Saturday 10 September 2011
After sleeping in the campervan for a few days, it’s good to be back in a proper bed. I have a day of pottering and sorting out menial stuff (washing and cooking a curry) before heading into Christchurch with Adam to watch England versus Argentina at the Fanzone in Hagley Park.
The Fanzone has been nicely set-up with a small rugby pitch where there are a few games of touch rugby going on. There’s also a stage, two big screens and seating. The game itself is poor with England making hard work of beating the Argies. There’s a good atmosphere in the 200-300 people who are watching and there are a couple of Kiwi lads sat just in front of us who are wearing makeshift Argentina shirts who provide good banter throughout.
It’s difficult not to wonder how many people would have been here if the earthquakes hadn’t hit so hard – this match was due to be played in the new AMI stadium in Christchurch, built specifically for the World Cup but is so badly damaged that it is now unusable. Adam and I head off for a few other bars afterwards and probably drink too much but it was a good night.
Sunday 11 September 2011
Adam and I set off for Orana – a zoo in Christchurch – with the two kids and give Claire a day off. The trip is a birthday present for the two boys from the Taylors in Hull. The zoo is quiet and we get there just in time to feed the giraffes. We’re given a handful of branches and stand on a viewing platform were we’re asked to hold it up to the giraffes who then proceed to strip off the leaves and flowers with their tongues. It’s a great experience and we’re so close that you can see where the yellow pollen has stuck to the fur around the giraffes’ mouths.
I can’t remember the last time I was at a zoo and Orana has a nice mix of animals. We spend a good few hours wandering around the various enclosures and every animal in the zoo seems to have a feeding time where you can get close up. I get to see the kiwis being fed – a very strange looking bird as they snuffle back and forth around their pens and much faster than I expected. We move onto the lions who make such a primeval racket at meal times that it scares Noah. For $30 you can ride in a cage into the enclosure while the lions clamber all over it after the fresh meat as seen below.
We wander back through the farmyard section through various pens where you’re encouraged to stroke the animals. Our timing is great as a keeper comes in with milk for the lambs, so we get the chance to bottle feed them.
From there, we head off to feed the rhinos and get very close to these massive, quiet animals that hoover up their food like giant vacuum cleaners. We get to lob some feed into the lake and watch as giant rainbow trout snaffle it up, leaving the ducks in their wake. We see the cheetahs have tea and watch as the keeper, who has bottle fed all four of them, stroke and play with them as if they were house cats. And finally on the way back to the car we see the African dogs being fed – they are frenzy of whelping and ferocious eating.
All this works up an appetite and when we get home we have a roast dinner.
Monday 12 September 2011
I get dropped off in the Port Hills that over look Christchurch for a day walking. Many areas of the hills are still out of bounds following the quakes but there are excellent views to be had from the various peaks you can still reach – you can see lots of the Southern Alps, Christchurch, Lyttleton and the various inlets and islands, as well as the Pacific. The weather is sunny with a bit of breeze and there are quite a few other people (by New Zealand standards) about walking and mountain biking. I walk for around three hours along nearly every path I can. I pop up at one point in an exclusive looking suburb and a Ford Sierra Cosworth hatchback with whale tail passes (the only whale tail I’ll see as it happens), in A1 condition, like so many of the old cars in New Zealand.
I’ve locked Adam’s bike up at the Sign of the Kiwi cafe on the summit road (the cafe is still closed as is part of the road – EQ damage of course) and it’s still where I left for the ride home. I hammer it down the steep hill reaching 35mph at one point, which is faster than the speed limit (35kph). It’s quite scary as there are a number of hairpins to negotiate. It’s a nice 13km cycle home though the saddle on Adam’s bike hasn’t got any comfier.
I help make a fry-up for tea, and try out some baked hashbrowns which go down a treat. In the evening we watch Whale Rider about modern life in a small Maori village.
Tuesday 13 September 2011
It’s Susie’s 19th birthday today! Happy Birthday!
One of the problems of being in an earthquake hit city is that many of the attractions, sites and even the city centre are still closed, making wandering around difficult and pre-planning essential.
One attraction that is still open is the Royal New Zealand Air Force museum. It’s in the south of the city and is a nice building coupled with a couple of hangars and a runway. It displays the air force’s history and various achievements through the years. The RNZAF has never been very big and it no longer has a combat force since it’s fleet of Skyhawks (as used by the trainers such as Viper in Top Gun) was retired in 2001. While the museum isn’t huge there’s lots to see and the restored planes are very impressive as are the tales of the pilots from the various wars they fought in.
Wednesday 14 September 2011
Happy Birthday Rosie!
I’m up early today as I’ve a date with a large animal, species as yet unconfirmed. After dropping Claire off at work, I head along SH1 for Kaikoura. It’s a cold but bright morning and the drive on my last full day in NZ is great, through scenic countryside that opens up into a last stretch along the coast.
Kaikoura is set in a beautiful bay, ringed by snow-capped hills and mountains. It’s famous for year-round whale watching so I head here first but due to rough conditions out at sea there are no sailings today. My plan B is to go on asmaller boat to see the local albatross that live a kilometre or so from shore. I get booked onto the afternoon sailing and head off for an OK eggs benedict at a the local Why Not cafe. I also potter down to the nearby seal colony who hang around just next to a car park so easily accessible and are just a few metres from the cars, lazily lolling about in the sunshine and seaweed.
Albatross Encounters run the boat trip and there’s only me and an Aussie couple on it. Gary the skipper is very knowledgeable about the birds and has recently returned from London (“they’ve so many roads in London that if they were potato fields you’d never go hungry”). Even though we’re only heading out a kilometre from shore, there is a two metre swell which makes for a rollercoaster ride to the drop-off, through a flock of 2000+ Hutton’s Shearwater.
Gary lobs out fish livers to attract the albatross and they soon come swooping in, using ground effect so as not to touch the waves. Albatross are about the size of turkey and look like huge seagulls. There are 24 species in all, 14 of which have been seen at Kaikoura and we see four today. The birds’ wingspan is very impressive and whilst their silent flyers, they can make a racket when they’re feeding to keep other smaller sea birds away.
It’s an excellent 2.5 hour trip an we also see seals and a myriad of other sea birds. I get to sit upfront on the way back and slamming over the waves in the little boat is like a really good rollercoaster ride. The drive back to Christchurch is just as spectacular and a big tide covers the highway in sea spray. I stop off for pizza at a roadside cafe in Greta and arrive back to town to a big orange full moon rising.
Thursday 15 September 2011
My last day and Adam drops me at Hagley Park for the morning. I retrace the steps I took a month ago during my first visit, through the park and the botanical gardens. There’s no snow now and various trees and flowers are in bud and the daffodils are all out in the woods. I do a lap of the redzone, past the crippled cathedral that is being held up by shipping containers and hay bales. Apparently it is to be rebuilt, which seems almost impossible.
I have a nice early lunch in the Coffee House of an open chicken and bacon sandwich with good chips that look like they were made at 5 Mount Road! It starts to rain for the first time in ages, so I spend half an hour sat in the museum, watching a documentary on Antarctic exhibitions and wait for my lift to the airport.
The journey home is easy and uneventful and I’m back in the UK and Manchester has reassuring grey skies to welcome me. I’ve some great memories and full ideas of places I want to visit next time I’m there.