As Told by Mom!
Welcome to my continuing series about my son who is in New Zealand on a one-year work visa. He’s living his dream of traveling and living in a different culture. You can read more about the why he decided to do this adventure and a little background info in the first post of this series, New Zealand Travel Adventures as Told by Mom.
Basic Facts About New Zealand
- New Zealand is made up of two islands: North and South. Auckland is NZ’s largest city (population about 1.5 million) and is located in the North Island. Auckland has a larger population than the entire South Island! Christchurch is the third largest NZ city (360,000 people) and is located in the South Island. Both cities have a major airport.
- New Zealand is 19 hours ahead of Central Standard Time, but I find it easier to calculate it by thinking it’s 5 hours behind us…but it’s tomorrow. What I really do is use the World Clock feature on my iPhone. I have Chicago time and Auckland, NZ time shown, so I can always see what time it is in NZ at a glance. The fact that he’s always a day ahead of us has messed me up a few times with messaging.
- The seasons in New Zealand are opposite of the U.S. Their summer months are mainly December – February, and the coldest months are June, July and August. Because NZ is in the Southern Hemisphere, the average temperature decreases the farther south you go.
And so the adventure begins…
Chris left the U.S. on January 25. He flew out of Minneapolis, had a 4-hour layover in San Francisco, another 4-hour layover in Fiji, and arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand after a total of 26 hours of travel!Although he originally planned to fly into Auckland, he changed his plan and flew into Christchurch. The main reasons for flying into the South Island is because it gets colder sooner, so he wanted to travel it before the snow flies. Being the warmer months, it’s also prime season for wineries and vineyards so he wanted to get a job while the getting was good!
Before leaving home, he made reservations for three nights at a hostel called the Christchurch Jailhouse. This hostel has an interesting history as it was operated as Addington Prison from 1874 to 1999. In 2006 it was converted to a budget-friendly, quirky hostel that attracts backpackers. Chris had a twin bed in a room that also had two sets of bunk beds. One of his roomies on the the first night was from the Netherlands, and gave him some helpful advice about NZ life before flying back home the next day.
In his first few days, his main goal was to buy a vehicle. He used a website called TradeMe.com which is similar to CraigsList, but he ended up finding one using a site called BackPackerBoard.co.nz. He bought a 1998 Mazda Capella and it’s working out good for him. Part of the ad for the car read that it came fully equipped with:
- All bedding (4 pillows + pillow cases, duvet + duvet cover, flat sheet and a fitted sheet) on a fitted foam mattress
- Complete kitchen including stove, cool bag, 2x10L water container (I love this one!)
- Boxes to store all your kitchenware + food in
- 2 camping chairs
- Picnic blanket
- Mixed camping gear (waterproof matches, emergency blanket etc.)
- New Zealand guide book
- Soccer ball
- Wave board
- CD with various tunes
While he was trying to get things figured out (tax ID, banking, finding a vehicle, etc.), he checked out some of the local Christchurch sights. Here are some photos he took in that area, along with his car/temporary home:
Heading to the Mountains
He was anxious to get out of the big city and drive south into the mountains. The Southern Alps are visible from almost every point in the South Island. His first destination was Hilltop Tavern in Akaroa – a restaurant known for having an incredible view….. and it did. It also allowed camping, so he spent that night in his new mobile bed. From the brief snapchat video he sent me, the campground looked like more of a wayside – only with a gorgeous view. It certainly didn’t look like a typical tree-filled Wisconsin campsite. The frosting on the cake that day was that he got a job! (More about that below.)
Scenery While On the Road
Before he started his new job, he had a couple more nights to continue discovering the country. He drove along the coast, and parking in a random campsites for the nights. After being alone for the week and trying to find his new normal, he said he was actually looking forward to going to work again.
On Superbowl Sunday, February 4, he arrived at the hostel he will call home for the time being. He watched the game at a tavern with a couple of guys he met at the hostel (they are from Germany). Beer drinking isn’t cheap – it’s about $10 NZD for a beer. The game ended mid-afternoon (NZ time), and he hung out later that evening with some more people he met at the hostel who are basically traveling with a work visa, similar to himself.
Here are some more photos from his travels those couple of days:
Using that Work Visa
So after being in New Zealand for only 5 or 6 days (I lose track because of the 19-hour time difference), he got a job at a vineyard in Blenheim. The position is for “all aspects of vineyard tasks from development to harvest.” What exactly will he be doing? He really didn’t know, but would soon find out!
Generally, he works Monday – Friday and some weekends during busy times. His hours depend on how much work there is to do. Full days will be 7am-5:30pm New Zealand time, so that’s noon-10:30pm here in Central Standard time. That means it will be pretty hard to connect with him during the week. However, we should be able to connect with him on Fridays or Saturdays (his Saturdays and Sundays) because we all have off of work on those days.
In my next post, I’ll let you tell you about his seasonal job at the vineyard, where he’ll live, and whatever else he finds to do as he discovers New Zealand! Leave a comment below with your thoughts, questions, or message to Chris.
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Recommended items to pack for your New Zealand Backpacker Trip
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Read More in the Continuing New Zealand Travel Series:
- New Zealand Travel Adventures as Told by Mom
- This post! New Zealand Work Visa: First Few Weeks
- New Zealand Adventure: Working at a Vineyard
- New Zealand Adventure: Exploring the North Island
- New Zealand’s Northland: Hiking & Picking Kiwi
- Omanawa Falls: New Zealand Adventure
- Mt. Ruapehu: New Zealand’s Epic Winter Playground
- New Zealand Travel Adventure: It’s a Wrap!