The Boulders at Moeraki.
We picked up Melissa's sister at 9am (she's currently working for a month in Dunedin
) and headed off on Good Friday. Worth knowing is that if you want to do anything on a public holiday in NZ you will pay a 15% surcharge wherever you go. Hence a $3.20 caramel slice turned into $3.80 before we could eat it! Also, alcohol cannot be bought on the Easter holidays (Friday and Sunday) so make sure you stock up if you can't do without! On the way up we stopped at the Moeraki to see the famous Boulders (very round rocks on the beach) which weren't as exciting as we'd thought they would be. We then drove on to Timaru
where we stopped for lunch, before heading straight on to Christchurch
- being Good Friday there was nothing open so we just kept going.
View from the balcony of our apartment, Lyttelton Harbour.
Timaru is the birthplace of Phar Lap, the famous racehorse. Ads for an insurance company in NZ claim that he was "stolen" by Australian, but in fact the locals thought the horse was useless, flogged him off cheaply to some Aussies who then went on to train him as a champion - sour grapes we suspect! We have booked an apartment in Lyttelton
recommended by some fellow travellers, and it was absolutely wonderful - we have a fantastic view of Lyttelton harbour along with Sky TV, washer and dryer, electric blankets, QS bed etc. - luxury for the weary travellers.
After rain all night, Saturday was also wet all day. We went into the city centre and had a look through the Cathedral, although we didn't go up the tower as the rain meant no view.
Vintage steam tugboat, Lyttelton Harbour.
We did a circuit of the tourist tram before hopping off at the Art Gallery, which was good. It is not big, but there is a good permanent collection of 19th and 20th century European and NZ art. We walked over to the Arts Centre to see the outdoor market, but the rain meant there wasn't a lot there. The shops inside were fairly ordinary, but the fudge factory had definite potential! Noel then insisted we walked over to Rutherford's Den, which turned out to be quite interesting. Sir Ernest Rutherford was a NZ physicist who won the Nobel Prize for Science for his work on the strucutre and splitting of the atom and his early work was undertaken in Christchurch in the basement of the Canterbury University. The area has been restored and has great interactive displays (entry by gold coin donation, although if you've run out of gold coins, they'll take anything!).
Melbourne trams in Christchurch.
Afterwards we walked over to the Christchurch Museum which was very well laid out and had a very informative section on the NZ/US Antarctic station. We did a final circuit on the tram and then headed home for some wine and relaxation while the rain continued. We'd bought a tram/gondola combo ticket for $28.75pp, using some tourist news vouchers, but left the gondola ride for another, finer day.
Easter Sunday turned into a beautiful sunny day which we spent in Akaroa
, the former French settlement, about a 90 min drive from Christchurch. The streets have names like Rue Jolie and once again there are some lovely old homes. The French just missed out on claiming the area but those who were there before the British decided to stay on anyway.
Statue of the Antarctic explorer Scott, who sailed out of Christchurch on his fateful final journey. The statue was sculpted and donated to the city by Scott's widow.
We did a harbour cruise ($51.80pp with YHA discount) and saw some Hector dolphins and little blue penguins. It got a bit rough at one point and quite a few of us started to go a little green around the gills, but no major embarassments! On the way home we stopped at Barrys Bay Cheese and bought some lovely cheese to snack on, and then drove to the top of our street to see the huge cruise ship docked that day - it dwarfed the tourist coaches parked next to it, but not sure what it was called (one of the "Princess" ships).
On our second last day, Melissa's sister Bronwyn stayed at the apartment for a "veg out" so we went back into the city. We parked at Cranmer Square and walked everywhere, so most pleasant (and free parking). We went up the tower of the Cathedral but the tall buildings around the city now block out quite a bit of the view - still not bad, though.
Hector's dolphin, Akaroa Bay.
We wandered around the Botanic Gardens, which were lovely and then drove out to the Antarctic Centre, which is just near the airport. We bought a ticket for the centre and a Hagglund ride ($43.20pp with YHA discount). The Haggie ride was great fun, although Noel started to look a bit pale as we raced up and down hills like a roller coaster - might have just been tiredness (he says!). We watched the rescue penguins being fed and then stood in an "ice storm" - you rug up in a special jacket and ice shoes and then stand in a snow filled room which is then blasted with the cold and win of an Antarctic storm - most enjoyable! We also had a photo taken with a little blue penguin, Coco, a highlight of Noel's trip! Because the weather was good, we did our gondola ride - great view from the top, although still a bit hazy.
The Hagglund, Christchurch Antarctic Centre.
The heritage time tunnel had broken down so we had to wait for them to re-start it, but it was finally up and running at about 5pm - it's a bit like the Jorvik Viking Centre ride in York, England, but not as good!
Our last full day in NZ was pretty relaxed. We dropped Bronwyn in Hornby to pick up her lift back to Dunedin and then went home sort out our bags. Noel went up to the Lyttelton Timeball Station, but due to renovations the ball wasn't actually dropping. It was interesting though, and was the main way for the ships to keep accurate time up until 1934 when radio time signals took over.
We flew home with Jetstar on 11 April after a fantastic 2 months in NZ. Points to remember with Christchurch Airport - you have to pay $25pp departure tax at the airport, it is NOT included in your ticket.
Little Blue Penguin at the Antarctic Centre.
And the international departure area did not open until 12.30pm so if you wanted to avail yourself of any airline lounges prior to your flight, don't get there too early!!
All in all a fabulous trip to a wonderful country.