Wedderburn and Christchurch
Wedderburn | Day 16
After an awesome nights sleep at the Wedderburn Tavern (real beds, real linens, and a big CLEAN bathroom), we hopped on our school bus and headed to the Naseby Indoor Curling rink. We got a quick lesson on how it was done and then we split up into teams.
Team #GreatSuccess: Vicky, Mia, Kaisa and Cam
Team #InMyPants: Me, Kate, Anna and Bastian
Why team #InMyPants? Well in Doubtful Sound Vicky told us about a game where you add 'in my pants' to the end of sentences. For example 'That's a crazy looking party...in my pants'. When you're on a bus for hours on end, its the little things that keep you laughing. Anyways, back to the curling rink, team #InMyPants were the winners thanks to Anna's...uhhh...unique curling style of falling hard every. single. time. Black and blue hip for days.
Riding high on our curling win, we headed back to Wedderburn to start our bike ride on the Otago Rail Trail. Tip: do NOT go on a 40k bike ride over rocky terrain only 3 days after going on a 3 hour horseback ride...my butt was so sore I could barely sit down on the bike...major ouchies. Despite the intense pain, the views were gorgeous and it was a perfect day for a ride. There were lots of clouds but we managed to avoid the rain. The trail was mostly downhill (perfect for this non-biker) and flat enough that you could actually look around and enjoy the view. We saw a TON of sheep and one of the fattest cows I've ever seen standing in the middle of the trail before Anna scared it off. The trail follows the old railroad so you can read about the history at the old station stops along the way, however the pitch black tunnels are super creepy (you can't even see through to the other side). The best part was stopping at the Stationside Cafe in Lauder for a delicious snack. The owner is the sweetest lady who makes everything herself in her very organized (labels everywhere!) kitchen.
Having to keep going after such a nice break in Lauder was rough! I did not enjoy the last bit of the ride, and we just powered through in an effort to beat the rain...well that and enjoy beer and ice cream at the pub. We ate dinner at the Tavern that night and then crashed pretty early- totally exhausted after a long day.
Christchurch | Day 17
We woke up bright and early to start our long drive up to Christchurch. We made a quick stop in Oamaru (hometown of current All Blacks rugby captain Richie McCaw) to check out the seals and the blue penguin colony (they were all out of their dens for the day so we didn't get to see any). The architecture of Oamaru is beautiful with lots of ornate neo-Classical limestone buildings. I would have loved to spend more time checking out this historic little town.
Next stop was the Moeraki boulders lying along the Koekohe Beach. These were so cool to see and while the science behind these is all well and good I prefer the Maori legend (description from the sign at the beach):
The story of the Moeraki boulders is linked to Araiteuru, an enormous Waka Atua, a canoe of the Gods. The traditions tell of this great canoe journeying from Tai Te Whenua across the Great Ocean of Kiwa, the Pacific Ocean. The journey was long, and the Waka became waterlogged and foundered at Matakaea, Shag Point (12k south). The reef at the mouth of the Shag River is the petrified hull of the Waka and a prominent rock near the reef is said to be the petrified body of Hipo, the navigator...The crew and cargo of the wrecked Waka were thrown into the sea and washed up on shore, and the cargo can be seen strewn along the beaches north of Matakaea. The large boulders on Te Kai Hinaki, Moeraki Beach, are the gourds and calabashes bound with flax which held water for the voyage and the smallest rocks are the kumara, or sweet potato. The great waves that wrecked Araiteuru are now represented by the waves of hills and mountains parallel to the coast, which bear the names of the chiefs, their wives and children.
See, much more interesting than erosion and mud layers.
We FINALLY got to Christchurch a little after 4 and checked into our super cool Jailhouse Accommodation. It was a jail up until 1999 (renovated in 2006) and they kept lots of the old details. We were there in the summer but could imagine the rooms (aka cells) would get pretty chilly during the winter- as evident by the stacks of blankets and hot water bottles in each room. They have a couple of rooms preserved so you can see what they looked like while the jail was still in use- cool to see all the drawings on the walls.
Since we got into Christchurch in the early evening, we had to book it downtown (about a 30-40 min walk) if we wanted to see anything since most major tourist spots closed at 5:30 or 6. The city is still recovering and rebuilding after the devastating earthquake that happened in 2011. It was interesting to see how they are prioritizing what needs to be restored (roads, hospitals, police buildings, etc) and what can wait (canals, pedestrian bridges, stores, etc). There is still a significant portion of the city that is considered a 'red zone' meaning its unsafe for the public and surrounded by fences. Buildings within the red zone are being held up temporarily with wood or metal scaffolding to keep them from falling over. The guy who drove us to the horseback ride in Queenstown said he was there days after the earthquake as part of a construction crew helping to clear damage from the city. According to him, it was like a zombie or apocalyptic town- food sitting out waiting to be eaten, automatic doors opening and closing but no one around.
One of my favorite stops was the shipping container mall right downtown. The bright colors, cool graphics and awesome layout made for a fun shopping experience...and I really dislike shopping. We browsed a few stores but my favorite was The General Store with lots of cute items that made for great souvenirs. I ended up getting this pillow case made from an old army blanket (Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand) and this fantail bird necklace which I love and wore almost every day after for the rest of the trip.
The Christchurch Cathedral was once a landmark of the city but is now severely damaged after the earthquake. Currently it is surrounded by a chain link fence with a small viewing area (covered with plants) that allows you to see right inside the cathedral. Recently, a decision was made to reject a final bid to preserve the cathedral and so it will be demolished and replaced.
In the meantime, a Cardboard Cathedral has been set up as a temporary place of worship. This was what I was most excited to see when I heard we would be stopping in Christchurch. I literally ran all the way here from the hostel so that I would get a chance to go inside before it closed for the evening.
Totally worth running for, I left the cathedral happy that I got to see it. Based on a recommendation from Kate's NZ friend, we made a dinner reservation for 8:30 and spent some more time wandering around the city before we sat down to eat. We ate at Fiddlesticks and it was a wonderful meal. Everything looked good however we had recently snacked on fries so I went with a slightly lighter meal of the smoked salmon salad and some delicious NZ wine- soooo good. Anna had the risotto (peas, grilled halloumi and besto) and Kate had the tamarind carmel turkey with glass noodles. It was such a wonderful dinner and we all agreed it was nice to feel like you were on vacation and eating well (vs. making your own food in hostels or eating pub food).
One of my major issues with the tour was not being able to spend enough time in Christchurch- we got in after 4pm and left at 8am the next morning. While there isn't much of a nightlife, there is so much to see during the day and I wish we could have had more time there. Despite that, we had a great time and were excited about our last few days on the tour.
Side note: its really weird to be in such a warm climate around Christmas time- the decorations are much more creative though.