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Day 23: Goodbye Christchurch and New Zealand

This was our last day in New Zealand. Three weeks driving from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island and ending in Christchurch. We bought some presents for others and a couple of mementoes for our home.

Christchurch put on a sunnier day than the last two, so we got some better photos of the Cathedral area.



The Cathedral

A damaged building

A propped-up, earthquake-damaged building

Avon River

Punting on the Avon River, Christchurch

We had to top up the Europcar rental car, which came to NZ$81.04 and dropped it off at the Christchurch domestic airport.

The domestic flight to Wellington (NZ 5034)  was on a two-propeller ATR 72. Such planes fly at a lower ceiling than the jets, so you get a better view of the ground. We saw some of the Southern Alps but not much snow. We saw Kaikoura and Blenheim along the route.



The Canterbury Plains north of Christchurch


The remaining snow on the Southern Alps north of Christchurch


Houghton Bay, just prior to landing in WLG.

Landing at Rongotai Airport, Wellington

Landing at Rongotai Airport, Wellington

We had a quick refreshment in the Koru Club lounge at Rongotai airport prior to catching NZ 853, an Airbus A320. This was not as big or comfortable as the Boeing 777 we flew in to Auckland on Christmas Eve, but our ticket included a meal, while other passengers had to pay for theirs.

There ends this three-week blog. If anyone has any questions, please use the contact form.

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Day 22: Akaroa

We stopped for morning tea at Little River, which is also the name of a town near our home in Victoria. Approaching Akaroa, we passed French names such as Duvauchelle and signs to French Farm and Le Bons Bay.

Akaroa is every bit as pretty as Paihia and Russell, if not prettier. If you can’t get to the top end of NZ, then you must at least visit Akaroa. The abundance of French flags, Rues (streets) and tall, volcanic peaks might make you think you have been transported to French Polynesia, but thankfully the people there don’t speak with a French accent or speak French.



Is this Akaroa, NZ, or Bora Bora?


Akaroa harbour


This is Akaroa, not Paihia


A beautiful Pohutukawa tree in full bloom

We had lunch at Bully Hayes. This is what we ate:


Bully Hayes bill

Bully Hayes bill

Ash had a light beer but it showed up as something else on the bill.

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Day 21: Christchurch minus any earthquakes

We stayed with Lesley’s friend Carol in Woolston  for three nights, so no more motel reviews on this trip.

Much of the city centre shows evidence of the recent earthquakes that began on 6 September. The Cathedral was only slightly damaged and its cross was taken down for repairs following the smaller quake on Boxing Day 2010. Some buildings have been demolished and removed, while others are cordoned off and remain inaccessible.


Earthquake damage

Earthquake damage in Cathedral Square


Christchurch Cathedral

Christchurch Cathedral without its cross.

The Wizard wasn’t visible (he is getting on and makes fewer appearances these days) and we didn’t climb the cathedral as it is no longer the tallest building in the city and the view isn’t all that great.


Ferrymead Heritage Park has a lot of old technology on display, but it was practically deserted on this weekday, probably because the steam trains and trams were not working.


Old tram

Old Brighton tram at Ferrymead Heritage Park

Christchurch Gondola

You might not know that Christchurch has a gondola that takes you much higher than the one in Queenstown. You are transported to the peak of Mt Cavendish, which is 500m above sea level. The hardy folks can hike up to it or from it. There is a short and rather unspectacular Time Tunnel ride at the top but it’s included in the cost, so you could say this is another bonus that you can’t get in Queenstown.


View from the Christchurch gondola

View from the Christchurch gondola



Lyttelton from Mt Cavendish


Brighton Spit

Brighton Spit and Pegasus Bay from Mt Cavendish

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Day 20: Moeraki Boulders to Christchurch

We filled up with petrol – lost the receipt but it was about NZ$100 – and stopped briefly to take a look at the steepest street in the world – Baldwin Street. We didn’t attempt to climb it as there is nowhere to turn, except in someone’s driveway. Other cars didn’t mind doing that.


