Saturday, February 12, 2011

Another day in NZ

Yesterday I decided to take a ride on the Gondola, then return to the base of the hill on a mountain bike. The day was quite windy and started out mostly cloudy, but cleared up throughout the day. The top of the Gondola is situated 1500 feet above sea level on the rim of an extinct volcano. From this location one can see the peaks of the Southern Alps, the Canterbury Plains and Lyttelton Harbor. Unfortunately, because of the cloud cover I could not see the Alps. After I completed my walkabout on the crater rim, it was time to meet up with my mountain bike. I decided to take the more scenic route which lead me to Sumner, a coastal town outside of Christchurch. After a short uphill battle, it was all downhill from there. My bike had some gear issues, but I made it work. On my way down I happened to pass a couple of men gutting a cow. I noticed the back of a pickup truck was filled to the brim with innards. It was certainly a graphic scene I had not anticipated. Anyway, after almost being knocked off my bike by the wind, I slowly and carefully made my way down the mountain lest I fall down the edge on my left hand side. There were beautiful views of the beach from the road. Finally, I made it to Sumner and grabbed a small lunch. Afterward I carried on , passing a bay area that seemed to be popular for windsurfers and such. Back at the base of the mountain I met the shuttle that would take me back to Christchurch. Another beautiful day in NZ!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A few days of relaxation in New Zealand

After over 24 hours of travel, I finally made it to Christchurch (a.k.a. ChCh), NZ. Thankfully the travel went smoothly and my luggage arrived unscathed. I was relieved to reach my B&B called the Windsor, a place at which I have stayed several times before. The mascot is this rotund and very cute dachshund, which I was glad to see was still alive, and they have a killer breakfast (this morning I filled myself with poached eggs, sausage, some baked beans and coffee). I was pretty exhausted when I arrived but definitely needed some dinner as I had missed lunch. So, I made my way to a restaurant/brewery called Dux de Lux, which prides itself on the beer and vegetarian/seafood cuisine. The restaurant has an outdoor seating area at which I sat for a few hours just basking in the sun. Then I went back to the B&B and fell asleep at about 7pm NZ time (New Zealand local time is about 18 hours ahead of the east coast, US).

Today I is a truly spectacular day in ChCh. The temperature is 23 degrees Celsius, which is approximately 73 degrees Fahrenheit. The sun is shinning with not a cloud in the sky. I visited and exhibit at the Canterbury museum called "The Heart of the Great Alone," which is a collection of photographs taken by Herbert Pontig and Frank Hurley, who traveled with the explorers Captain Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton, respectively. Pontig accompanied Scott prior to his ill-fated attempt to return from the South Pole. The photographs, all about 100 years old ,were amazing and looked as if they had been taken yesterday. They truly captured the beauty of Antarctica. My trips there are pretty plush compared to what they had to endure, such as getting trapped in ice floes and building shelters in the ice while waiting for rescue. They also had to eat penguin and seal meet just to survive, which isn't very tasty according to the accounts of the explorers. I was humbled by their courage and strength to survive such an extreme and, sometimes, hostile environment. You can read more about the exhibit and both explorers at the following links:

The rest of the day I spent walking around to find coffee beans so that I can make coffee on the ship and buying other odds and ends. While doing so I took a few pictures that I thought captured the beauty of the city. I am also trying to decide what type of activities I want to undertake before it is time to go back to work ;-) I am thinking about
a gondola ride, a mountain bike ride, and a trip to Hamner Springs. We'll see what happens. Also, the Garden Festival starts tomorrow. I will let you know later what that is all about. On a side note, ChCh is the host city of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

The people of New Zealand, at least in my experience are very friendly. The customer service here is outstanding. People are always willing to answer your questions in a non-condescending way. I have traveled the south island extensively and can tell you first hand that it is a beautiful and amazing place. I would recommend NZ as a travel destination to anyone.