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Monday 18th November – Christchurch

The adventure continues.....

Now in Christchurch, having made the crossing from Wellington to Picton last Friday morning. One of the 2 ferry companies is not operating any of their boats so the spaces to cross are limited. We had hoped to be able to make a day crossing, but the only option available for the next few days was a 2.30am one.

It was SOOOO cold!

The crossing itself was fine, but it was soooo cold on the boat that at one point I'm sure I saw a snowman wrapped up in a duvet jacket shivering in the corner! You could spot the tourists a mile off, they were the ones shivering and trying to get warm in their thin little jackets whilst the locals were wrapped up in sleeping bags and blankets. Brrrr it was a very cold 3 and a half hours.

The South Island is even more scenic than the North Island and the people are just as friendly. There are less people here than 'up north' so the roads are a bit quieter and there are more empty parking spaces in the supermarket car parks which makes parking Howie ('house on wheels' new name) a bit easier. Less people to get grumpy when you take up three spaces.

Howie coped admirably on gravel tracks!

The drive from Picton was interesting to say the least. We took the less well travelled route as intrepid one likes peace and solitude. Unfortunately for us and Howie, the tarmac just stopped and we were faced with going back the same way (about 40km) or carrying on. I am happy to say that Howie coped admirably, it was a rough gravel track and at one point I am sure we were only on 3 wheels as we went round a sharp bend up a steep hill. He is now a 4 x 4 off road house on wheels but we won't tell the hire company about that! The scenery was fantastic, almost every bend we went round another view opened up and we barely saw a soul. We spent the rest of the morning in a place called Robin Hood Bay where we caught up on some sleep and had a large cooked breakfast to celebrate the interesting drive.

We spent 2 nights in Kaikoura, had to be done....it's the whale watching capital of New Zealand and I am a big fan of whale watching. I am not a big fan of boats though and my heart sank when the sea conditions info board at the Whaleway Station (that is what it's called, honestly) said 'sea sickness probable'. Still I'd paid my money to see whales and see whales was what I was going to do. To cut a very long 2 hour 20 minute trip short... we saw a mature male sperm whale, who stayed on the surface for about 10 minutes before obliging us with the most beautiful tail fluke and disappearing beneath the very choppy waters, a very brief glimpse of a humpback whale, a royal albatross, various petrels and other sea birds, the ubiquitous fur seals and spent about 15 minutes being entertained by a pod of about 40 dusky dolphins.

You need sea legs for this journey!

They were an absolute delight, doing all those things that dolphins do, jumping, tail slapping, racing the boat and each other and just generally having fun. I was (predictably) sea sick as were about half of the rest of passengers (there were 18 in total so at least you could throw up with a modicum of dignity) but the boat crew were excellent, as soon as you finished relocating your very light breakfast into 1 sick bag they were there to take it away, hand you a tissue and a new bag. Husband said that by the time we docked the bins at the rear of the boat were full of sick bags. Luverly!!! ! I spent the rest of the day in bed recovering whilst the intrepid one went off for a walk in the rain!

Dusky dolphins having fun

Last night the earth moved for me.........no......not like that. I was woken up at 11.30pm when Howie started to shake. It was an earthquake measuring 4.6 about 10.5 kms to our south west and 8 kms down. It lasted for about 10 seconds and the other half slept straight through it!

We visited Christchurch today; it was rather sad to see a large chunk of what is quite clearly a beautiful little city reduced to rubble, acres of flattened hard-core and buildings propped up with all manner of joists, posts and other engineering solutions. They are using hundreds of 40ft shipping containers to prop the fronts of some of the large 19th century buildings up and the sight of the cathedral half demolished by the quake in early 2011 with the rubble of the steeple piled high was very sad.

The saddest and most poignant thing though was the informal 'memorial' to the 185 people that lost their lives that day. It consisted of 185 white chairs in a sort of square in the middle of what was a building, now a flattened hard-core area. The new transitional cathedral is called the cardboard cathedral and is made out of just that, huge cardboard tubes to support the roof and shipping containers for the body of the church. There is still apparently a debate going on about what the new cathedral will eventually look like.

The new shopping centre is an imaginative array of shipping containers and I have to say it looked rather trendy. There are lots and lots of houses that have had to be abandoned because they are unsafe and the damage to a lot of the lived in houses is still evident. The campsite we stayed on has had it's washroom block and it's cabins declared unsafe and fenced off. The owner is an ex Brit who is very frustrated by the inertia of the council to allow him to re build but after seeing what needs to be done in the city centre. I can sort of see why there is inertia for this small campsite.

Part 3 can be found here.

By Lynda Davey

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