Friday, October 17, 2008

New Zealand: More British Than Great Britain

Well, I'm getting as tired in writing this blog as I was traveling for 16 days, so I'm gonna make this quickish.

We traveled over the mountains from Greymouth to Christchurch. It was a lovely drive, with sightseeing, of course. We had an interesting stop at a High Range Sheep Station. Here, we got to see the dogs working the sheep, and they were awfully nice and friendly dogs. We learned about the wool industry, and it was great to know that this was a real working station. We had lunch there, which was excellent. Lamb curry, soup, bread, chicken, and a traditionally prepared pavlova...a sort of meringue cake with cream and Kiwi fruit slices. Very tasty.

We then finished the drive to Christchurch, checked into our hotel, and had a little time to get oriented. Christchurch was the first big city we'd seen since Auckland, and it's definitely the "more British than Great Britain" city of New Zealand. The whole place, which is named for the Anglican cathedral built there, just radiated Britishness, right down to the Avon River and the red phone booths. We ate dinner at a pub called The Bog. Excellent food! I had a steak on garlic toast that was absolutely delicious. We also tried the local cider. Good, good stuff. We tried to enter a trivia contest, but we were handicapped by being unfamiliar with a lot of New Zealand things. We eventually went off to bed.

The next day, we headed to Akaroa Harbor. We visited a place called The Giant's House. This mosaic garden has got to be seen to be believed. The artist, Josie, is fascinating and eccentric. We would've stayed all day, but we had to move on. We had lunch at the Akaroa Fish Market (delicious fried things!) and then on to our harbor cruise. I wasn't in much of a swimming mood, so I took the normal cruise. The Other Half and the Otter tried to swim with dolphins. Sadly, the closest they came was seeing dolphins, but, when they got in the water, the dolphins fled the scene. I saw the dolphins too, as well as white-flippered penguins.

We were going to go out for Thai food with the group the next day, but we decided to bail on them. Instead, we got delivery from...Hell Pizza! I got to try some, and it was excellent, excellent pizza. If you like pizza and end up in New Zealand, make sure you try it!

The next day, we were largely on our own, so we explored Christchurch, including major souvenir shopping. Ironically, we ended up eating lunch at Anna's Thai, the same Thai place our group had eaten at the night before. Excellent curries!

That night, we visited the fascinating Antarctic Center, the place that many Antarctic groups depart from. We learned much about the southern most continent, including seeing incredible photos. We also got to know the Little Blue Penguin, the smallest and rarest penguin species. We got to hang out in the snow room, which allegedly simulates an Antarctic storm. The Bear Squad shrugged. We'd had much, much worse back in Boston.

We had our final dinner at the Center, and we were sorry to leave New Zealand. All in all, it was the most adventurous, exhausting, fantastic trip I've ever taken. I came back wanting to go again, right away. That's a good sign for a vacation destination. I believe we will return, look up our old tour guides, and go have a great time all over again, because there were so many more things we could've done with just a few more days. Next time, we'll come back as "experts", possibly leading friends around to show them the beauty and awesomeness of the place. Suffice to say, I can't wait to say Kia ora to New Zealand again.

- The Happy Bear

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