New Zealand day 1: At Christchurch

It was a long journey from Bengaluru to Christchurch with a stopover of several hours in Singapore airport. Since we were deprived of sleep, we spent most of the time sleeping at recreational area!!
View from port hills in Christchurch
The flight landed on time at Christchurch at 9:30AM. The weather looks great with clear skies which would become luxury in coming days!! The immigration was done in a jiffy where they asked some basic questions. We had to wait for just two minutes to get our luggage. That was fast considering we had passed immigration very quickly. Things seemed very normal.

At Singapore airport
But then came the customs part. New Zealand looked to be most difficult country to pass through the customs. In my visit to nearly 20 countries, I never was stopped by customs. But not in New Zealand!! Since we had planned to cook during our trip, we had carried good amount of spices and essential items (all packed) required to make Indian dishes. We also declared the same in customs part. Big boards mentioning about fine of NZD 400 if failed to declare were displayed near the customs area.

The first attack was by a sniffer dog. It jumped on one of our bags and signaled something to customs officer!! Since we had already declared the food items, we were asked to proceed further and meet a customs officer. The officer wanted to physically see all our food items. I had packed food items in all the bags and that was not helpful. After removing the food items, our bags were in messed up state. 

Christchurch airport
To cut the story short, they allowed us to take everything except few lemons which my mother had packed. It was good to declare about the food items in the customs form.

With all entry formalities done, it was time for some real action. First, I got a prepaid SIM card at Vodafone booth for 29 NZD. Though all the hotels we stayed were offering free Wi-Fi, I find local SIM useful while roaming outside.

The next task was to get the rental car. The Ezi rental was situated at the arrival hall and within few minutes, I had got the key of my Toyota Corolla car!! It was very fast. 

Our car
The ride to the hotel was uneventful and I started getting used to New Zealand driving. Since everyone followed road conditions, it was not difficult to drive. Also, the left side driving makes it easy for Indians.

“Southern comfort hotel” was the hotel we were staying. We had reached there at 11AM which well before 2PM check-in time. Some hotels are very finicky about check-in time. I had suffered many times because of this rule. But here the lady at the reception was kind enough to give us the room. It was a two bedroom apartment with kitchen!! 

Our place of stay at Christchurch
We quickly freshened up and had our lunch quickly. The destination of the day was Gondola ride situated about 10 kms from the city. The 1000 meter long Gondola ride takes to the top of Mount Cavendish. The area looked brown due to summer. In fact, there was fire on the mountain few days ago.

Gondola ride
At the top is the Gondola terminal with shop, restaurant and several view points.

Gondola terminal
The greatest views are from Lyttelton harbor. It is also possible to walk up the mountain instead of taking gondola. A good workout for anyone!!

Road to the top
The other side of the mountain provides the view of Christchurch. On a clear day, it is possible to view the snow capped mountains. But on a clear day!!

Christchurch with sea view
Also included in the “package” was the time tunnel that graphically explained the history of Canterbury region. A nice 6 minute show!!

Time tunnel ride
It was a good start of our trip and with full satisfaction we came down. The cost was 28 NZD for adults and 12 for kids. There was also a combo pass with tram route in the heart of Christchurch city. We opted only for Gondola ticket.

On the way back, we spent some time at the botanical garden.

Christchurch garden
Before heading to hotel, we went to Merivale supermarket to guy the necessary groceries required for next few days.

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