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Posts tagged ‘canterbury’

Southward bound – yay!

It’s always a surreal feeling to be finally free of the day-to-day and have your holiday stretching out before you. The chore of packing isn’t such a chore, and 10 days away seems like a looong time. At the beginning at least.

Before it all becomes a distant memory I’ll recap the first couple of days of our trip down south, this post covering the journey down to Queenstown. This is almost a month ago now – I can’t believe how fast the year is going. Anyway…

A winter holiday generally requires more space to pack all the woolly layers, not to mention extra bags for snowboards and gear. It was a good call to drive down rather than fly and we filled every nook and cranny in Mike’s car. At a respectable hour on a Friday morning in August we set out for the Interislander ferry terminal.

With car locked and loaded, the happy travellers wait to drive onto the ferry

Onboard the ferry, though not a day to linger on deck

Once on board we found the lounge bar and staked out our patch. The weather was a bit dubious but fears of a rough crossing were soon dispelled, and later when the announcement was made that pies were being served, yours truly cut a brisk path to the cafe. Mmmm pies.

We didn’t linger in Picton and pressed on to Kaikoura for a coffee stop. The stretch of coast on the way is home to a seal colony and we had to stop maybe three times to watch them for a while. Very cute.

Cute wee fella

Couldn't resist veering off to look at this chap as well

We’ve done the ferry-and-drive-through-to-Queenstown-in-one-day thing before and as well as being a slog, much of the scenery is traversed in darkness which is a waste. So we broke the journey with an overnight stop in Methven, located near the Mt Hutt ski field. From our hotel we walked along to the Blue Pub for dinner (across the road from the Brown Pub).

The Rakaia River near Methven

Saturday morning began with a quick soak in the outdoor hot pools – a tad hot to linger for long, but a novel way to start the day. Yesterday’s cloud had cleared to blue skies and we were treated with our first views of the alps. A breakfast stop in Geraldine may have resulted in pie no.2 of the trip…

Between Methven and Geraldine we got our first view of mountains

Along the way are a couple of stunning lake views. Tekapo is a near-compulsory stop for all travellers even if you’ve seen it all before. The glacier-fed Lake Pukaki creeps up quite suddenly and its gorgeousness is rather distracting. Luckily I wasn’t driving.

Being driven round the bend! In the nicest way, with Lake Pukaki unfolding in front of us

Tarras is a very small community made famous in recent years by Shrek the sheep. It is now a thriving wee hub offering a few shops (including beautiful merino garments) and a small Shrek museum. Not much further on is the Lindis Pass, the boundary between North and Central Otago. We remember it well as last time through there we pulled off to turn the car inside out looking for Mike’s wallet.

In the Lindis Pass. A couple of days later snow descended, lots of it, and closed the road

Lake Wakatipu from outside our hotel

We made it to Queenstown mid-afternoon, hoards of people everywhere. TomTom guided us to the hotel and while checking in I made a shocking discovery.

Before the quakes: one great weekend down south

eatToday a region of the South Island including the city of Christchurch suffered a devastating series of earthquakes, almost six months after a magnitude 7.1 struck. Whereas the first quake was miraculously free from loss of life, the situation this time is very different. The full enormity of the impact of today’s quakes is yet to be realised.

In light of today’s events I wanted to post a few words and pictures about a fantastic long weekend we had down in the Christchurch and Banks Peninsula area three years ago.

Christchurch is the South Island’s largest city and is 45 minutes by air from Wellington. Mike and I flew down and collected a rental car, heading for the inner city to enjoy breakfast at a cafe near the Avon River. We didn’t linger too long but did walk around the Bridge of Remembrance world war memorial – I wonder what the state of that is now.

The first of our two nights away was at Sumner, a seaside suburb about half an hour from central Christchurch. We loved Sumner – nestled above and below high cliffs, it had a lovely village vibe to it with good access to beach and interesting rock formations to walk around. Today those cliffs made Sumner especially vulnerable.

Sumner as seen from the Port Hills

One of the most striking geographical aspects of Christchurch is the Port Hills – the hills between the city and the town of Lyttleton where the South Island’s biggest deep-water port is located. The hills have quite an extensive road network across them and it is really interesting just driving around looking at the landscape and the various features and lookouts.

The following day we headed south into the Banks Peninsula, beginning with a short stop in Lyttleton. One of the roads to Lyttleton goes around the side of the hills with places to stop and look over the port. Today slips came down cutting off that road – as well as the main tunnel route.

Looking out over Port Lyttleton

Lyttleton was the epicenter of today’s quakes. We were really quite taken with it on our visit, it could easily be a fairly rough and ready port servicing town but it had a real charm with its heritage buildings given new life from vibrant shops and cafes. There were also some beautiful houses and gardens if I recall.

The port town of Lyttleton

Our destination for the night was Akaroa, a lovely settlement with British and French origins located in the Akaroa harbour on the southern end of the peninsula. Only 75kms from Christchurch, it is a fantastic drive and we enjoyed it despite our very budget rental car. The superb weather highlighted everything to perfection, particularly once we arrived in Akaroa. A more picturesque and idyllic seaside village you would be hard pressed to find. We have not yet heard how they fared today.

The Akaroa waterfront as seen from our hotel

A little pier in Akaroa

Back in Christchurch the following day and with spare time before our flight, we drove out to the suburb of New Brighton. The big feature here is a 300m pier on an 18km long sandy beach. A wet and grey day it nonetheless was a great way to end our weekend.

Lake Ellesmere in Banks Peninsula, a quick detour off the main road

The New Brighton pier

I’m sure the events of today have changed forever some of what we saw three years ago, making these fond memories all the more special.

A damp stroll on the New Brighton pier

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