Back to Christchurch :)

After a really quiet time in Wellington it was time to head south one more time and go back to spend some more time with Charlotte 🙂 Me being me, of course I didn’t take the easy option of just flying there – instead I used all other means of transport!

Starting with what was one of the first buses of the day to leave the Airbnb, it was then on to the shuttle bus for the Interislander ferry. I had checked out the stop the day before so that I would know where to go and when. Once we got to the ferry terminal, we checked in our bags and I learned that because my ferry ticket was part of my train booking I would not have to worry about my bag until we got to Christchurch that evening. Nnnnnice! 🙂

The ferry journey was rather uneventful as for once it was not windy and the sea was very calm that day. Once we got to Picton, it was very easy to find the train station – a) Picton is rather small and b) there was a yellow line on the sidewalk 😛 At the train station, it was again very easy to check in and get the train ticket for the Coastal Pacific. Unfortunately there was no chance of choosing your seat, but as it was a scenic train, it had huge windows anyway and a viewing car which was all open.

The Coastal Pacific does what the name suggests – it travels down right by the coast before heading inland to Christchurch. There are headphones and a commentary on every seat and the above-mentioned huge windows. Also, the most leg space I ever had 😀 There’s also a cafe car. The viewing car was at the front of the train, imagine a normal train car, just with the windows and walls between the windows taken out. That would be my downfall later…

From traveling the same stretch twice on the bus, I had a quite good idea of when it was worth going to the viewing car for good pictures. What I didn’t think of was that the train was going at some speed and that it would be very windy there… So I took a lot of pictures along the coast towards Kaikoura, but after that I had to stay inside because my eyes were majorly irritated. A mix of the wind and a bout of hay fever (usually that doesn’t bother me in December 😛 ) made for a rather painful experience until everything finally calmed down. (Pictures to be added to the post and flickr at a later date!)

We came into Christchurch about half an hour late, but Charlotte was sitting in the waiting area and once I had my bag, we got to the car and she drove us home. There had been some changes since I was there last: She had taken in a little dog called Tui, a Bichon-poodle mix, but Tui had somehow scared off the black cat, Monti. He seems to still come eat in the garage at night, but hasn’t been seen since 😦 Marmi in turn seems quite happy to be the only cat now 😉 Both were very much happy to be cuddled and petted as much as I would want and Tui really showed her cleverness on more than one occasion 🙂

We had some dinner and then an early night – a full day of traveling is quite tiring 😉 The next day we took little Tui for a walk in a lovely dog park, Halswell Quarry, where she could run off leash and get lots of sniffing done 🙂 Diana was also with us that day, but later decided she wasn’t going to join us the next day.

So it was just the two of us heading towards Waipara, a part of the Marlborough wine region. Charlotte took me to the Pegasus Bay Winery, first for a small wine tasting (mmh, Pinot Noir!) and then for a lovely lunch! We shared a platter with all sorts of yummy things which left us pretty full and happy 🙂 Sitting outside in the sunshine, sheltered from the wind by a hedge, it was just a perfect day!

The next day I walked into the city and back – that hadn’t been the plan, but obviously my body wanted the movement! On Saturday, Charlotte had invited two of her friends for a roast dinner and we spent a wonderful evening together. Funny fact: As the ladies are of a certain age and the country itself not very old, they would know all the family connections in the area and know who married a daughter/son of whom and so on. I had no clue, but it was fun to listen to it 🙂

Of course the food was amazing and seeing what she could do in the time, it was even more amazing. I thought we’d have fresh berries with cream for dessert – the next thing I see when I get to the kitchen is Charlotte making a “little creme brulee” 😉 For starters we had crackers with cream cheese and salmon and the main course was a leg of lamb, complete with mince jelly, new potatoes, kumara, asparagus and carrots. So good that I didn’t even take a picture 😛

The day after it was time to say goodbye again and now I am in Auckland, my last night in New Zealand. It will be Sydney and then Melbourne and next week the walkabout will be over for this year – crazy!!!

