New Zealand

February 19th 2019
Published: February 19th 2019
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New Zealand 13th February
Twenty hours of flying with a three hour stopover at Singapore, threw us disorientated and exhausted into Christchurch Airport on South Island. Two nights seemingly passed with minimum sleep and maximum film watching. Apparently on the way back the same length of journey will take place all on one day.
After queueing for bio-security checks, and waiting for hire car pick up, we arrived on the West side of Hagley Park, a short distance from the centre of town.
Ravaged by an earthquake 8 years ago the city is being rebuilt. Meanwhile an A-frame cardboard cathedral is being used while pigeons roost on the rafters of the beautiful stone Victorian original.
In a day and a half we visited the Botanical gardens, the Quake museum, the art gallery and library and had a delightful guided tour in a tram. Saturday night there was a concert in the park, followed by fireworks. The first morning by the River Avon (Christchurch is littered with English place names) I was accosted by two friends who live in my street, the other side of the world!
I'd heard that New Zealand was like England and so it is, like the best of English countryside but calmer, quieter, less populated, more friendly and with better coffee.
Leaving Christchurch we drove south and west along the scenic inland route of the Southern Alps, past lakes and rivers with snow - capped mountains in the distance, arriving south of Omarama on a sheep station. An evening meal ordered with the farmers wife gave us roast lamb and vegetables all from the farm, and a view over the valley to the hills beyond.
To Dunedin - Monday 18th February we drove east and south, stopping at the Moeraki Boulders, spherical huge boulders made by concretion of calcium and minerals and other wonderful geological processes started 60 million years ago. Then on to Dunedin, first stop a cemetery for part of the reason for this trip. My friend Jane wanted to meet some long lost relatives, and visit the grave of an unknown uncle, and her partner Trevor and I came along for the ride. After finding the grave in an orderly soldiers’ section of the cemetery we went into Dunedin and met a researcher who had been helping Jane with her research. Appropriately enough we met her at the Settlers Museum, and she then took us on a car trip round the city. It's beautiful, on the coast, with a long natural harbour, and built on rolling hills, topped by woods and a botanical garden. The terrain, and the style of housing reminded me of San Francisco, and being a university city has a similar vibrancy. We ate out on the peninsula, watching the surfers on St Clair beach. Dunedin was first settled by Presbyterians from Edinburgh (‘dun’ and ‘burgh’ both mean ‘town’). Apparently the only negative thing about Dunedin is the weather, and we were lucky enough to see it in warm sunshine.
Tuesday we set off westwards right across the southern part of South Island to Manapouri in Fiordland, where we have finally come across rain.
Driving is easy and relaxed, few cars, plenty of campervans, everyone polite and adhering to speed limits.


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