Christchurch, New Zealand
With 2 free days in Christchurch we decide to head to the International Antarctic Centre which touts an insight into the frozen continent of Antarctica and NZ ‘s involvement in the research missions. We donned a warm jacket and entered a simulated blizzard which dropped the temp to -14 degrees with a wind-speed of 34 km per hour, and if that didn’t wake us up nothing would. We then visited the rescue penguins which was a little lame before viewing a 4D movie about an ice breaker. I’m sorry but this was also somewhat lame with the predictable squirts of water hitting you face and the chair rocking as the boat struck the ice on screen. We had some tickets for a ride on the impressive Haaglund tracked vehicle which took us over their training track and yes this was fun. The ticket entitled us to as many rides as we wished but we just took the one as it was a little bone jarring bumping over simulated ice ravines.
Next we headed out of town to the Christchurch Gondola at Lyttelton.The brand new Gondola cars whisked us nearly a kilometer to the the Port Hills, a collapsed crater rim of an extinct volcano which exploded six million years ago and now shelter Lyttelton’s sparkling harbor. To the west, the Southern Alps seemed very close in the clear air and to the East, the ocean and the sky stretched as far as we could see. At the complex on the top of the crater we took a ride in the time tunnel which was a rather lame reconstruction of the history of the Port Hills and Christchurch.
On descending from the top we could see our bright green/gold Suzuki shining in the distance and before long we were motoring our way through the suburbs looking for somewhere for lunch. We both noted how pleasant it was to drive through the quiet but very pretty streets. We didn’t spot anywhere for lunch so we entered Rickerton Street into the Navman, this street is supposedly a hot spot for restaurants so we thought it was worth a try. To our surprise it was just around the corner from our hotel so we chose a quaint little establishment that was recommended to us the night before called the Dux Inn. It was somewhat late being 2.30 so all they could offer was a platter and some lovely wine. What a hard life having to work our way through a plate of smoked salmon, muscles, clams and all sorts of yummy things as we sipped on some of the best white wine in the world.
After lunch we wandered across the road into another establishment and Debi tried her hand at some pokies while I sat in in front of a nice log fire with a Bundaberg Rum.
Its our last day in NZ today before heading out on an early flight tomorrow morning. As we head into the city the weather is clearing up which is good news because we are looking forward to a punt ride on the Avon River. The Navman heads us toward the city centre but most of the roads are closed or diverted due to the major work going on following the big earthquake from two years ago. It’s a very sad sight as the car weaves through the empty building blocks and the voice on the Navman continually telling me to turn right at landmarks which are no longer there (whats going on with map updates).
The city seems all but deserted apart for workman buying morning tea at the makeshift cafes.There are certainly plenty of places to park as we pull up on a leveled block in the heart of the city or whats left of it. We search for the Cardboard Cathedral but can’t find it due to lack of landmarks so we head to Rebuilt Square an area populated with retro fitted containers bolted together in all shapes and sizes. It is very interesting to see the determination of the small business owners trying to remake something of the city, however it is also very depressing knowing that many of the big corporates will probably never redevelop in Christchurch due to the cost and future risk.
After grabbing some brunch from one of the quirky containers we get back in the car and head to the Boat Sheds to book a punt ride on the Avon. As we board the sky is as blue as can be, perfect for a half hour punt. We are given a blanket to keep warm and I am told they even supply hot water bottles in winter. The ride was ever so peaceful and picturesque and we are sad to leave, but have decided to head out past the airport to visit the Orana Wildlife Centre. Being the first day of the NZ school holidays there are quite a few families there but we are luck in the fact that none have booked the Lion Encounter so we snap up the last two tickets. This place is an open plains zoo but unfortunately there are no Kiwi Birds in residence so it looks like we will leave the country without seeing one………….not to worry we hope the Lion Encounter will make up for it.
On arriving at the encounter rendezvous point we are given a safety briefing and told that the lions are extra hungry as they haven’t eaten in two days. We are loaded into a big cage on the back of a truck with two keepers and a bucket of meat and then driven into the lion enclosure occupied by 7 hungry beasts. The lions all rush the vehicle wanting to EAT US and one jumps on top of the cage making a hell of a racket as it drools over everybody. The keepers pass small pieced of meat through the mesh which provides plenty of action for about 20 minutes until they drop out some bigger pieces through a chute, at this stage the lions have a big fight and run away with their spoils. This is the que for us to exit the enclosure having just experienced something will probably never get the chance to do again. You have to give it to those crazy Kiwis, we don’t know of anywhere else in the world where they do this.
After visiting a few more enclosures we pick up some supplies, refuel the car and head back to the Sudima Hotel, to check our bags and drop the car off. We intend on having an early night tonight as we need to be at the Airport at 4.00am.