Holiday in the South Island of New Zealand - Dec 07/Jan 08
However, our 5.30pm flight finally left Brisbane Airport at 11.30pm, and we arrived in Christchurch the next morning at around 6am (NZ time). Below is a photo of the welcome sign in the international terminal of Christchurch airport, listing Christchurch's sister cities around the world:
Our "home" in Christchurch was the Holiday Inn on Avon in Oxford Terrace. It is situated about 10 minutes walk from the centre of town, but is in a lovely setting by the Avon River, and as Christchurch and the province of Canterbury, in which it is situated, are very flat (despite the surrounding mountains), the walk into town was pleasant rather than taxing. Here is our first "room", a little townhouse out the back. It was rather nice, but the very steep climb up the stairs to the second floor is daunting with suitcases.
After catching up on some sleep lost the night before, we spent the first afternoon working out the lay of the land in Christchurch by catching one of the many tourist trams which travel a loop around central Christchurch:
While the lay of the land is very flat in Christchurch, this is not true for the whole of the South Island - in fact, two thirds of it is mountainous. It is also a land of stark contrasts, as I think the following photograph taken somewhere in the province of Otago demonstrates:
In the South Island, the two key things which attract tourists are adventure sports and the natural beauty. Both of these stem from the natural geographical layout of the South Island, which has more than its share of mountains and lakes surrounded by lush foliage.
However, the South Island also has a number of more unusual rivers which flows in turquoise or blue coloured rivulets across gravel beds:
We felt very privileged to see Mt Cook's peak, because it is often shrouded in cloud. In fact, when we passed by in the morning, it was hidden behind dense cloud cover, but decided to make an early afternoon appearance (surely for our benefit!).
Beside Lake Tekapo is a gorgeous little stone church known as the Church of the Good Shepherd:
Further along on the road to Mt Cook, you come across Lake Pukaki, which is a vivid turquoise colour when the sun is shining due to the presence of rock powder on its bed:
We were fortunate enough to spend New Year's Eve in Queenstown, and to witness New Year fireworks over the lake from our hotel on the steep Stanley Street hill:
You can get down the way you came, or luge down!
A popular scenic stop on the way to Milford Sound is Lake Matheson, or as it is better known, the Mirror Lake:
Unfortunately, the gusty winds on the day of our trip significantly rippled the surface of the lake, so its mirror quality is not immediately apparent in this shot.
Another lovely spot en route to Milford Sound is the Tutoko Mountains in Fiordland:
At Milford Sound wharf, we boarded the Milford Mariner for a two and a half hour cruise around the Sound (which is actually a fiord). One of the first sights that you see in the Sound is Lion Rock (the lion's partially obscured head is to the left and its rump is to the right of the shot):
Next to Lion Rock is Stirling Falls. They say that getting sprayed with the water from the Falls makes you 10 years younger - having tested this theory, I can say that it is definitely false!
On the left hand side heading out to sea is Anita Bay:
Apparently an American lady painter who migrated to New Zealand loved lupins and cultivated them for her paintings. Other ladies followed suit, and soon the lupins were growing wild all over the South Island. The lupins pictured grow beside Lake Tekapo. Scottish broom and gorse are also unwelcome introduced weeds in the South Island.
Unless you have never heard of New Zealand, you will know that it is famous for its sheep. There are 39 million of them, comprising 36 certified varieties:
Apparently sheep numbers are down on the 60 million they had about 10 years ago because farmers are moving into dairying and other agricultural pursuits.
Deer, another introduced species, are also commercially farmed on the South Island for their velvet and meat (yep, the funny little twigs behind the reflection of my camera are deer):
Heading back into Christchurch, the banks of the River Avon are inhabited by ducks:
New Zealand has some unique native wildlife. Bob the ranger at Queenstown Kiwi & Birdlife Park holds a tuatara, a species somewhere between a lizard and a snake, which has a vestigial third eye:
And of course, there is the bird which New Zealanders name themselves after, the kiwi:
The kiwi is a flightless, nocturnal bird. You can view live kiwis in darkened kiwi huts at the Kiwi & Birdlife Park in Queenstown. They are surprisingly large, and have long, pointy beaks with nostrils on the tip, so that they can sniff out food in the leaf litter. It is well worth the wait to catch a glimpse of these birds. The females are also amazing in that their eggs are one third of their body weight in size - roughly the equivalent of an average human female having a 17kg baby!
On Milford Sound, you will see the resident fur seals, lazing on the rocks like fat gents on the beach:
Cakelaw loves Split Enz, one of New Zealand's most famous popular bands. They are reforming for a New Zealand-only tour in March, and Cakelaw has a ticket to see them in Welllington. Below is a photo of the promotional poster for the tour, found all over the street posts in Christchurch:
A very different sort of clock can be found in Victoria Square in Christchurch. Pictured below is the Christchurch floral clock:
I loved the Kiwi mailboxes, which I thought were kind of groovy. This one is on Madras St in Christchurch:
In Victoria Square facing Colombo Street in Christchurch, you will see this old fashioned telephone box, seemingly the sole survivor of its kind:
to grand stone structures, like Christchurch Cathedral:
Christchurch Cathedral is heavily European-influenced, with large stained glass windows:
the Christchurch Press building at 21 Cathedral Square:
and the ANZ Chambers on High Street (as viewed from a suburban bus going at high speed!).
Six days, four provinces, one island, a unique country - I loved it!
This post would not be complete without my thanking the mysterious McDreamy look-alike who helped me to lift my 20kg suitcase up a steep broken escalator at Brisbane Central Train Station on the way home. McDreamy, wherever you are, the girl in the black T-shirt with the ponytail and glasses, swearing profusely, whom you gallantly rescued, thanks you from the bottom of her heart!