Christchurch, New Zealand
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Pictures: Canterbury Museum | Christchurch | Bridge of Remembrance | Christchurch Cathedral | Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament | Pegasus Bay | Hills above Christchurch | Lunch | Council Building | Avon River | Suffrage Memorial | Traveling South to Queenstown | The 3 rivers | Tin Shed | Sheep Farm | Lake Tekapo | Southern Alps and Mt. Cook | Pukaki Lake | Tasman Glacier
Our wake-up call was for 3:a.m. for a 6:25 a.m. flight from Melbourne to Christchurch. The flight was a little over 3 hours (plus clocks went forward 2 hours). On our way to the Chateau Blanc Suites for our two night stay, we had a short tour of the city. Christchurch is the third-largest city (population 300,000) in New Zealand, after Auckland and Wellington, and the largest on the South Island.
Comments from guide/driver: Population of New Zealand is 4 million. There are 46 million sheep, down from about 70 million. There has been an increase in diary farmers. GNP is 65% from farming, the second is tourism. NZ has about 2 million tourists per year. Most farms are 500-1000 acres.
After getting settled in our room, we were only a few blocks from the arts centre, Cathedral Square and Canterbury Museum, which we visited. We continued to walk around town, finding the Bridge of Remembrance and the Women's Suffrage Memorial, and other buildings.
The hotel had a computer in the lounge area which we could use for free. So we sent e-mails to everyone.
The next day was Sunday and we decided to take a public bus to the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament to hear the choir. We came back to the downtown area on the public bus to meet the rest of the tour at Gems of the Pacific for a presentation on abalone pearls that come from Steward Island to the south. Everyone was presented with a polished abalone shell which was a nice souvenir.
Next was a trip to Pegasus Bay and up the hills that overlook Governor's Bay to a wonderful restaurant called Sign of the Takahe for lunch. It is one of the oldest and most famous restaurants in Christchurch. It is built like a gothic castle with a huge fireplace and fantastic views. Unfortunately, the weather was overcast, so the view suffered. When we returned to town, we went to the newly opened Art Gallery. It was very crowded (on Sunday), but very enjoyable. We walked along the Avon River that snakes through town. There are 42 bridges over the river just in Christchurch. Along the river bank was the provincial council building built in the middle of the 19th century.
That evening we had a snack/wine party in our tour leader's room. We all had huge suite rooms, so we took advantage of the space and had some fun.
The next day we left for a full day of travel to the Southern Alps area. We noticed the tall Pine trees used for windbreaks. Branched are shaved straight by a huge hydraulic cutter every few years. There are also numerous sheep and dear farms in the Canterbury Plains. We cross three rivers on our journey across the plains.
Our first rest stop was at a place called the Tin Shed. They sold many wool and leather items. There were also many animals, almost like a zoo.
Our lunch was at a sheep farm owned by Angie and Stan Turner. Stan showed us how sheep are sheared both manually and with an electric shearer. Stan says he pays $150 per day for sheep to be sheared. A good shearer can do 200 sheep per day. Then he showed off his sheep dogs by having one bring about 10 sheep right up to us. He showed us the whistle he used for the commands, and we all got a whistle to practice. Then we went in the house for lunch. What great hosts and really good food (lamb). The Turner's have 4000 sheep and 200 cattle on 620 acres.
As we approached the Southern Alps through the McKenzie basin, we noticed how barren the area was. We stopped at the Church of the Good Shepard on the shores of Lake Topeka. The sky was overcast with low clouds so never did get a good look at the Alps or Mt. Cook (12,346 feet). We did drive along Lake Pukaki to the base of Mt. Cook and took a short hike to the Tasman Glacier. This glacier is 17 miles long and 5 miles wide, but we only saw the gravel at the base of the glacier and heard a few thunderous land slides.
We stayed overnight in the town of Twizel, just outside the Mt. Cook National Park. We were scheduled for an airplane flight over Mt. Cook, but it was cancelled because of the weather. This was one thing I really wanted to do. Oh Well!
The trip continues on to Queenstown