Down Under - Winter/Spring 2009 travel blog

flying over the alps

rugged terrain

hayfields from on high

Lyttleton Harbor

gondola

Christchurch from afar

downtown

busker festival

punter

tram ride


The flight to Christchurch was the way all flights should be. The check-in line was short, the security folks smiled at us and did not make us take off our shoes or show our 3 ounce liquids in a zip lock bag. We didn’t even have to show ID. The lounge had plenty of seats and good internet connectivity, allowing me to post this blog for the first time since we left the US. The journey was only a bit over an hour, but the flight attendants had time to serve warm snacks and drinks. The plane was not full and the view out the window was spectacular. The photos we shot from the window were so clear and sharp, perhaps the best we’ve ever taken from a plane. We were almost sorry when the flight was over.

We’re due to get our campers and leave town tomorrow, so we tried to make the most of our short time in Christchurch. Our cab driver gave us the impression that it is a very conservative town that hates change and feels that old ways are the best. From her perspective this has caused Christchurch to miss out on many economic and tourist opportunities over the years, but it gave the downtown a quaint and European feel, even though there are plenty of modern buildings as well. She drove us to the gondola station which gave us great views of the city and the land around it. The city is built in the flat area and has a huge coastline with extensive beaches. The cab driver said that no buildings or hotels have been allowed in the beach area and it's as wild and wonderful as the day it was created. A nearby inlet is where the cruise ships dock and the container facilities are. However, it was not easy to get to it from the city until a tunnel was built through the hills. It looked like a volcanic caldera rather than part of the ocean. We were surprised how dry and arid much of the land appeared. Some of it was hay fields that were recently mown and the hay was drying, but other areas looked like desert. This didn’t jibe with my stereotype of New Zealand as a lush green land that has sheep grazing on it.

In town we took a “get on and get off” tram ride around the inner city. I’m not sure how impressive the city center would have been by itself, but our visit today was greatly enhanced by the busker festival going on. Buskers are street performers and this festival lasts eleven days and has performers from many English speaking countries. The American busker we saw had an act involving twirling hula hoops around her entire body. People juggled, played banjos, twirled flaming batons, danced, rode unicycles, and entertained huge crowds gathered around. There were at least three locations where the buskers were performing and ultimately one of them will win some kind of competition - the Academy Award of Buskers I guess.

We we prepare for our drive tomorrow we are reading about festivals in other towns as well. After the Seafood Festival yesterday we are getting the impression that these folks know how to throw a great party.

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