Lyttelton, New Zealand (South Island) 16 to 21 September 2007
27 Sep 2007
We are on the way to New Zealand with great expectations for the next 12 months, and bereavement problems over the loss of the many friends we have made in a country that has made us so welcome during our 50 weeks stay.
What do you get if you cross an ocean with a kangaroo? Not many know this; the answer is wet. Fortunately we travelled by plane and the service and food was good; if you wanted an alcoholic drink you ordered and paid. It was a bit early for us and we want to make a good impression on Kathie and Grant who are meeting us at the airport to take us to one of their holiday apartments at Lyttelton. When our flight path took us over New Zealand we could see the snow covered peaks of a long range of mountains protruding through the clouds beneath us. As we got lower we found we were over a wide plain which was crisscrossed with fields. The weather was fine and the temperature 19C.
Customs and Immigration were kind to us and we were soon through the arrivals section and Sylvia had a long term wish granted. Waiting for us was Kathie holding a sign which said, 'Welcome to New Zealand Sylvia'. Twice she was thwarted when we arrived in South Africa and finally someone was waiting for her with her name sign displayed. And what a nice welcome we had. Grant had a good sized vehicle for the luggage and we were driven 10 miles through the outskirts of Christchurch and through the very long tunnel to Lyttelton. No sooner out of the tunnel we turned up a hill and through the main street of the town before driving part way up another hill to Dockside, our home for the next 12 days.
I was not prepared for the sight that would meet me when I walked around to the front of the apartment. My first task was to get the camera and take a picture of the stunning view of the harbour and the view beyond the harbour. The first European settlers landed here in 1850 to embark on their historic trek over the hills. We are staying inside a crater rim and fortunately the volcano has not performed for a very long time. Lyttelton is the port for Christchurch which lies 7 ½ miles away and many New Zealand exports and imports pass through this port; we are in for a very interesting time.
Our first full day was spent in a lazy fashion and we watched the port activities, visited the tourist shop and did some food shopping, including some liquid refreshments for consumption on our veranda when the temperature permits. Whilst down by the harbour we visited the booking office for harbour wildlife cruises. Lyttelton is one area where you can view the rare 'Hector's Dolphins', the smallest species of dolphins. If there is enough people wishing to take the 2 hour cruise it will leave at 1.30 tomorrow, Tuesday.
Tuesday, and we are in luck. At the office we learn the cruise will go today, even though there are only 4 of us. At the boat we are greeted by the two members of the crew, the youngest one is called Fergus and he came to this area a year ago from Arbroath. Over the last two months there has usually been about three Hector's Dolpins to view.
There were no dolphins in the channel leading to the port so we sailed off shore and were soon surrounded by a large pod of Hector's Dolphins. To our delight about 30 of the dolphins gambolled and frolicked about the boat, diving beneath us, swimming away and returning, crossing backwards and forwards infront and behind us. It was a magic time and I may have got some good video footage. As a strict amateur who has yet to learn editing skills, I shall reserve judgement on this one. Why were we so lucky? It is coming up for mating season and the crew believe the dolphins were frisky.
Wednesday: we have completed some of our blog backlog so we headed for a café with internet facilities. A beautiful looking cheesecake, which was only surpassed by the taste, had been made only 1 hour ago. We were very well looked after and there was no charge for using the internet. I think we will be visiting this café again.
Thursday: The bus to Christchurch runs every 15 minutes and costs 85p each for the one way 35 minute journey. After travelling through the tunnel the bus visits the bottom station of the gondola which takes tourists to the top station. This overlooks the inside of the volcanic crater on one side, and Christchurch on the other. When we reached a main part of Christchurch, we put into practice a trick we had learned during our travels. If the bus stops at a spot where virtually everyone gets off, it is a good idea to get off. We were at the main shopping street.
The first direction of our walking took us past some shops and to the River Avon which meanders along, crossed by numerous road bridges. We walked along the banks of the river and came across a statue of Scott of the Antarctic which was near by a gallery housing an exhibition on the history of Antarctic exploration. We spent a very interesting hour in this free exhibition before turning back towards the main shopping area.
Eventually we came to a large square and walked right round the Cathedral before entering and finding ourselves in what transpired to be an interior building site. A lot of money is being spent on major improvements; meanwhile after shifting some items out of the way and replacing the pulpit, plus a bit of dusting, services are still conducted. At the tourist office we booked for next weeks treat; a return trip on the Tranz Alpine train journey right across to the west coast.
Friday: At the top of our steep hill is Timeball Station which was built in 1876. For 56 years a huge timeball was hoisted on a mast and then dropped at exactly 1pm, Greenwich Mean Time, allowing ships in the harbour to set their clocks and thereby accurately calculate longitude. When the station is open the timeball is still dropped at 1pm. The station museum is said to be well worth a visit. There are plenty of sign posts directing the way up the steep climb, but only one sign, which was inside the gate, informing the Timeball Station is closed for repairs.
On the way back we stopped at a lookout with views of the container dock. I never knew this could be so interesting. The massive 'straddle' machines which dwarf the big containers run backwards and forwards, loading and unloading lorries, and traversing up and down the various lines of containers. It was like watching a giant version of the computer game Pack Man.
It is surprising how much we were enjoying watching the daily activities of the port, however, we did feel we were not partaking in the life of the town, so we went for more shopping and visited the local hotel at 'happy hour'. Inside was a thriving bar and a big roaring fire in a corner of the lounge. Sylvia enjoyed a glass of a New Zealand Chardonnay and I tried one of the local draught beers. We were both very pleased with our purchases. Sylvia was not happy with the merriment she caused when she told the locals that Scotland would beat the New Zealand Rugby Union team in Scotland over the coming weekend; whilst on their way to winning the World Cup.
I kept out of this conversation after England had worked hard to be lucky to score Nil against South Africa.