New Zealand - Canterbury region

Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
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Monday, December 18, 2006

The district surrounding Christchurch is known as the Canterbury Region and has a number of top attractions both north and south of the main city. With a couple of days remaining in Christchurch, there were a couple of key highlights that we wanted to try to get to before we left the Region.

The first of these attractions that we visited was the town of Akaroa (touted as the French Riviera of New Zealand), 1.5 hours from Christchurch. The main reason for visitors to make the journey out to this small coastal town buried deep into the Banks Peninsula is for the boat trips, we followed suit and booked one before we set out for the day.

Upon reaching Akaroa we took a wander around the town, taking in the picturesque pier, the not-so-picturesque photo frame, and the war memorial all within a 2-minute walk from one another (PICS).

Boarding the boat we cruised out of the harbour (PIC) - an ancient flooded volcanic crater, which breached into the ocean with the last eruption, and rounded the border of the original crater walls. As soon as we were out into the rougher water we came across a blowhole (PIC) and then sailed into a cove with towering walls surrounding the boat. Hundreds of cormorants perched on the ledges around the cove in what was the safest and most sheltered area in the harbour (PIC). Below the cormorants lay an are used by little blue penguins to roost in the evenings in between their hunting trips - we spotted one left at home but he blended in so well to the rocks that no photograph showed it clearly.

Gliding past 'Palm Valley' (apparently the only place in the world where these particular palms grow (PIC)) we moved out into the exposed ocean and the waves increased in size. Soon we turned into another cove and pulled up alongside a patch of rocks where a number of fur seals were basking in the afternoon sunlight (PICS). The pups stayed far back and looked a bit reticent but one or two of the adult seals were complete attention seekers and swam right up to the boat, constantly checking to see if their audience were still looking (PIC).

Immediately after leaving the playful seals Andrew spotted the star attraction of the Akaroa boat trip - the Hector Dolphin. This harbour is one of the few areas in New Zealand that these small, rare dolphins can be seen - and New Zealand is the only country in the world that they can be seen! At first we only saw one or two dolphins from a distance but they soon came in close to the boat in large pods of around 8 dolphins - we were apparently very lucky to see this (PICS).

A couple of dolphins followed us back into the harbour as we returned to the mainland - the size was the most surprising thing about them, similar to the regular dolphin pups we had seen in Bunbury. They also had much more rounded dorsal fin than a normal dolphin, giving them a softer appearance.



Our second trip into the Canterbury region was northwards to Kaikoura - 2.5 hours drive from Christchurch, along slightly more drivable roads than the route to Akaroa. We had booked onto a whale watching boat trip (the main reason for Kaikoura's popularity) at 1:15pm and by the time we arrived in Kaikoura we had to check in. We soon found out that the sea outside Kaikoura was very choppy; earlier boats trips that day had been issued with a severe seasickness warning, and as a result all trips between noon and 3 o'clock were cancelled. We booked onto the 4pm trip and crossed our fingers that it would go ahead.

This meant we had around 4 hours to kill so we attempted to get our brakes replaced at one of the surrounding garages. After trawling round them we found one that was able to fit us in - only to then find out that he did not have the correct parts. In the process of inspecting our car he also noticed that our radiator was split radiator and needed replacing as well.

A $40 charge later we found ourselves requiring new brake pads and a radiator - and no time to get them fixed if we wanted to stick to our plan of leaving Christchurch the next day! After lunch we discovered that the rest of the boat trips that day had also been cancelled and we had no alternative but to head off back to Christchurch, all in all a completely wasted day.... brilliant!

Back in the 'big' city we took advantage of the cheap cinema Tuesday and watched 'Casino Royale' - a great movie and Daniel Craig impressed both of us with his rendition of the worlds most famous spy. We particularly liked the 'Free-running' scenes at the beginning of the movie - superb!


Unfortunately we had to spend the following day in Christchurch getting the car fixed. After some hassle, negotiation and stubbornness (and that was just from Verdi) we managed to get the brake pads and radiator fitted for free - and the garage also paid for the radiator! Our luck wasn't quite as bad as we thought.
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