A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand March 20 2013

Day 28 - Christchurch

semi-overcast 13 °C

A slow start to the day as nothing planned for our day of departure. Had a rude awakening at 2.30am this morning when the hotel fire alarm activated. Grabbed warm clothes, passports and tickets and then stood outside for 30 minutes while 4 fire engines dealt with what was a false alarm! Lesson learnt about being prepared!!

The airport is only 200m from the hotel but we took the hotel shuttle to save dragging the luggage and then spent the 3 1/2 hours with iPads to entertain. On our way home after a great holiday. Looking forward to having good telephone and Internet services so we can communicate better with all the people we have missed.

Posted by suengarry 03:03 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand Tuesday March 19 2013

Day 27 - Christchurch

rain 14 °C

Bit of a sleep in and slower start to a cooler and drizzly day. After breakfast we caught a bus into the city - about 25 minutes. Then walked rapidly to catch a one hour red bus tour to orientate ourselves and find out more about Christchurch.
Sat on the open air top deck and saw all of the city centre. Incredibly frightening to see the aftermath of the 2010 and 2011 quakes. As well as the dominance of the red no-go zone in the middle of the city there are empty blocks all through the other areas where buildings had either fallen over or been demolished. All the major churches are considerably damaged but decisions about their future is still not decided so they remain reminders of the past. Eerily the Casino was undamaged and was the first building open after the first contraction of the red zone. The site of the CTV building where most of the fatalities occurred is just a bare patch of ground with security fence covered in floral wreaths. The AMI stadium at Lancaster Park falsely appears relatively unscathed except for the weeds that grow on the field where liquefaction has turned it into a gravel pit and it is apparent that the base of the stands have sunk into the ground unevenly. One stand over the entrance to the ground was demolished.
After a coffee to warm up we walked to the Newstart container mall in the city centre. A very bright attractive area built predominantly out of containers where banks and shops have attempted to normalize commerce but it was obvious that most of the people were tourists and it wasn't crowded. Plans for the city centre are focussing on recreational areas, gardens and a large convention and entertainment centre. In ten years Christchurch may well emerge as a modern uncluttered city having been able to rid itself of the assortment of derelict and badly designed buildings that plague most other cities inner areas.
We made a financial contribution to the economy before returning to the hotel. Easily the coldest, wettest day of the entire trip so a warm soup for lunch and time to reorganise the bags was the order of the afternoon.

We will have time to kill at the airport tomorrow with a chance to reflect on our adventures over the last three weeks.
Initial thoughts - generally 9/10. Simply awesome geography; locals friendly and helpful; roads, hotels, services, food generally 4 -5 star.

Would we recommend travelling with Scenic Tours in NZ? Definitely. Small group travel worked well - our companions were friendly and pretty easy to live with; tour guide and coach captains knowledgeable, helpful/tolerant and amusing; majority of choices were good value for money.

Will we come back to NZ? Who knows - there are many places here we would enjoy spending more time in but it is a big world out there and other places that we are yet to experience.

Posted by suengarry 20:36 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand - Monday March 18 2013

Day 26 - Lake Tekapo to Christchurch

rain 15 °C

Still gently raining. Eerily beautiful with the only colour the azure blue of Lake Tekapo.

Breakfast and on the coach for one last 273 Km journey into Christchurch. Dropped down from the MacKenzie country plateau (709m) through Burkes Pass. Through Fairlie to Geraldine for an early morning tea. Still amazed by the quantity of food that people consume. After a full breakfast at 8am of cereals and fruit, cooked breakfast of bacon, eggs,hash browns etc. topped off with toast, jam and coffee, they lineup for meat pies, scones, chocolate slices etc. at 9.45am just in case they don't make it to lunch!!

Still raining steadily as we wend our way North East across the Canterbury Plains. Country changed from typical boggy, dry grassy looking MacKenzie Country to undulating dairy, grazing and farming country dependent on irrigation to maintain rich green pasture growth and supplementary turnip crops. Plus some wheat and oat cropping. Back to the perfect grids of paddocks with carefully manicured windbreaks of pines or poplars. Through Ashburton again and back over the unbelievably wide Rakaia River and into the outer suburbs of Christchurch.

Dropped some of our traveling companions at Christchurch Airport before booking into the hotel from where we will explore Christchurch on our own. Will be a shock having to organize ourselves after the luxury of the tour!

Quick look at our rooms before we headed over to the International Antarctic Centre. Decided on the full tourist experience which involved a very rough ride on a hagglunder, 4D Antartic voyage and visit, blizzard experience and an encounter with little blue penguins. There was also enough interactive info about the Antartic to fill in more than a few hours.

Posted by suengarry 20:55 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand March 17 2013

Day 25 Lake Tekapo - Mt Cook

rain 15 °C

First sign of real rain. Amazing that we have managed to spend so long in the land of the long white cloud without any rain. And it is not as though we have avoided the notoriously wet areas.

Boarded the coach for the hour and a bit run out to Mt Cook village and the Edmund Hillary
Centre. The town is a small holiday destination with the hotel/restaurant/cafeteria/museum/theatre the most significant structure looking up the valley to Mt Cook itself. Unable to see anything today and too wet to go walking so we spent an hour and a half watching a 3D movie about the Southern Highlands and then an old program about the life of Hillary which I'm sure was on television around the time of his death. Pretty certain Scenic includes this activity so that those who haven't been as lucky as we have with the weather can at least see the mountains and glaciers on film. Everyone was happy to cut short our time there by an hour so we made our way back to Tekapo for a few hours of relaxation/nanny naps/catching up. Trip drawing to a rapid conclusion now with our farewell dinner tonight. We will farewell Sally, our tour leader, Trevor, our South Island coach driver/commentator/comedian and most of our group at the Christchurch airport tomorrow. A couple of the others are having an extra night in Christchurch with us.

Posted by suengarry 20:32 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand March 15 2013

Dunedin

semi-overcast

Started with a bus tour of Dunedin to help set our priorities for the day. Stopped at the steepest street in the world - Baldwin Street which Garry and Margy conquered. It has a gradient of 1 in 2.68. Sue completed the easier first half which was a lot more than the watchers at the base did. Then drove up to Sovereign Hill to look out over the city and the small harbour. A very Scottish town with substantial buildings in the CBD and red brick houses among the typical NZ timber houses. Churches constructed mainly from limestone are prominent in the central area along with the University of Otago. For our free choice activity we bypassed the cultural and geographic excursions and went on the tour of the Speight Brewery which apart from being 100 metres from the hotel also provided free tastings of all its products and then followed up with a very hearty lunch of soup and steak, pork ribs with fresh bread and another free drink.

Garry is off to the rugby on a $20.00 deal from the Ale House (pint of beer, ride to the stadium and return with another pint on return). Hurricanes V Highlanders in the new indoor stadium. A wonderful stadium to watch rugby. Close game with some great attacking back line and not too many scrums. Locals not happy with the result. Back to the ale house and, as it turned out, we were on free grog for the rest of the night. Too full of food to really take advantage.

Posted by suengarry 20:29 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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