Exploring Christchurch and Swimming with Dolphins

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

February 11, Christchurch, Our day was suppose to start with a 9 am city tour but upon having to walk our carcasses off to get to the tour site and being 15 minutes late; we knew we were doomed from the beginning. Being resourceful we decided to skip the tour (that had obviously skipped us) and do our own thing.  We "punted" on the Avon in a gondola, explored the fabulous botanical park with Redwoods over 150 feet and checked out the artsy fartsy Art Center. We literally walked from 8:40 am till 5pm. It was a full day of exploring the JR way. Just ask John and his aching feet! Dinner was at Tutti Benni Italian Restaurant with tiramursu too incredible to describe. This dessert goes on Jean's top 10 list.

February 12, Christchurch, Up at the crack of dawn again to make a 3 hour detour  to the little town of  Akaroa. Why you ask? Besides  being the first British settlement in New Zealand in 1843, it is also home to the rare and smallest dolphins in the world called the Hector dolphin. John and I donned wet suits (Jean had to wear the children’s size) and climbed into our tour boat to locate this endangered breed.  Once we located a 'pod’ of dolphins, our group of 10 swimmers braved the freezing cold water. This water actually comes from Antarctica so believe me it is freezing!  It was fun seeing the dolphins “surf” all around us but after about 20 minutes Jean’s lips started to turn a deep shade of blue and she had to get out of the water. All in all, it was a fun experience and one we will always remember. Before we left town Jean insisted on a visit to the Giants Garden. This is a place that an eccentric blue haired woman in her sixties has created from mosaic tiles. It can only be described as over the top as some of the photos show.

After our visit in Akaroa we headed for our original destination of Dunedin, the second to last town in the South Island and originally settled by the Scottish. After 5 long house of driving the “bitch in the box”, as we affectionately call our GPS system, got us to our B&B. It is a beautiful mansion from the 1800s with Joslyn our capable hostess and chef. Just staying in this beautiful home makes me think the 8 hours we have driven today was worthwhile.

February 13, Dunedin, Another tour and both John and I are cringing. We are both tired of being on someone else’s schedule and being  herded into another bus. Luckily for us though this tour was different. Yes, there was the usual city bus that picked us up at our door but when we got on we saw there was only one other couple besides us. So much for saving gas and helping the environment but in this mammoth vehicle we had plenty of room to spread out. This tour took us to the Larnach Castle, built by a 19th century investor  for his first wife. She unfortunately died and his third wife ended up having an affair with his son and Mr. Larnach committed suicide. A very sad tale with ghosts now inhabiting the castle.

Next we visited the Reid family farm, with the owner, Perry Reid, being our guide. He chauffeured  us in an all terrain vehicle, over “ruff” and muddy ground. On his private property he has his own colony of seals, endangered yellow eyed penguins and blue penguins. To say he was very enthusiastic about his “guardianship” is an understatement. He was even awarded a metal by the  He said that National Geographic had been filming  there for over a year.
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