arrived in Christchurch (pop. 300,000) in late December and decided to hunker
down there for a while, since I was getting tired of fighting the crowds everywhere.
As I've learned, New Zealand gets pretty darn crowded during the summer school
holiday period -- the six weeks between mid-December and the end of
January. The two weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year's is the
super-peak period when it seems that everyone in the country "goes on
holiday" including the penguins, so I figured it would be smart to lay low until after New Year's.
driving around Christchurch for an hour, I found a nice motel called The Academy right across the
street from the University of
Canterbury, one of the largest universities in New Zealand. In fact, I liked
my room at The Academy so much that I stayed for eight nights.
It was a one-bedroom unit on the top floor with a full kitchen and, with
a tuition of US$38 a night, cost about half as much as it would in the U.S. so I was quite
Plus, this being a New Zealand motel, I got a free newspaper
and bottle of milk each morning -- what more could you ask for?
is the second-largest city in New Zealand and, as I mentioned in my last entry,
is a very “English” city. During
my eight days in Christchurch, I updated
my website, worked on my photos, sent
several e-mails, walked
around the city, listened to the Oregon-Colorado football game via the
New Year's Eve
I did all this in between the showers
and thunderstorms, but at least it was warm and I could wear shorts each
the nearby port cities of Akaroa and Lyttleton
a gondola to the top of a mountain for a spectacular view, watched
a cricket match, and generally had a good time.
The cricket match was especially interesting and I had a nice chat
there with an elderly gentleman. As we sat on the grassy outfield, he explained
some of the finer points of the game to me. It's still a strange game with
all the "wickets," "overs" and "silly mid ons,"
but at least I understand it now. Sort of.
the drippy weather, I thought Christchurch was a pretty city with a lot of interesting
things in and around it, including a great botanical garden.
I’m not much into gardens but this one is terrific.
The Avon River meanders through the garden and “Punting on the Avon”
is a popular, if perhaps a bit pretentious, activity.
"Punting" doesn't have anything to do with football, but rather
it's like riding a gondola in Venice, except… well… they’re
punts. Another difference is that
the “punters” or whatever they’re called ("puntsmen"?) wear white clothes and white
hats and, of course, speak English… though with a Kiwi accent.
Remember what I said about the accent: “weast” is west and “dee-cade” is decade.
You can guess what “seeks” is.
also a great museum near the botanical garden that has an interesting exhibit on the
Antarctic expeditions of the early 1900’s, since Christchurch was the
jumping-off point for most early Antarctic expeditions.
Christchurch continues to be the world’s main link to Antarctica and
has more exhibits and museums devoted to Antarctica than any other city in the
world. This is where the Norwegian
Roald Amundsen and the Englishman Robert Scott left from in 1911 on their race
to the South Pole. Amundsen, using
sled dogs, got to the South Pole first, while Scott and his three companions
arrived a month later, found a note from Amundsen, then froze to death during a despairing
trudge back to their ship.
left: The city tram in
center: Punting on the Avon River
through the Botanical Gardens.
right: The Christchurch Art Museum.
left: Girls just wanna have fun.
center: This Sno-Cat was used in
Antarctica many years ago. Now it's in the Canterbury Museum in
right: Out on the Banks Peninsula east of town. This is the
beautiful Akaroa Bay.
left: Lyttleton (pronounced "Littleton")
is the port city for Christchurch. It's a pretty gritty town by NZ
center: A drydock in Lyttleton
Harbor. This harbor has been the starting point for expeditions to
Antarctica for over a hundred years.
right: The Rat & Roach -- one place where I didn't eat.
left: Riding on the gondola to the top
of the Port Hills, which separate inland Christchurch (in the background) from
Lyttleton Harbor. I had a great time riding up to the top and enjoyed the
360-degree view here.
center: The Lyttleton Harbor from
right: There's also a little museum in the building at the top.
Here's Captain James Cook, the first European to explore New Zealand. Cook
discovered Hawaii, among other places... and was killed there in 1779.
Travels (2001-02) >
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Taking Refuge in Christchurch