Travel diary: Christchurch and Kuala Lumpur

After three months at home in Auckland, we’re off on the road again. Our plan is to walk the Via de la Plata from Seville to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, arriving on our wedding anniversary at the end of April. After that, we’ll spend a few months to a year in Spain; I’ve got a working holiday visa and hope to find some English-teaching work.

But first, of course, we have to get there. We’re not the kind to do anything directly, so our trip to Seville includes stops in Christchurch, Kuala Lumpur and London. We’ll get there eventually, though!

Saturday 25/2: Since our flight wasn’t until 1:30pm, we didn’t have to rush things on Saturday morning, our last morning in Auckland. It was a good thing too; I’d worked right up until the last possible minute and we’d had a great goodbye party the night before — where we’d also passed our car on to its new owner. However, we did still have to pack and clean so we couldn’t sleep in too late. We said goodbye to Chris and Sarah and Craig’s mum took us to the airport, with a stop at my mum’s place to leave our extra stuff in her spare-room cupboard.

Christchurch stencil art with flowery roadcone.

The flight was uneventful but slightly delayed and Anne was waiting when we arrived. We also ran into a couple of old school friends of mine at the airport, which was cool.

Norrie and Anne took us into Rangiora for a drink in the afternoon, and we went into Kaiapoi for dinner in the evening. The food at the Three Cows, where we ate, was amazing, but the service could have done with a fair bit of work.

Sunday 26/2: We made a lateish start for a drive to Hamner Springs with Norrie and Anne, where we had lunch in a cafe and enjoyed the hot pools for a couple of hours before driving back to Kaiapoi for a relaxed evening at home.

Monday 27/2: Norrie and Anne both had to work, and we decided to too. We spent most of the day at home apart from a walk into town to visit the supermarket, and had Vietnamese summer rolls for dinner.

Tuesday 28/2: Although we visited Christchurch last January, after its first earthquake, we hadn’t seen what damage the February 22 earthquake had done. We decided to drive into the city for lunch and had a walk around; It was sobering to see how much of Christchurch is off-limits. However, we were impressed with the Re:start complex of shops and cafés built out of shipping containers — I think it should stay that way, even after the city is rebuilt, it’s a really nice setup.

Linda and Oscar at Re:start

Linda and Oscar at Re:start

We had coffee with my friend Oscar, who has moved to Christchurch from Auckland — it was good to see him, although finding him was a bit of a mission, since he got a bit lost trying to get around the red zone. After we said goodbye to him, we had a shawarma from a food caravan that’s operating in the Re:start area, not far from the restaurant’s red-stickered ex-premises.

In the afternoon we went for a walk with Anne, Norrie and Brodie the dog then had a casual dinner at home.

Wednesday 29/2: Our last full day in the country was not without its issues. We were spending the morning trying to finish some last-minute work, when I suddenly had a problem with my eyes — I couldn’t see clearly out of one of them and got really stressed about it. Craig called my optometrist and made an appointment for me to see one in Rangiora as well.

While this was all happening, my sister Anna arrived for lunch with her husband Mat, Henry the baby and Marcus the au pair. The weather was great so we sat outside, but I probably wasn’t the best company because I was so stressed out!

The others headed into town for the afternoon while I went to the optometrist to be reassured that my eyes were fine and that it was probably just a migraine — I certainly had a headache by that point! They came back in the evening for a casual barbecue, which was very pleasant. Henry entertained us all by playing peekaboo behind the table, and charmed everyone by doling out sloppy kisses — Anne was won over almost immediately!

Thursday 1/3: Craig got up super-early in the hope of getting a full day’s work done before we left the country, and I joined him at a more reasonable hour to do some work and data-shuffling. Both Anne and Norrie had had to work, but Anne came home at around 1pm and cooked us Eggs Benedict (yum) for lunch before driving us to the airport. We had to make a quick detour to a courier company to drop off Craig’s Kindle, which had broken the day before in a classic case of terrible timing. What’s worse is that we couldn’t have the replacement sent to England or Spain, so Craig will be bookless for a while. Hopefully he’ll get the new one before we start the Camino, though!

