to be there by myself. I was pleased to be driving, and despite the recent events in the news, was in a good place! My journey back to Nelson seemed to go by fairly quickly and it was nice to be able to drive around town a bit when I got there! Though perhaps not the most economical, my relocation car was just what I needed in the middle of a year without wheels and it was definitely worth it to taste the freedom of the open road!


  1. like like like like like!
    driving, singing, turning around for a waterfall, solo, mmmhhmmmmm!

  2. Hehe, thanks, Em! I thought of you when I was writing this... and was definitely listening to your "Road Trippin" mix for part of my drive! :)


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