New Zealand - first stop Christchurch...
18 Feb 2006
|Up very early on a Sunday morning (5.45!!) to get a flight to Christchurch. This is the bit we have really been looking forward to, we've both been wanting to come to New Zealand for a long time. On the way to the airport we were bombing along in the little shuttle bus on a 3 lane highway when we came round a corner and were confronted with about 20 cyclists in the inside lane!! This seems to be the equivalent of cycling up the M1 and looks a little bit suicidal. By the time we reached the airport we had encountered 3 more large groups of cyclists all doing the same thing so motorway cycling must be a popular Aussie pursuit. The plane from Sydney to Christchurch was a jumbo jet, and it was full! It also had some engineering issues so we were late taking off. The captain very kindly let us know about these issues as we were taxi-ing. They involved the automatic braking system and they hadn't been able to fix it completely so we weren't to worry about the odd noises and a possible bumpy landing. How nice!
They are very very strict with customs here, you have to declare all camping equipment, food, fishing tackle and hiking boots. If your boots are dirty there may be a high risk that they'll be confiscated!! Finally got through customs and got the shuttle bus to our accomodation. We had a basic / cheap! room but it was horrible so we upgraded to an apartment - posh or what?
We took a walk around town to see what it was all about. Cathedral Square is nice if you look solely at the Cathedral. There is a lot of borrowed Brit architecture, both good and very bad. Steve found an Austin Allegro for sale and seriously considered it for the comedy factor alone. It's good old orange with a brown interior. As with Australia there are a lot of old cars here like Datsuns and Nissans and the odd Ford Granada. I guess the climate is a bit kinder whichallows them to keep on going. Found a decent Indian restaurant though - "Two Fat Indians" on Manchester Street, had a good meal and came out as 2 lardy Brits. Yum. Got back to the room/sauna and discovered Steve had left his headphones on the plane. Doh!
Day 2: The headphones have been handed in at Qantas, hooray! Headphones and owner happily reunited restoring peace and balance to all. Also sorted out the car hire, we've gone for the standard bucket but should have plenty of space for luggage which is all we need. Must just mention lunch (food hasn't been mention for at least 2 sentences) - a plain old sarnie from Subway (not very exciting) but I had my first vegetable juice! There was a fresh juice bar and I had a "Red Astaire" which is orange, carrot and beetroot. A little stange but actually very tasty. [No it didn't, Steve]
Day 3: Today we spent the day on the Trans-Coastal Scenic railway, which runs from Christchurch to Picton, although we got off at Marlborough. You don't get a huge amount of time there (only about an hour) but it was time enough for a snack and a look around. The train journey is meant to be one of the worlds most scenic. The MOST scenic one is the Tranz-Alpine which also does day trips from Christchurch but due to some beer-induced planning the night before we managed to get the times and dates confused and it all went a bit pear shaped. Not to worry though as the Trans-Coastal is extremely scenic. It does what is says and follows the coast for most of the journey where you can look out and see fur-seals, sea and if you're lucky, a few dolphins here and there. The last carriage of the train is made almost entirely of glass so you get a fantastic view, sadly we were not priveliged enough to be in there. We were on the way back but by that time it had become the front of the train so you got a nice view of the back of the drivers cab!
Back at the apartment Steve put a load of documents in the roomsafe, closed the door and typed in a code at which point the safe went pip pip pip and completely died. I couldn't stop laughing which didn't go down terribly well. In fact, I'm still chuckling now, even writing this.
Day 4: We have devised a rough route plan and spent the morning in the Information Office in Christchurch sorting out all the accomodation etc. Believe it or not, we actually over-heard a German guy in there who was seriously [it wouldn't be jest now, would it?] complaining that there were too many German tourists in New Zealand! There are loads of them - we can't quite work out why.
Christchurch Museum in the afternoon. Lots of info about settlers, Maoris etc. As with all other museums we've been to so far it's a real mish-mash of items and displays. There's an Antarctic exhibition (complete with stuffed huskies), transport where you can attempt to ride a Penny Farthing, costume through the ages and furniture. A leisurely stroll back through the Botanic Gardens which obviouly involved tea and a hearty slice of cake. We found a place hiring kayaks so we went for a little paddle down the Avon and back. For those who have been witness to my boating skills you'll already know that I did no paddling at all and left it entirely to Steve (it's safer that way). [Mad tends to employ the little known zig zag technique which involves ramming into one shore and then the other repeatedly.]
Day 5: Picked up the car this morning - it's a complete heap but then we are only paying NZ$25 per day (about 11 pounds). It's the most basic of basic Toyota Corollas with 176k on the clock and the worlds crappest radio. Should've bought the Allegro! Went straight from the hire place to the International Antarctic Centre - the Worlds Number One Antarctic attraction, apparently. As part of the entrance fee you get to do "The Hagglund Ride" which is a 15 minute ride over a very bumpy twisty course in a snow mobile. It actually looks more like a tank but was still great fun. It can apparently cope with almost anything and also floats which I guess must be useful at some point? Inside the centre there is a sealed snow chamber where you can experience a "storm" where they crank up a wind chill machine to -18C. They give you a coat but not much else so we got very cold legs!!
After that on to Lake Tekapo which is our next destination.