We were picked up from our place at Vara’s Beachhouse at 2:30 a.m. for a 4:00 a.m. departure, but soon the sun came up and we could see New Zealand down below us! We landed in Auckland, on the North Island, and then transferred to the domestic terminal for our flight from Auckland to Christchurch. We were met at the airport in Christchurch by Gaby’s new boss from NIWA, who drove us to our accomadaton, at Charlie B’s Backpackers.
After getting settled in, I was itching to get out and explore some of Christchurch, so we walked to Cathedral Square, which is at the center of Christchurch, and is most famous for the Christchurch Cathedral, built around 1860. Christchurch has only about 400,000 people, small compared to the 4 million people of greater Los Angeles, and that suits us just fine. Because of Christchurch’s relatively small size, we are able to walk to most places downtown within a very short time, which is good in that we do not have a vehicle. We have rented a tourist flat at Charlie B’s, which includes a bedroom, living room, kitchen, and bathroom – not bad for NZ250 a week. Our first priority is to get familiarized with the city and find an apartment to rent which will be close enough for Gaby to walk to work. Well, ok, we also have some fun.
Christchurch is known as the Garden City, and, true to form, adjacent to the center of town is giant Hagley Park, which contains an enormous arboretum, a museum, and many areas for cricket and rugby. Christchurch also happens to be one of the main transfer points to Antarctica, and on the north side of town is the International Antarctic Center, where there are several countries based together who have Antarctic Research bases close together in Antarctica. There is a very informative visitor center, where they offer rides on a Haaglund, one of the current vehicles of choice on Antarctica. They took us on a wild ride which included crossing a 2 meter wide crack or crevasse, and fording a 3 meter deep pool of water (Haaglund’s are also amphibious (for short periods of time). Then we got to experience a fierce storm where they put a group of people into a giant freezer and turned on a large turboprop fan which blasted us with 40 mph winds.

The fountain located at the entrance to the Botanic Gardens at Hagley Park, adjacent to the Canterbury Museum

The Christchurch Cathedral in Cathedral Square

It’s called a Haaglund…very high cool factor!