We got here on Wednesday afternoon, and picked up our rental car. We'd picked a small local company that was a good bit cheaper than the big guns, but that's reflected in the car - it's an old Nissan Sunny, fairly worn with 110,000 km on the clock! Very clunky, but has a good CD player, and air con. Seems to run well so far !
Up and out on Thursday and drove out of town to the bottom of Mt Cavendish Gondola in the Port Hills
. These are the hills to the south of Christchurch - very picturesque. Instead of taking the gondola up the hill, we took the Bridle Path Walk, a slow but steady climb to the Summit Road, with great views over the city as you get higher. At the top you get fantastic views over Lyttelton Harbour. This path used to be the route people would carry goods from the ships at Lyttelton Harbour to the city. The harbour is the crater from the Lyttelton Volcano, and the water is the harbour is an amazing shade of blue. We continued along the Crater Rim Walk, out to a viewpoint over the harbour, and then along to The Tors, then all the way back down again. At the viewpoint we met Darleen and Jack from Vancouver Island in Canada, and spent a while chatting to them. We'll be in Te Anau at the same time as them, staying in the same hostel, so we'll probably meet up again! The walk today was great - wonderful views, and a good bit of exercise after our days of inactivity in Brisbane.
On Friday, we did another part of the Crater Rim Walk, this time starting at The Sign of the Kiwi, where the Summit Road starts. Although part of the same walk as yesterday, this walk was completely different. It starts by climbing up Sugarloaf Hill - there are a number of options - we chose the higher path that takes you around the rocky outcrop at the top, once again with stunning views. This hill is a good landmark as it has a huge communications transmitter on top
. The path the met up with Summit Road, and through the woods at Scott Reserve. This contains some really strange conifers with feathery looking "leaves" - very interesting, and a welcome shade from the sun. We took the wrong track at the next part - instead of climbing to the top of Mt Vernon, we followed the mountain bike trail which took us around the hill instead. This took us round to Rapaki Rock, which is apparently really popular for rock climbing. In fact there were a number of climbers there when we were there. We had lunch sitting in the grass here, basking in the sun! There is a really popular mountain bike track arrives here from the valley below - we saw quite a few bikers - I've no idea how they managed to grind their way up such a long slope! After lunch our route took us around Witch Hill, at which point we turned around to more or less retrace our steps back to the start, except this time we climbed up Mt Vernon, which was a bit of a slog in the heat! At the last part we took a different track back to The Sign of the Kiwi. It's all very civilised here, as there is a toilet and a cafe at the end. The cafe sells superb coffee, and really tasty Ginger Crunch cake - a great way to end the walk!
We decided to take a drive along Summit Road, which is a windy road with stunning views in all directions. Very difficult to drive along and keep you eyes on the road! At least the roads were very quiet
Suitably knackered and bright red from the sun (oops!), we'd earned our next set of real ale samples in the pub next door! As I said at the start, the food's great, and we've yet to find a bad beer - we've tried their lager, some bitters, a couple of really dark beers (Pot, Kettle, Black was one, and Pitch Black was the other), and even an elderflower cider, which was really interesting. Before you get the idea we're alkies, several of these were small 1/4 pint samples, honest!!
We're loving New Zealand so far - great outdoor life, and really friendly people.
Well, we decided to try and keep the blog up to date, and fill in the gaps as we've got time (i.e. Australia !). Christchurch has been superb the last few days. The weather has been a bit overcast in the morning, then hot and sunny thereafter. It's a great place. Although it's a city and reasonably sprawling, it's quite quiet and laid back. The River Avon winds its way through the city and there is a lovely walk alongside the river. The B&B is great, and the beer and the food in the pub next door is fantastic! The prices here are also much more reasonable than Oz, which we found really expensive.