11/11/06 - I had a look around Christchurch briefly yesterday afternoon after checking in. It is a lovely place. It reminds me of Stratford, the river is even called Avon! I had a lie in today and after breakfast headed out to have another closer look at the town centre. I sat by the river for a while soaking up the sun, until it started to get a bit windy, when I headed back up the street. I sat and updated my journal for a while, only to discover there was no 'Save' button showing on screen for me to save it all! Very frustrating! Had dinner back at Stonehurst (where I am staying) and ended up watching two Nicole Kidman movies, 'Bewitched' and 'Stepford Wives'.
12/11/06 - Walked into the centre and got a tram ticket for the day (it was actually valid for two days, bargain!) and took the round trip to check where everything was. As it was Remembrance Day there was a service going on at the Cathedral and by the time we came back round to the beginning they were just coming out into the square. Everyone looked very dashing in their different uniforms. I then stayed on the tram so I could get dropped off at the Art Gallery, where there was also an outdoor market. Had a good look around and then wandered down to the Botanical Gardens. I then noticed the Museum, so went in there and boy, am I glad I did! It was fab! I saw the huts, etc. that had been dismantled and brought back from the South Pole Base Camp. There was an Antarctic exhibition with lots of memorabilia from Scott, Shackleton, Hilary expeditions. The Warner Hotel, here in the square is where the likes of Scott and Shackleton stayed before heading out on their expeditions. There were also exhibitions about the Maori people and how they were effected when European settlers first arrived. It was just fascinating and if any of you ever visit Christchurch, you must go and see for yourself. Spent about 3 hours uploading my photos, I think it was worth it, see what you think! I then headed back and sorted out hiring a car with Aaron the Duty Manager. He was really helpful and showed me some suggested routes to take to get me round both the South and North Islands. Some English lads overheard us and they chipped in, as they had just toured round the South. I picked up alot of tips, thanks guys! They were a bit down, as the British Lions had been slaughtered apparently by the All Blacks the previous night! The All Blacks had done it again today, but this time to the French!
13/11/06 -Car Hire company (Ace) came and picked me up at 10am and I got my car! Hurrah, I have wheels, a definite feeling of freedom! Spent a few hours checking out maps, deciding on stop off points and looking up possible accommodation places. Updated my journal again and this time was able to save it, hurrah!
14/11/06 - Drove out to a lovely place on the coast called Akaroa, it took me about 1.5 hours. I stopped off at a place called Hilltop Cafe, had a cup of tea and took in the breathtaking views of Akaroa below. I took photos, but they no way do justice to what I was seeing, so I bought a postcard too. Akaroa itself is very quaint, it still has French named streets, this is because in 1840 the township was founded as a French colony. Akaroa is on the Banks Peninsula, which is the result of violent eruptions of three volcanoes. It is truly spectacular, especially the drive in. I swept up and down very steep roads, winding my way through mountains, the view opening up at Hilltop just took my breath away. I'd read about 'The Giant's House' in a brochure and an artist called Josie who now lives there, so I sought it out. I found it at the top of a steep hill (I walked) and was out of breath by the time I reached the top of her long steep driveway. The house was built in 1880 and is named 'Linton' where the first owner came from in England. Josie has made it her own, she is a renowned artist and sculptor and she has transformed what was a blank canvas into a beautiful garden with lots and lots of her sculptures. Alot of her creations are mosaics, she found lots of broken china in the garden, so she put it to good use. A truly lovely place and I got lots of good photos. I left Akaroa for the journey back to Christchurch around 4pm, I had had a lovely day.
15/11/06 - Checked out today and started on my 4 hour journey through the Southern Alps and Arthurs Pass at 9.45am. I was following the only route over to the West Coast, Route 73, the Great Alpine Highway. Well, what can I say, the scenery was just spectacular, I had to really tear my eyes away to concentrate on the road. It was a shame not to have someone with me to share the driving, as I would have loved to have just gawped at it all unfolding infront of me. I stopped at Castle Hill to take some photos, some of the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy was filmed here and I recognised it, stunning! Didn't see Frodo though! But I could just imagine the Hobbits, etc. making their way across the terrain in front of me. I can't put into words how magnificent this drive was, every turn in the long winding road just gave up it's own little gift! I'm sure again the photos won't do it justice, you would have to see it all for yourself. Once I got to Greymouth on the West Coast I realised what an achievement I had made. Only yesterday some of the roads had been closed because of torrential rainfall and high winds and I had witnessed some of the debris left behind on the journey. Some of the roads were extremely steep, to the extent that I didn't think the car was going to make it at one point! But it did and I enjoyed every minute of it, but I can see how easy it could be to come a cropper, you have to drive very carefully and respect everything around you and the signs telling you what speed to take the next bend at are extremely accurate, they are not there to be challenged, believe me! I DID IT, I DROVE THROUGH THE SOUTHERN ALPS AND ARTHURS PASS! YIPPEE! Here's to tomorrow and Franz Josef and the Glaciers!