I flew from Melbourne to Christchurch, New Zealand this morning. It was a 3½ flight on Jetstar Airways. I lost two hours on the way as we crossed two time zones.
I arrived here in Christchurch shortly after 2:00 their time. My hotel, Rydges, is right off Cathedral Square along the Avon River.
After getting settled at my hotel I took a walk around the city. Right outside my front door is the ChristChurch Cathedral which was built between 1864 and 1904 in the center of the city and surrounded by Cathedral Square.
Below is the Christchurch Tramway on Cathedral Square.
Cathedral Square, locally known simply as the Square, is the geographical center and heart of Christchurch. Below you can see the Chalice which was installed in the Square in 2001 to mark the new millennium and the 150th anniversary of Canterbury's foundation. The metal is cut into shapes of native plants indigenous to the area.
Victoria Square is just a couple blocks north of Cathedral Square. Below is the Queen Victoria statue on the Square.
Below is the Avon River beside Victoria Square. You can see the Hamish Hay Bridge crossing the river. The bridge, the oldest heritage feature in the square, is also the country's oldest cast iron and stone bridge.
Below is the Captain James Cook statue also on Victoria Square.
From Victoria Square I walked south along the Avon River.
Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island of New Zealand with a population of about 350,000 people.
The Scott Statue commemorates Robert Falcon Scott. It is located at the intersection of Oxford Terrace and Worcester Street.
Below Gloucester Street crosses the Avon River behind my hotel.
Below I am walking past the Canterbury Provincial Council Building.
The green space along the Avon River is strikingly beautiful.
The Bridge of Remembrance is one of two main war memorials in Christchurch. The archway was built over the east end of the Cashel Street bridge.
City Mall is the main pedestrian mall in the central city.
I didn't buy any chicken from the KFC on City Mall.
It was a gloomy day here and misting a little rain, just as I remember New Zealand being from my brief previous encounter. Temperatures a lot cooler here, about 60.
5 minute video of Christchurch, New Zealand.
6 minute video of my wildlife cruise on Akaroa Harbour in New Zealand.
Today was the day I was supposed to go up in the hot air balloon, but it was canceled because of the thick fog early this morning. The only good thing about that was that I got to go back to bed at 4:00am. The balloons go up at sunrise.
The fog lifted off mid morning and I went over to the Christchurch Gondola and rode it to the top of a mountain overlooking Lyttelton Harbour. Weather was pretty good at that point, just a few clouds hanging over the mountain peaks.
The Base station of the Gondola is nestled in Heathcote Valley and the Summit Station is at the top of Mount Cavendish. The Gondola trip up to the summit took about 10 minutes.
To the south and east are the dramatic views of Banks Peninsula, Lake Ellesmere and Lyttelton Harbour formed in a sunken volcanic crater.
After the gondola it was time to drive down to Akaroa where I had a boat cruise scheduled for this afternoon. Akaroa is about 90 kilometers from Christchurch. About 10 kilometers into the drive down it clouded over and began to rain again. I was really pissed, but I drove on. Drove another 40 kilometers or so in the gloom and on and off light rain. The already narrow road narrowed to a skinny little path as we headed up a mountain. It was a rather steep climb and this piece of crap car they gave me wasn't handling it too well. As we climbed higher it looked like we were about to disappear into the low hanging clouds. My mood was getting worse at this point. I went over the summit and just started down the other side and it front of me is what you see below.
It was one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen. Rolling green hills full of sheep, the green waters of Akaroa Harbour far below surrounded by mountains and relatively clear skies on this side of the mountain. My mood picked right up.
Unfortunately the pictures did not come out as good as I would have liked. The hills with sheep look good but the water below and the sky is kind of bleached out.
Sheep farming is a significant industry in New Zealand. According to the United Nations there are 39 million sheep in the country. That's an average of ten per person.
The rest of the drive into Akaroa was beautiful.
I spent too long admiring the view and got into Akaroa just a few minutes before my cruise. Akaroa is a small little village full of people and about two parking spaces. I finally found a space but then noticed it had a ten minute parking limit. There was no way that I could find another space and make my cruise so I left it there.
Below is the Akaroa harbour.
Below we had just left the pier and were on our way.
The cruise was great. The scenery was beautiful and we saw lots of dolphins, seals, penguins and birds of all kinds.
Below are some of the many dolphins we saw today.
They told us that this cruise was voted the number 1 wildlife activity in New Zealand. Highlighting the rare, New Zealand native dolphin, the Hector's Dolphin.
There are many different bird species in the harbour, including five different cormorant (shag) species and the endangered yellow-eyed penguin. I don't remember what kind of birds are in the picture below.
We also saw giant volcanic sea cliffs.
Akaroa Harbour was a live volcano millions of years ago. Below we are approaching a sea cave.
The Akaroa Lighthouse is one of the few remaining examples of early wooden lighthouses in New Zealand.
After two hours our boat returned to Akaroa.
After the cruise, some three hours later, I walked back to the car hoping they just ticketed it and not towed it away. To my surprise it was still there and not even a ticket.
I drove back the same way I came and sure enough when I went over the mountain and started down the other side it clouded back up and rained most of the way back. This time I didn't care though.
I will write more later, although I don't know what kind of Internet connection I will have the next few nights as I will be staying in small motels in small towns as I cross over and through the Southern Alps. So if I miss a day or two I either didn't have an Internet connection or this car with a one horse power engine didn't make it through the mountains.
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