Sunday, March 09, 2008

Logbook: Tourist Trifecta

About 12 million years ago a series of volcanic eruptions just off the coast of New Zealand's south island formed a convoluted land mass which became connected to the mainland over the eons and is now known as the Banks Peninsula. It is an impossibly beautiful area which Betty and I visited for a couple of days in the middle of the week, doing a good mix of sightseeing, fine dining and relaxing. Betty took advantage of a few of the many tourist attractions -- including a harbor cruise and a scenic driving tour with the rural delivery service -- while I was more keen to wander around town to really get a feel for the place. I can report that the Peninsula's proximity to Christchurch makes it both a popular place for people to have holiday homes and for tourists to visit on short layovers in the area. As a result, the full-time population of about 700 swells to something like 7,000 in the summer and the parade of buses that arrive on a daily basis is amazing. If you are ever in the Christchurch area, a trip to Akaroa is worth it for the views alone -- though I somewhat ironically neglected to take a single picture of them while I was there! -- but be aware that you may be put off by the crowds and "touristy" feeling of the place.

Touristtrifecta1On Friday we drove back through Christchurch and northwest to the town of Hamner Springs -- famous for its thermal baths -- as our home for the weekend. Although neither of us turns out to be a fan of public baths, the area is very peaceful and visually stunning, making it a fine -- though pretty touristy -- place to spend a couple of days. In addition to our rapidly evolving pattern of dining and relaxing, we took a jet boat ride on the river in nearby "Thrill Seekers Canyon" which was fun, though surprisingly brief for the cost and typically not quite as good as advertised. I took a nice, long-ish walk this afternoon on a woodland trail that worked its way up into the nearby hills but failed to offer any particularly good views of the surrounding area. So, it was a nice "walk in the woods" but nothing great. I'm aware that my reviews of recent exploration have been lukewarm, but I think they have been fair and objective. New Zealand is a beautiful, friendly and easy to travel place, but I'm not convinced it lives up to its international hype.

Then again, it is possible that I've been in a kind of "tourist trifecta" -- Christchurch - Akaroa - Hanmer Springs -- for ten days and am writing from the perspective of someone who is a traveler and not a tourist. In fact, it is probably true that The Voyage has made me a good traveler and a poor tourist. We are heading west in the morning, over the mountains and out onto the coast. I'm confident that the scenery will be at least as stunning and hopeful that the "tourist factor" will be a little less. Stay tuned!

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