So, following straight on from my last blog the Kaikoura Peninsula walk was surprisingly good. We got to get really close up to some playful seals on the beach, one of which launched itself at an unsuspecting child in a rather amusing way. We then walked right up across the cliff tops, which offered lovely views of the Kaikoura Ranges as well as the rough seas. The scene if you removed the large mountains from the backdrop was almost English, with lush green cow fields and rolling hills in the foreground. It felt rather like a walk on the Dorset coastline or somewhere. We then had a brief wine tasting session at the Kaikoura winery (I seem to have tasted so many wines on this trip and most of them have been awful!), before setting off on the 2 hour drive south to Christchurch, where we spent the night.
Christchurch is the largest city of the south island with a population of 400,000. It is often referred to as the garden city for its greenery and is also said to be very English like. I however disagreed with this strongly. The city was mostly built on a grid system of wide streets, and apart from the English looking cathedral (which looked more like your average English church) and quaint university buildings, I could see nothing else resembling Britain. It was a very nice place though with a very sedate feel to it. We stayed in a very central hotel nearby where the old trams ran past and opposite the cathedral. In the evening we took a trip to the southern hemisphere's largest sports bar to watch the "All White's" (New Zealand's soccer team) big game against Bahrain for a place at the world cup. I must be a lucky charm to countries who have win or bust games to reach the world cup as after seeing Argentina make it in Buenos Aires, I watched on as Rory Fallon headed New Zealand to only their second world cup finals in their entire history. The game was played in Wellington in front of a record 31,000 crowd and did seem to capture the interest of most of the country (with the exception of our tour guide who was appalled New Zealand only got "1 point" in 90 minutes of play). It was evident however how little the locals knew about football, especially when everyone did a countdown for the last 10 seconds of added time, followed by a huge cheer when the clock ticked on to 3 minutes. Then they all watched in bemusement as the referee rightfully added another 30 seconds for an injury in stoppage time. Still, this win should do wonder's for football in this rugby obsessed nation.
The next morning was beautiful sunshine for our wander round the sights of Christchurch. There wasn't an awful lot to see and I will be returning to Chirstchurch at the end of the tour so we didn't hurry around. The punting boats on the River Avon, the old trams and the square are the main bits, and I afforded myself some rare Internet time after having a wander. After a quick lunch we then headed off 2 hours west into the High Country for our 1 night stay at Flock Hill Sheep Station - a 14,000 hectare working sheep farm about 900m up into the southern alps. The scenery was spectacular and the farm grounds were where a large part of the recent Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe movie were filmed. The farmer gave us a sheepdog demonstration, the highlight of which was when one of the Korean guys was clean-bowled by the dog. He then showed us how you shear a sheep and took us around his large wool shed to view the product. After this we undertook a short walk up to a couple of thinly veiled waterfalls. It was a pretty windy walk which involved leaping over a stream - something which went badly wrong for one of the girls.
This morning we left the Sheep Station and journeyed in the rain over the famous Arthur's Pass, which took us over the alps and back to New Zealand's west coast. We had a brief stop at the small town of Hokitika, famous for its jade production. I used the time to visit a kiwi sanctuary, but you could barely see the birds because the room was kept in darkness (they are nocturnal). We are now in the town of Fox Glacier, and I will soon be taking a walk around the bottom part of the glacier itself. Some people are opting to helicopter up to the glacier's higher part, where the ice is harder and clearer, but that was an extortionate option, so I shall stick with the walk around the glacier's dirtier half. Will update soon.