The Banks Peninsula: Where the Sea Meets the Forest

Call me the Peninsula inhabitant. I have moved from the Otago Peninsula in Dunedin to the Banks Peninsula in Christchurch. The Banks Peninsula has beautiful harbours, hidden bays, walking tracks, and is home to the world’s rarest dolphin, the Hector’s dolphins. I’m currently staying in Diamond Harbour, which is a 40 minute drive to Lincoln, the location of my new internship. I’m mainly going to be helping with two fieldwork projects on pesticide spray and drift, leaving me with plenty of time to explore I’m grateful for this because I’m down to my last three months in New Zealand and I have a long list of things I still want to do. Some of which include: tramping the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, visiting the glaciers on the West Coast, and doing a dolphin watching tour in Kaikoura.

But until I recover from this terrible cold, I’m going to be hanging out in Diamond Harbour. The Cliff Track is a scenic walk, winding along the shoreline/cliffs of Diamond Harbour to Purau or to Church Bay, depending on which direction you choose to go. The awesome thing about the Cliff Track is that the store in Diamond Harbour has pretty good ice cream. So if you are hiking the Cliff Track on a hot, sunny day, it’s a treat to end the day with an ice cream cone.  In addition, the Mount Herbert walkway is also in Diamond Harbour, which is the highest peak on the Banks Peninsula at 920 meters and has views of the Canterbury Plains and the Southern Alps. I plan to tackle this as soon as I feel better.  For longer tramps, there is the Banks Peninsula Track (35 km), which is a two or a four day journey starting in Akaroa. I haven’t decided if I am going to tackle this one yet, as it’s kind of pricey ($220 for the 4 day tramp), but the scenery and wildlife viewing opportunities might make it worth it.

  

Views from the Cliff Track, Banks Peninsula

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My Journey Back or How to Survive 80 Hours of Travel

So I am sure everyone has their own travel horror stories. Here’s mine.

I was scheduled to head back to New Zealand on November 5 to finish out the final 3.5 months of my working holiday visa and I knew that it would involve about 2 days of travel. First, my flight from Dayton on Saturday left at 6:00 AM EST and went to Baltimore, which is in the wrong direction, but whatever. I had a two hour layover in Baltimore, followed by a 5.5 flight to LA. Now you would think that Airtran would like to make some more money off this flight by offering food for sale, especially since it’s a coast to coast flight, but no. The only food provided was biscuits. Luckily, I had the sense to pack a lunch from home. Airtran got me to LA on time around noon PST.

This is where the fun begins.

My flight from LA to Sydney was scheduled to leave at 9:30 that evening so I had planned to book a day room to try and sleep. However, I decided to wait until 2:30 PM to check in with VAustralia in order to check my large bag. I am so glad I did this. It turns out that the flight to Sydney was delayed until 8:00 the next morning, which would have been fine because I would have received a hotel voucher for the night.

It was not to be. VAustralia changed my itinerary; re-booked me on a flight to Brisbane that left at midnight. This flight arrived at 7:00 AM on Monday, followed by an 11 hour layover, with a final flight to Christchurch that arrived at 1:00 AM on Tuesday, November 8. Ouch.  Apparently, everyone who was scheduled to go on to New Zealand got stuck with this crappy itinerary while everyone else received a hotel voucher in LA. After checking my bag, I proceeded to the Travelodge near LAX in order to get a nap before going back to the airport that evening to catch the 13.5 flight to Brisbane.

VAustralia has some nice planes for their long-haul international flights. The economy seating is not bad; there are only 3 seats to a row and each seat has its own in-flight entertainment center withe movies, TV shows, music, games, and books available. The customer service on the flight was top notch and the in-flight entertainment was exceptional. I was able to watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and it hasn’t been released on DVD yet. And I was able to sleep a few hours due to taking two doses of full power Dramamine.

After arriving in Brisbane, my partner in misery, Lindsay and I grab a few couches in order to get some more sleep. The international terminal in Brisbane has comfy couches and free showers, which were a welcome addition. But no matter which way you cut it, an 11 hour layover is pretty boring. I thank Amazon for inventing the Kindle. VAustralia should have offered us food vouchers here, but they didn’t.

To add insult to injury, since I was going to be arriving in Christchurch so late, I decided to cancel my accommodation for the night because I had to catch an early morning bus to Dunedin. At least the international arrivals section of Christchurch airport is open throughout the night with a designated ‘rest area’ for travelers who want to overnight there. There are no chairs, just carpet and a bunch of backpackers wrapped up in their sleeping bags. 

In the end, I arrived in Dunedin at the original time I was supposed to, it just felt like it took a lot longer to get there.

Dear VAustralia, I do not think I will be flying with you again. Ever.