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A lot of fun – and long bus rides

Leaving Mt Cook, I got on the bus with Lantern, my fave driver so far! Back in the Loveshack we went to Lake Tekapo for the famous church and then on to Geraldine and Rangitata for the Peel Forest Horsetrekking and the rafting. Guess what I chose? Exactly, the horses! Once again I was the only one, but Freya, the German girl leading the trek and me had a great time 🙂 We went through forest, water, fields and more forest for about 2 hours in perfect sunshine!

When I got dropped off at the accommodation afterwards, it was the first time I saw triple dorm beds! Those were high, but thankfully no one had to actually sleep in the top bunks 🙂 When the rafters came back, they got their BBQ and afterwards we could get ours too, my first steak in NZ and it was all so good – might be because we were really hungry at that point 😉 After that, we went inside where a fire was warming us up and we had a rather drunk, but very fun game of Monopoly 😉 It got cut short though because we were getting up really early the next day – the Rugby World Cup final was on at 5 a.m. between the All Blacks and the Wallabies (for non-rugby speakers: between New Zealand and Australia).

So we did get up just in time for the haka and the game, which was really tight for a long time, but the All Blacks did it in the end 🙂 Breakfast was during the game as we were leaving right after it to make it to Christchurch in time for the pick-ups and drop-offs. The bus has never been so quiet as on that particular trip 😉 In Christchurch we said goodbye and hello and then we were off to Kaikoura. This was the bit of my trip that was a bit unplanned – as I had done that stretch already, I could not be confirmed as a passenger and had to hope for a space on the bus. Thankfully, there were plenty!

Kaikoura was therefore a quiet one, we got fish and chips at what is to be the best place in all of NZ (it was very good!) and took these up to a viewpoint before going to the seal colony. They are just too cute and silly, in my next life I want to be a seal 🙂 You get a fur, nobody calls you fat and all you have to do is look cute and move funny 😉  In the evening, we just sat out on the grass, having a great time!

From Kaikoura it was off to Picton for the ferry – only 4 of us and Lantern were actually taking it, the others were just starting their South Island trip. It was a very sunny, but also extremely windy day – the ferry moved A LOT! So much that the horizon line was no longer visible in the window at times… I got through it quite well though, though I hope it will be a bit calmer on the way back in December 😉

After the ferry it was off to the hostel and goodbye to the others, only Tabea, a German girl, and me were staying in the same hostel and for 3 nights – the others were off the next morning. We got into an all German-speaking 6-bed-dorm and got to relax a bit, very useful to have Domino’s pizza and the supermarket just around the corner 🙂

One day we took the cable car up the hill and walked back down through the Botanic Gardens, then around the city and finally back to the hostel – 13 km that day! The day after Tabea wanted to do Te Papa – which needs at least one full day because there is so much to see in that museum. I stayed in the hostel, catching up with my pictures (which aren’t up on flickr yet due to bad internet) and relaxing.

We met up for coffee at Te Papa in the afternoon and I wanted to make a start on it at least, so I went to see the special exhibition about the Anzac (Australia and New Zealand) troops at Gallipoli. Having just seen the TV series Anzac girls on Netflix while I was in Queenstown, I had a vague idea about the events. But the exhibition really made everything come to life, using huge statues of people to make them tell their personal story and a lot of interactive material. It said that Weta Workshop had been involved in making this and it was visible everywhere – the details on the statues were incredible, the wounded soldier was so realistic that I expected the blood to drop from his knee wound… It was a very good example of what war means and why we should never let it happen again! Lest we forget!

Today, we spent about 10 hours in the bus, going all the way from Wellington to Auckland. At least we stopped at National Park and saw the snow-capped Mt Doom 😉 My hostel is on the steepest street in all of Auckland (I thought the driver was joking…) and of course I came the wrong way, so I did walk UP said street, with all my luggage. Had to take some breaks and was quite short of breath once I reached reception, but at least I got a nice room – and by the looks of it I’m alone in it for tonight 🙂 A female 2-bed-dorm for the same price that the 6-bed somewhere else would have been – happy me 🙂 Tomorrow we set off early to go to the Bay of Islands – beaches!!!!