We had a coffee at the airport and I spent some time in the bathroom drying out the contents of my small backpack after a water-bottle leak — I was hoping this was the last of the bad luck: it comes in threes, right? And I seem to have been right — after that everything went well. We got on the flight with no problems and I had a great seatmate on my other side: a Kiwi girl starting a nomadic journey. We chatted for a couple of hours then she went in hunt of spare seats to lie down on, leaving me with an empty seat beside me. The food was really expensive so Craig and I decided to just get one meal between us, but by the time the attendants got to us, they’d run out! However, we got to see Air Asia’s great service in action — someone who had ordered a meal didn’t want it, so a hostie offered it to us (to buy, of course). We also got to enjoy the rendition of “Happy Birthday” which the captain asked all the passengers to sing to a guy just across the aisle from Craig. It was a little surreal.

Our couchsurfing hosts

Our couchsurfing hosts

The flight was early and a shuttle was just about to leave when we came out of the airport, so we got into the city a lot earlier than we expected. The luck continued when we arrived at our hotel to find that there were no dorm beds available, so they upgraded us to a private room for free — win! We were knackered after the long day, so we went straight to bed.

Friday 2/3: After a good sleep, we woke up before nine and took advantage of the free coffee and toast on offer before heading out to explore the area near the hostel. We saw Times Square, the Pagoda Mall, and the Petronas Towers as well as wandering through some interesting-looking back streets. We had to check out at 12, so we packed up, had a coffee, then went to Chinatown for a tasty lunch and a look through the markets. After that, we visited the Central Market and had coffee at Old Town White Coffee before making our way to Kepong to meet our Couchsurfing hosts Dexter and Natalie. They picked us up from the station and took us back to their place, where we chatted for a couple of hours before heading out in the driving rain — they had to go to a meeting so they dropped us off at a nearby restaurant, where we had three dishes and a large beer for $NZ16. The rain let off enough for us to get home in relative dryness, and we watched an episode of QI before bed.

Saturday 3/3: We rose at a reasonable hour and headed to the Kepong morning markets with Dexter, Natalie, and their flatmate, Ice. The markets were crowded and sprawling with all sorts of fresh produce on offer — we bought what we needed for lunch and Dexter and Natalie plied us with tasty treats.

Kepong morning markets

Kepong morning markets

Back at home, I taught Natalie and Ice how to make causa rellena and pebre, but made the mistake of deseeding the chillies with my fingers — and my hands stung for the rest of the day. I spent several hours nursing a bowl of ice water.

After a restful (and painful, in my case) afternoon, we all headed out for an evening of singing in Sanskrit (there was a bit of dancing too), followed by dinner and tailoring in Little India.

Linda, Dexter, Natalie and Ice in Little India

Sunday 4/3: We started the day a little later than planned, with a traditional Chinese Malaysian breakfast of dimsum and rice porridge. It was tasty, and unlike anything we’d ever had for breakfast before! After that, we said goodbye to Dexter and Natalie and Ice drove us to KLCC, where we caught the subway back to our hostel.

We’d been hoping to spend three nights with Dexter and Natalie, but on closer inspection of our itinerary and their address, we realised it wouldn’t be possible. We have to be at the airport by 6am on Monday morning, and it’s a 90-minute bus trip from the city. Even if we took the faster option, train, we still wouldn’t be able to get from Dexter and Natalie’s place to the train station at that time of the morning. So we’ve booked back into the hostel where we stayed the first night.

After checking in, we recorded a podcast then headed out to the aquarium in KLCC. It was great — full of interesting fish and a fair few non-aquatic animals. Later we met up with Gerard and Kieu from GQ Trippin for a street food dinner and good conversation before hitting the sack early in preparation for a loooong travel day the next day.

Gerard and Kieu in Jalan Alor

Gerard and Kieu in Jalan Alor

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2 Responses to “Travel diary: Christchurch and Kuala Lumpur”

  1. Norrie Martin March 18, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    Glad to read your last few blogs. Enjoy Spain and don’t wear out your feet walking,walking,walking. Norrie & Anne

  2. Megan Jones April 23, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    What an amazing start to an amazing adventure. The Re: Start project in Christchurch sounds really interesting. It seems like a really great use of resources after a disaster. I have seen trendy use of containers as industrial apartments, but I hadn’t really thought about the same concept when it is needed direly.

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