November 10th, 2010 – by: Mezmerized
Back to Christchurch and it was a particularly sad goodbye to Suze who was getting straight on a plane. We got it over quickly, the goodbye that is, neither of us like goodbyes. We will meet again back in UK for sure.. We had been travelling together less than a week but what an inspiring and fun lady.... I had loosely arranged to meet up with Maxx again in Christchurch though. He had already messaged me to let me know the hostel he was staying in so I stayed there too, but we bumped into each other randomly in the street anyhow! He was on his way to organise a car hire and asked me if i wanted to join him for Hanmer springs or Akaroa.
I quite fancied Akaroa, another recommendation from Ivan the travel guru, and seeing as I already had visited Hanmer during my previous stay in Christchurch was thrilled when Maxx kindly offered. One last visit to Christchurch botanical gardens, my favourite spot in the city. The earthquakes seemed to have died down since my last visit, no sign of them this time. Turns out not only had i booked into the same hostel as Maxx but into the room next door to him! Poor guy probably thought i was stalking him! Anyway, great neighbour for sharing his wine with me J
Even greater guy for taking me for the day out to Akaroa. To use cheesy American slang ‘we had a blast, awesome....’ Maxx was not used to driving on the left hand side of the road but was soon pretty confident, driving with no hands while eating crisps!! A couple of hours drive from Christchurch through some stunning scenery.
Maxx promised that he could get us into the lighthouse, that was locked, with his magic room key!
We stopped a couple of times on the way to enjoy some fantastic views of the harbour town of Akaroa, set beautifully in the heart of an extinct volcano. So after spending an enjoyable few hours walking around the harbour, the cute little lighthouse, the pier, and relaxing outside the coffee shops what word would we use to sum up Akaroa? Well it was just very very errrrrm FRENCH!!! Enough said. Maxx made me order our croque monsieurs and ‘french coffee’ in French then we sat on French chairs and watched French boats come into the French harbour. A lovely end to my time in the South Island with fun company.
Next morning I left Christchurch at dark o’clock to catch the Tranzcoastal train to Picton for catching the ferry to the North Island.
View of Akaroa
To use a cliché, this was so much more than just a train journey. For much of the ride, the line runs right along the coast and you can watch all of this from an open air viewing carriage. We even saw dolphins jumping out of the sea from the train!! The journey was a little delayed by a section of the track just outside of Christchurch that had been recently refilled after sinking during the big earthquake. We could also see some areas of liquefaction in some of the fields around Christchurch, where mud had boiled up from below the surface during the seismic activity Yikes!!
Closer towards Picton the scenery got even more intense. We followed beautiful vineyards on one side of the train in front of mountains and the Pacific ocean on the other side. I got talking to an inspiring gentleman in the viewing carriage, a self-labelled ‘geriatric backpacker’. A guy in his 60’s, his wife and mother had passed away the year earlier so he sold up and is 6 months into a ‘wander’, around the world, staying mostly in backpacker hostels. I told him what an inspiration he was, a real passionate go-getter making the most of life. Good for him..