Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christchurch, New Zealand!

We flew into Christchurch on Wednesday afternoon. We left Brisbane at 9am, where it was already over 20°C heading for about 28°C, and arrived three hours later at 3pm. Don’t you love travelling between different time zones? (But not to worry, we’ll get those three hours back on the way home again!) When we arrived it was grey, about 18°C with a stiff breeze making it feel closer to 10°C.

We sorted out a local prepaid SIM card for Laetitia’s phone, then called for a pickup from our hire car company (Apex). They gave us a manual Nissan Sunny for just under $40/day, with an Interislander ferry ticket included (for the car only; we have to pay extra for ourselves).

We stayed the night at Tui Lodge Motel. They upgraded us to a larger room, and the lady running the place was very friendly and helpful. They had beautiful roses in the gardens in front of the rooms. Unfortunately the pillows were a bit lumpy and there was an unpleasant musty odour wafting around the back.

For dinner we went to the Welcome Vegetarian Chinese Café, which we spotted while buying some groceries and our hotel host said she liked when we asked her about it. It was fantastic! The menu has a symbol to mark dishes that aren’t vegan, and they don’t cook with capsicum at all (which Laetitia was very pleased about). The food was delicious! Highly recommended: it’s on Wharenui Rd at Riccarton Rd.

The next morning we took a little drive around Christchurch, seeing the fenced-off areas in the city where so many buildings were damaged in the earthquake earlier this year, and stopped for a walk in the Botanic Gardens in Hagley Park. It was beautiful there. We especially enjoyed the giant pine trees.

Then we drove off to the west along State Highway 73 through Arthur’s Pass. The scenery was (of course) beautiful. Lush green forest, high mountains and wide valleys, many one-lane bridges. The rivers were quite clear water rushing over rocks and pebbles.

At a rest stop on the eastern side, just after one long one-lane bridge (long enough to have a passing bay in the middle!) we saw our first Kea. It was fat and green and curious. It was so fat it waddled! Later, in Arthur’s Pass itself, we saw many more. They are as cheeky as their reputation, and yes, they are definitely very interested in door seals! We even saw a couple staying on car roofs for a few seconds as the cars drove away.

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