The Fellowship of the Ring of Fire, Part 7: Christchurch
This was the most unique hostel I had ever been to. It's called the Jailhouse Accommodation. It's an abandoned jailhouse converted into a hostel. The cells are the rooms. The showers and bathrooms were sectioned off so if you dropped your soap, no big deal. There was a kitchen, laundry room, pool table room, 2 theater rooms to watch DVDs, and lots and lots of space in the center. Our room even had a TV with DVD player. And given the recent earthquakes, we felt quite safe in a sturdy prison.
Unfortunately, we had a flight to Australia the next day, but the volcanic ash was still causing problems for airlines. There were others at the hostel flying the same airline as us and were also worried. The airlines that wouldn't fly (mainly Qantas and Jetstar) claimed there were safety issues. But curiously, there were other airlines that would fly. After doing some research, we found out that it wasn't just a safety thing, it was a money thing. The ash cloud was at a very high altitude, which is why we couldn't see anything from the ground. In order for the planes to go to cruising altitude, they would have to deal with the ash at some point. The alternatives were to fly under it, which would cost a lot more in fuel because the air is harder to fly in at that altitude, or fly around it, which also takes more fuel. So they had a wait and see strategy.
Some of the others at the hostel had already rescheduled their flights for several days later. We really didn't want to wait that long. Not only would we lose several days of tourism, we had hotels that were already booked. We surely would've missed all of the Melbourne and maybe part of the Sydney part of our trip.
We looked up flights for the most popular airline that was still in operation, Air New Zealand. The next day flight cost $800+ each. Luckily, Orbitz lists international flights even if the US isn't part of the itinerary. We found an Emirates flight leaving the next day to Sydney with a connection to Melbourne on Qantas. $430 each. Sold.
We made it to Melbourne on schedule, and in style. The Emirates flight was the nicest airplane I've ever been on. Every seat had a large touch-screen. There were stickers in the seat pocket each giving instructions to the attendants. For example, you would stick the "Wake me for a meal" sticker on your seat, go to sleep, and be woken up when meals were served. The meals were just like any other airline meal, but the presentation was not. Even the food was served in fancy, curvy dishes. But the best part was when the lights went down. The ceilings of the aisle ways were beautifully lit like the stars in the sky.