We made our way through security after leaving many of you at Heathrow, with a couple of fairly rigorous bag checks taking place for those who cooperatively put their liquids into clear plastic bags and then tucked them away in with the rest of their hand luggage. Before we knew it we were boarding the first of the three flights, on this occasion to Dubai. The majority of the tour party were all near the back of the plane so we were able to switch around and ensure everyone had a seat they would be happy in for the coming day ahead. Mr Bird found himself chatting away and entertaining strangers further up the plane.
We were spoiled with excellent food and refreshments throughout the flight and the students enjoyed exploring the on board entertainment.
This 6 hour fight ended in Dubai and we prepared for the main event: Dubai to Melbourne in a 14 hour slogfest, back in the same seats. We loaded up the plane and stowed away our hand luggage, only to hear that there was a technical fault and we were likely to be waiting for 45 minutes. This extended a further two times and I believe we took off around 2 hours later than planned, meaning we really were occupying the plane for a long time. The refreshments flowed again and it felt as though we were fed and watered every couple of hours. Everyone managed to get some sleep on this flight, some more than others. We were quite impressed by how some could just switch off for hours on end.
Fortunately, we still made our connecting flight to Christchurch, thanks to additional fuel and the pilot putting his foot down. This flight seemed like a breeze at 3 hours and 10 minutes. There was barely a moment where we weren’t eating something and before we knew it we had touched down in Christchurch, somewhat disorientated. We headed off for an all you can eat breakfast to set us up for our first proper day of touring. We then took a ride around the town, seeing some of the sites and the lack of them. It was eery to witness the devastation that still haunts this town as a result of the earthquakes. Even though they were exhausted, they all showed interest in the various stops; the Jade/AMI stadium, the ‘cardboard’ cathedral and cathedral square. The city was very quiet and nothing like the vibrant place it had apparently been in the past.
We took the opportunity to loosen up this afternoon. The boys did some touch in Hagley Park. Maxwell Harding had a minor fall over a dog and Patrick Soper tried to catch the ball with his face, but no injuries obtained. The girls went for a run around the outside of the park. Some of the girls cut the route shorter and headed back to the bus, while Miss Bryant and Mrs Hegarty took a small group of four on an unexpected detour, fortunately finding the coach eventually and just in time to head to St Andrew’s School, who had a league rugby match. Although a bit chilly, it was great to see the pace and physicality of some of the local teams.
We were soon on our way to Hanmer Springs. The journey was breath taking. Snow topped mountains and rolling hills surrounded us on the drive and we began to realise just how beautiful this country was. Hanmer Springs has not disappointed at all. A pretty little village that has a ski resort feel to it and is no more than a 5 minute walk to anywhere. We settled into our hotels; Top 10 hotel for most of the boys and Scenic Views for the girls and a handful of the boys. They are very comfortable and well equipped for all that we need. After a short amount of time to unpack the essentials, many of us headed to the thermal spa pools to unwind after what seemed like the longest day ever.
A nice roast dinner awaited us at the five stags restaurant and as of 7pm local time, most of the students have headed back to their rooms and not lasted until the Lion’s test. I think they will be sleeping well tonight, ready for tomorrow events: an early morning run, a training session at Hanmer Springs local recreational facilities and a return trip to the thermal spa pools. We look forward to Miss Teague, Daisy and Izzy joining us tomorrow and the tour reaching its full complement.
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