Monday, March 03, 2008

Logbook: Christchurch

Christchurch1I drove out to the rural suburbs of Christchurch on Saturday to meet Betty at the home of her cousin Tim and his wife Jill who very graciously offered to be our hosts for the long weekend. In addition to enjoying their excellent and generous hospitality -- including some mighty fine dining and intelligent conversation! -- Betty and I did do some exploration in the area. Our first stop on Sunday was the International Antarctic Center which -- in accord with what I am going to call "the formula" -- was interesting and worth visiting, but not quite as great as the brochures made it seem. The highly acclaimed "Blue Penguin" exhibit, for example, was a small pool with a half-dozen or so animals, many of whom were victims of some kind of physical handicap like missing feet, broken wings, etc. Nonetheless, it was a chance to see another species of penguin and add it to my growing list of acquaintances. We also went into the city center where I made Betty have her obligatory photo taken at the famous statue of "Scott of the Antarctic" and where we were treated to the cacophony of a bagpipe festival -- yet another example of NZ's historic link to Scotland. On the way back to the farm we stopped at the aviation museum which somewhat exceeded "the formula" in overall quality and value.

Christchurch2Yesterday we headed into town where Betty toured the local art museums while I found a place to go online, a process that once again put me face to face with the country's idiosyncratic approach to the internet. One place had wi-fi but had run out of voucher cards, another had voucher cards but not a working connection and still another had hi-speed access but no facility for laptops. I was finally able to connect at a quirky little place at the rate of $1 per 20 minute unit and a limit of 30 megs download per unit, sufficient for my needs but not exactly a bonanza. Betty and I reunited in time for a late lunch then made our way to the city's famous gondola for a ride to the top of a nearby mount. Although "the formula" applied to the ride and facilities, we had a decent cup of coffee while enjoying a pretty good view of lovely Lytleton harbor. We ended the day with a fine BBQ dinner back at Tim's and Jill's farm and final night of their much appreciated hospitality.

We got going at a leisurely pace this morning and made a stop at a wildlife preserve where we were able to see actual New Zealand Kiwis! These flightless, nocturnal birds with impossibly long beaks are proof of what only evolution can produce. From there we headed to the coast and arrived in the charming town of Akaroa which has as its gimmick a French motif, including French street names. Nestled into one of many beautiful bays produced by volcanic eruptions over the eons, we plan to explore here for a couple of days. Stay tuned!

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