Christchurch charms

We landed in Auckland and after a quick overnight stop, travelled on to Christchurch. After the country had experienced a heat wave, the tail end of a cyclone hit the island causing major disruption and some coastal damage. We now find the temperatures considerably lower at around 18c and plenty of rain – not far off the Irish summer conditions now.

Christchurch city centre is still in a sorry state, 7 years after a devastating earthquake struck, killing 181 people. Many of the cities oldest buildings were affected including the Cathedral that the city is named after. There are many parts of the city that are still empty or roads closed down or rubble sites. However the New Zealand ingenuity shines through with many pop-up businesses, car parks and even a ‘pop up’ Cathedral made of materials such as shipping containers, polycarbon and cardboard. It sounds like a very ugly affair, but as you can see from the picture, its really very elegant.

We visited the Antarctic centre in Christchurch, which was the stop that Captain Scott and his expedition stopped in 1901 to prepare their supplies before travelling on to Antartica. Christchurch has been a key centre for Antarctic explorers ever since and houses an impressive visitors centre. In the visitors centre you get to see some of the rescued little blue penguins , experience what a snow storm feels like when it hits -24c (bloody cold, I can tell you), and see a 4D Ice voyage film where you are shaken, stirred and liberally sprayed with water.

As part of the experience we took a ride on a Hagglund, which is an amphibious all-terrain vehicle specifically designed for arctic conditions. That sounds tame, but was more like a roller coaster ride, as they took us through a specially designed assault course to showcase its capability.

After the excitement of the Antarctic, we took in the serene surroundings of the Botanical Garden. The range of trees and plants is wonderful to see and the rose garden had a riot of colour. In addition to the amazing trees and plants, there were some wonderful sculptures. We even got to meet a mother duck and her Ducklings. Very cute.

 

 

And what about this cute little rainbow we saw.  Anything strange there?

Next stop Waimate for our next working experience.

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Kauai’s delights

After the wonderful experiences we had on Maui, we did not know if it’s little sister Kauai would live up to expectations.  I had visited both islands over 25 years ago and I remember enjoying Kauai more, but would it live up to expectations second time around?

It’s hard to describe the feel of the islands, but they are all different.  Where as Maui is called the Valley Isle, Kauai is known as the garden isle.  Maui just felt a bit bigger, a bit more resorty in comparison to Kauai, which is just as beautiful, but a bit quieter.

We started by visiting the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’ which is just as impressive as it sounds.  Over 3,000 feet above sea level, which stunning ravines that lead all the way down to the Ocean.  We were lucky with the weather and managed to get a clear view.

 Next we visited the many beaches on the south side of the Island.  The one that gave us far more than we could have anticipated was Poipu beach, a favourite for snorkelers. I was able to see such an array of tropical fish that I lost count.  I did not have an underwater camera, but here are a few of the fish that I was able to swim amongst that day. Parrot fish, Trigger fish, Wrasses, Butterfly fish, and xxx that I have been able to identify. The pictures are from others, I just wanted to share how amazing they looked.

 

 

So we had already have a very special day, that didn’t feel like it could get much better when we saw a bit of excitement going on further down the beach.  It was being cordoned off to allow a huge sea turtle and a monk seal to rest.  They both just lay there quietly a few feet from each other, whilst we were all taking pictures from a safe distance. It was an amazing sight to see.

 

Both species are protected, after being hunted to near extinction and their numbers are steadily growing. The sea turtle has only a 1% chance of reaching maturity, so it seem like a miracle seeing one that is well into its middle years judging by its size.  Apparently they can live for up to 100 years.

The Hawaiian Monk Seal is native to the islands and endangered.  There are approximately 1500 surviving so it was a pretty special sight to see one just in front of us.  He  was a male of about 5 – 7 years old according to the conservationist volunteer, only lifted his head from time to time, but otherwise stayed quiet and still on the beach.  

Both bask on the beach to rest in between hunting.  It might be only an hour, or it might be a day, depending on how much they need to recuperate. Simply amazing.

The wild hens and cocks are everywhere and many were on the beach that day, which tickled me no end.  They seem to be in as good a shape, if not better than any that I have seen ‘tended’ in the farmyard back home.

The next day we explored the north island felt quieter and the beaches were no less stunning.  The landscape here felt lush and more like tropical rain forests.

 The Ha’ena beach is the end of the line, with the rest of the North East of the island being mountainous with no major roadways. The beach was no less stunning than Poipu, but not ideal for swimming as it has a steep dip from the beach and the waves were quite high.  We watched it for quite a time and took many pictures, as it was quite mesmerizing to watch.

Our food choices were not too bad here.  We had breakfast from EatHealthy Café, only down the road from our hotel and fully Vegan.  We also managed to get dishes from the local Grill on the hotel premises, so a thumbs up for having alternatives for us. There was also an excellent coffee place called Imua coffee.

After a quick overnight stop in in Honolulu before flying onward to New Zealand.  Although we will be sorry to leave these shores, we rather suspect we will be back at some point.  

Aloha from Hawaii.

We forgot to book little man a seat, so we hope he can hang on for the long flight ahead.