Baldwin St

Baldwin St, Dunedin

Moeraki Boulders

The Google Map for Moeraki Boulders is out of date. Someone has plonked a cafe/gift shop and built a walkway down to the beach (a sign asks for a donation if you don’t buy at the shop). There is a motel and a deer farm as well.

Nobody can explain how these near-spherical boulders have appeared in this spot. Some look as though the stone fragments have been cemented together. When we lived in Dunedin, one house had a tiny Moeraki boulder in their George Street front garden.


Moeraki Boulders

Moeraki Boulders, near Oamaru

red hot pokers

Some "red hot pokers" near Moeraki Boulders

We had lunch in Oamaru and then drove past Timaru, Temuka, Ashburton and reached Christchurch around 4 pm. It’s about a 4 hour journey if you don’t stop, but most people do it in about 6 hours.

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Day 19: Dunedin revisited

We met in Dunedin in 1979, where we were working at the time, so this was like a second homecoming, particularly for Ash who had lived here for five years. Ash went to Otago University and all his classmates also went back to their home cities or countries after graduation. He was an active radio amateur (ZL4LM) then, but most of his ham friends have passed on (become silent keys) or moved north, except for Stewart ZL4TH. Lesley barely remembers anyone she knew in Dunedin, so it feels odd to not have a lot of friends to look up in a familiar city. (more…)


Day 18: Bottom of NZ – Bluff

On Monday we were hoping to go to Milford Sound and Te Anau before reaching Bluff, but it would have taken us at least 12 hours of driving to reach Dunedin. The fuel tank was nearly empty, so it took 53.19 litres at a cost of NZ$105.26.

The skies were cloudy and it rained a little, so we drove straight to Bluff, the southernmost point of the South Island. This isn’t the end of our trip but is the farthest point from Cape Reinga at the very top of the North Island. (more…)


Day 17: Skipper’s Canyon and Shotover River Jetboats

On Sunday, we decided to take a combined Skipper’s Canyon tour and jetboat ride. Before doing that we took a gondola ride to the Skyline observation deck and spent an hour admiring the views, watching paragliders and luge riders.

Queenstown from a gondola

Queenstown from a gondola

We then went to the Kiwi Birdlife Park where we saw kiwis, tuataras, keas and a dozen other native NZ birds and reptiles.


A tuatara

A tuatara

A kea

A kea

We were picked up at our hotel and there was just one other person, so it was as good as a personalised tour. The unsealed Skipper’s Canyon road is mostly a single lane in width and a long drop to the Shotover River below, so you shouldn’t attempt it in your own car. Rental cars are not allowed on it. (more…)


Day 16: Hokitika, Wanaka, Hawea to Queenstown

We checked out of the Beachside Motel at 9 am and grabbed some breakfast in the main street near the clock tower. Hokitika is where most of NZ’s greenstone is mined and sculpted into jewellery and other objets d’art. We visited a large showroom and bought some presents for friends.

The car needed petrol and took $99.59 worth at the BP station. (more…)


Day 15: Lake Rotoiti, GPS troubles and Punakaiki Rocks

Our destination today was Hokitika, on the West Coast of the South Island.

After picking up the new rental car (a 2009 Ford Falcon XR6) we drove past wine country for a while. The Marlborough region is home to several great grapes and wineries.

Lake Rotoiti

The Nelson Lakes National Park near St Arnaud is home to Lake Rotoiti, not to be confused with its namesake near Rotorua in the North Island. We stopped for a rest and watched families having a great time on the water. The photo below doesn’t do justice to the beauty of this spot.

Lake Rotoiti

Lake Rotoiti in the South Island

GPS issue

We set the Garmin 1390T GPS to take us to Punakaiki Rocks. It didn’t know this well-known attraction, so we selected a petrol station in Punakaiki on State Highway 6. However, as the destination got closer, the GPS was telling us to turn left towards Reefton when a road sign told us to turn right. We trusted the sign and turned right.