The first sight to welcome me to New Zealand was white capped mountains spanning across a beautiful country. It was a lovely sight and brought back some of the positivity I had lost in Australia.
To say New Zealand is English is an understatement. It thrives on the British ideal and perfecting it. I had a warm welcome from a the shuttle driver who was taking me from the airport to my hostel. He proceeded to show us all the sights of Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island, and explained it's history. The city is surrounded by the towering mountains but actually sits in a flat plain allowing it to have lovely pastures and develop it's reputation for being a city of flowers. A gentle river, aptly named Avon, runs through the town and the British when they came here, planted along the side dropping willow trees. Housing is mainly bungalows, all with well maintained gardens.
I arrived in New Zealand on Halloween and I was a bit disappointed at the thought of not doing anything for it. Unlike the Australian hostels however, the people in my hostel were really friendly and before I had even opened my suitcase I had been asked to join a group to go out for the night. Totally different to Australia. It was a really fun night and we spent time is small, cosy wine bars that litter the city.
Christchurch has a great museum which is free to look around and that is where I spent the next day. It gave insight on to the Maori culture and how these people have interacted with and coped with western domination. As Christchurch is known as the gateway to the Antarctic, there was also a section on this which gave me a taster for the International Antarctic Centre which I later visited.
The musuem is set in the city and is a stunning building very reminiscent of Oxford. In fact next door a school was built as a replica of Eton. This is very typical of Christchurch where historical British architecture sits side by side with modern more American style (i.e. wooden slatted exterior bungalows) architecture. With the river meandering through it mades the city have a very peaceful feel. As it is a relatively young city streets are straight and in a grid format. This does mean though that as you look down, you glimpse the majestic mountains that dominate the skyline.
As mentioned I also visited the International Antarctic Centre. Compared to British museums it was slightly old in style but still fun. I got to experience an artic storm where the wind speed drops the room temperature to -18 degrees. Saying the lowest temperature I've experienced in the last 8 months was about 15 degrees, I did not appreciate being so cold and soon escaped! Next was a ride on a Hagglund, the vehicle which takes people around. A bumpy ride but thrilling. It can travel up the side of a hill up to 45 degrees, zoom over massive gaps and also be submerged in water. Awesome.
The centre is a sanctuary for rescued little penguins and I was finally able to take some pictures of them. Due to the fact many are injured or maimed in someway they are fed regularly and it was a highlight of the day to see them dive for the fish. Now if only I had space in my rucksack for them. There was plenty else to see in the musuem but the other main attraction for me was a film of the beautiful scenary of the Antarctic. Set to lovely music it gave real depth and appreciation of this beautiful place. Definitely somewhere to add to my travel plans.
As the sun was out I visited the Botanical Gardens which were stunning and added to the peace of the place. Well looked after and cultivated it was a joy to spend time there and acutally warm up in the sun! It was a great garden and certainly added to how much Christchurch had appealed to me.
It was a great start to New Zealand and I hoped it would continue.