We spent the 24th-27th in the city of Christchurch, in the pricey, but beautiful Hadleigh B&B.
Christchurch is a gorgeous city, often said to be the “most English” of NZ towns, and indeed it is. Pretty much all the suburbs, streets and areas are named after British towns/people. So on our drive into the city from SH1, we drove through Belfast, past Brighton, skimmed around Scarbourough to find Durham Road.. you get the idea. The city has the very pretty River Avon meandering through the centre, which is is flanked by Oxford Terrace on one side and Cambridge on the other. The river even has punting trips running… complete with men in waistcoats and straw-boaters… all very odd!
On Christmas Day most of the city was closed as expected, one thing that was open and running was the cable car that takes you to the top of Port Hill for great views over the city, and the port/harbour of Lyttleton… or it would of done.. if a great big bloody raincloud hadn’t appeared right on top of us. Recently the ruling parties of New Zealand have tended to be rather to the left of socialist, so one rule is that if you want people to work on public holidays (ie Xmas), you have to pay them at least time and half, and give them a day off… and you then charge an extra 15% on everything on public holidays, about 3 or 4 weeks ago the NZ National Party (Centre-Right) took over (as a minority government with a coalition with 3 others), so things appear to be changing to be slightly more friendly to businesses
After the gloom of the view from the top, we descended, and headed off East.. winding our way slowly (you don’t really go anywhere fast on roads in NZ… 100KM is more of a theoretical limit on most roads), to Akaroa, where we had our picnic looking over the bay.
Boxing Day, Christchurch came back to life.. sort of.. in a rather laid back NZ style.. we saw at least ooh 20 people in Cathedral Square. We explored the museum, to get the story of how the settlers back in 1860ish got started, wandered around the botanical gardens, and had a nice lunch in the art centre (a former private school). We then caught a movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still.. which was as poor as expected.. it had Keanu Reeves as the saviour of the world.. say no more! I kept waiting for him to call someone “Dude”. In cinemas here.. you can still buy beer… which helped with this particular movie!
On the 27th, we got up at the crack of dawn (well 6ish), to catch the Tranz Scenic. TranzAlpine from Christchurch on the east coast to Greymouth on the West. The train takes about 4ish hours each way, with an hour stop on Greymouth (which believe me is more than enough). Really worth doing, as you just soak up the scenery all the way along, through Arthur’s Pass. I think Brod took about 200 photos or so.. so will try and get a wodge of the up on Flickr later on.
After checking out from the Hadleigh on Sunday morning (28th), we headed south again towards our next stop of Moereki. On route we stopped in the large town of Omaru, famous for erm.. its rather grand stone buildings, and a penguin colony. We took yet another odd little tourist train thing to reach the penguin colony, and the promise of a restaurant and a cafe (both bloody closed). Rather naffly some enterprising twerp has built a “environmentally friendly, eco-tourist, safety viewing centre” all the way around where the penguins sleep (at night… during the day they bugger off elsewhere).. and try and charge people some rip-off amount to go and see where a penguin may or may not be (if perchance one of the penguins decided not to head off to sea with all the others).. we gave it a miss and waited for the train to return and take us back for an ice-cream.
Onwards to our accommodation for the night in Moereki.. the very.. very odd *boutique* accommodation at “Noah’s”. These are 4 or 5 self contained units, and a shared kitchen. If you’ve ever been on a caravan holiday, you’d probably call the units a bit cramped. Great views from our broom-cupboard and only $100 a night (bout erm £40 or so) though, ;) Moereki is very small fishing port/village famous for two things, it’s boulders, and Fleur’s Place. The former are great big stones on the beach, the latter is a seafood restaurant ranked by Rick Stein as one of the best in the world. Alas.. Fleur thought it was still Christmas and was therefore closed.. we went to the Moereki Tavern instead.. which is next to the Moereki Motor Camp (think campervans, caravans and tents), so you can probably guess the standard there…
This morning (29th), we managed to grab breakfast at Fleurs, overlooking the bay, watching a huge stream of people put their trailer-boats into the water from the slipway.
Onwards then the Dunedin.