Danny Yee >> Travelogues >> Otago, Southland, Fiordland (New Zealand)

Christchurch, the Port Hills, and Akaroa

The pub we had booked in Christchurch was right near the city centre, and also close to the car hire depot. On arrival I started charging camera batteries, tried to finish burning off fuel (on a convenient if scary fire escape outside the window), and threw out most of the useless pamphlets we'd collected during the trip.

Then we wandered into town. Cam visited the flower display in the cathedral (which she reckoned wasn't as good as Dunedin's AND she had to pay to get in) while I went to an Internet cafe and sent off another cyberpostcard. We found a nice little Japanese place for dinner, then it was back to the hostel to shower, read, and finally finish burning off the stove!

Tuesday 18th February

a floral tram outside Arnold's Books
There was an aerobics class in the building next door - not loud enough to wake us up, but a strange accompaniment nevertheless. Accomodation came with free breakfast, but that was just cereal, milk, and toast in a scummy shared kitchen, to which we added tinned tuna and baked beans. We left our remaining food in the "free food" box - a kilogram of muesli, candles, soup packets, and a tin of corn.

We then walked to Arnold's Books, which gets a mention in the Lonely Planet guide but which I'd missed on my Christchurch bookshop explorations the previous year. This is a nice secondhand shop specialising in natural history and exploration - it had separate sections on e.g. "spiders" and "crustacea". Camilla bought a little book on weta.

Then we headed off, taking the scenic route to Akaroa via the Port Hills. Rather than going through the tunnel, we went alongside the estuary, past Shag Rock and the moa-bone cave, then up onto Godley Head, before following the road that winds along the top of the Port Hills. There were some good views before the mist came down, with a strong wind and some rain. We stopped for lunch at the Sign of the Kiwi, a really nice resthouse about half-way along the Hills, with good views over Christchurch and a collection of books to browse.

Shag Rock

Lyttelton harbour

the Sign of the Kiwi resthouse

Heading along the main road to Akaroa, we took a detour to Birdlands, a private bird sanctuary. We continued from there towards Te Oka, with views over Little River and Lake Forsythe, before returning to the main road. It was clearing, with some sun and patches of cloud on the tops.

Akaroa is pretty, but also rather touristy. Camilla bought a few craft items as gifts, and we ate some fudge. We looked at a few of the notable buildings, but mostly just sat around on the waterfront.

a peacock and a pukeko

Langlois Etenenaux - an early house in Akaroa

Canada geese in Akaroa harbour

On the way back from Akaroa we stopped briefly to marvel at the huge flocks of swans on Lake Forsythe, then for longer at Birdlings Flat, at the base of Kapete Spit. There there's a proper ocean beach.

Back in Christchurch, we went for a wander along the Avon, stumbling over a film crew at work, filming someone punting on the river, presumbaly for an Oxbridge setting. They had a pretty massive support infrastructure -- a whole street of caravans, generators, you name it. Inspired by that, Camilla bought the Lord of the Rings location guide -- though she still hasn't read the book itself!

Dinner was Indian, in a place with ultra-modern decor but excellent food - we shared one entreee, main, and dessert. Then it was time to shower and pack for the plane home.

Wednesday 19th February

More early-morning aerobics. Avoiding the scummy kitchen, we abandoned our free breakfast and went to a cafe over the road. We then walked through the city - stopping at the Whitcoulls and Scorpio Books - across to the Canterbury Museum. I had gone through that the previous year, however, so I left Camilla there and went to look at the Arts Centre, in particular the Arts Centre bookshop, where I bought a copy of Claudia Orange's The Treaty of Waitangi. We met up again in Scorpio Books, where I was very tempted by a volume Craft and Stravinsky.

Christchurch airport
After a brunch, we had time for a look through the three secondhand bookshops on Manchester St before returning the car to Apex Rentals around 12.10. Fortunately their airport shuttle was late, so we didn't have to wait for that at all. We had a couple of hours to wait in the airport, but between wandering the shops (Camilla bought some stuff for her family), reading, having lunch, and going out briefly onto the observation deck (it was overcast and windy), that went by quite rapidly.

And it was goodbye to New Zealand - till next time!

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