April 1 and 2

After my red-eye all-nighter and then connecting fight I arrived in Christchurch around 11:30am local time. I had already decided not to stay in the city but to get out right away to see the sights.

So I picked up a car and was off on a 2 hour drive along a two lane mountain road in a left hand car driving on the left, maintaining constant vigilance so as not to precipitate a head on collision. No incidents on the road so far, fingers crossed, eyes cast heavenward.

Then I pulled into my accommodation for the next three nights and this was the view. It's a 'backpackers' and I will explain all below.
Another view along the front fence.

Here they don't call these shared-bathroom places hostels so much but rather backpackers. New Zealand is one of the few totally western countries where you can still travel on a modest budget and the main reason I think is because of these accommodations. I've pre-booked the really excellent popular ones and I'm getting private rooms for less than $30 US. It's so good.

Food is another matter - expensive! I hope this town is overpriced and not an example of everywhere in New Zealand.
Outdoor lounging opportunities.
This is the nicest room but mine is very nice too, just smaller.

I'm hoping to be able to stay in these small home-style places since they are less likely to be on the backpacker bus route (of which there are many) and hence less likely to be full of guests who are very young and very drunk.
A comfy lounge with a piano, a hi-fi and records, a tv, and views to the garden.

There are a few confederations of these backpacker places and so far I'm using a group called BBH since their places tend to be small and their website is very informative. We'll see as time goes on if I'm still singing their praises.
The biggest difference between a modest bed-and-breakfast and a home-style backpackers is that here you make your own breakfast. You can make your own lunch and dinner too. Behind me in this photo are two large refrigerators for the use of the guests.

This backpackers also has a lovely large dining room and picnic tables scattered around the grounds.

One thing though. Since this place scored 97% on the BBH satisfaction scale I'm thinking it's among the elite of backpackers and I shouldn't have unreasonable expectations for such easy accommodation everywhere.
I'm staying in Banks Peninsula, in Barry's Bay. It's very small geographically yet each tiny little community is so isolated from its neighbors by all these mountains.

The bays are spectacularly gorgeous as you can see a few slides down.
Here's looking down into Akaroa, an actual town, on the middle left.

There was a French colony here at one point and the streets are Rue this and Rue that but other than the street names and a few buildings I didn't see much else of French influence.
Water sports is the name of the game here.
And this is the main pier. There are a couple smaller ones too, and bays full of pleasure boats.
Often the road looks like this but one side is falling off a cliff and a truck is hurling toward you on your Right. The driving thing is not as bad as I feared but I also fear losing concentration especially on the turns. Since the steering wheel is on the right I chant to myself 'just hug the line just hug the line'.

I have not once yet flipped on the turn signal without first flipping on the windshield wipers.
There have been whole hillsides full of sheep too, more than the cows, but the roads are so narrow and with no place to stop so I haven't got one shot of a sheep yet. Tomorrow I will go in search.
The store at Okains Bay. I got lunch here - a carrot, a banana, some nuts, and these yummy sultana cookies that I will surely buy again.

The community has an abandoned church, an active school, a few houses along the street, a backyard museum, and a few farms like the one above.
Here's the bay at Okains. Wow. Check the map up there again because they are all like this.
April 3

See that bridge looking piece of land. It's called the Onawe Peninsula and is a highlight for viewing since you can see it from about anywhere in the Akaroa area.

Part of what makes it so appealing for viewing also makes it tops for walks. Before high-tide kicks in the bridge becomes islands and you can find yourself stuck out there. This fact was mentioned to me a dozen times.
I'm driving to another one of the bays because it has a government maintained walk that sounds good. It is a 5 hour round-tripper but I'll not be doing that.

I'm sure I'm going to be talking about walks every single day because that's what people do. The go out for long long walks.

If the walk is long enough you get to call it a tramp. There are huts, thousands of them, scattered every which where so you can sleep over on your 2-3-4-5 day tramps. I'll not be doing that either.
Here's part of the trail. It looked down to the bay and it was wonderful.
Another view from the walk.
This wasn't so hard to get since that bee was as big as my thumb.
I haven't been eating in restaurants much but I should say that everything I've eaten, from the grocery, from bakeries and cafes, has been fresh and tasty. Really good actually.

This is a little mom and pop roadside cafe specializing in organic food where I ate a hearty bowl of zucchini soup with bread, good cheese, and a locally made salami.

I've been reading about a growing Eat Organic movement in New Zealand and so far so good as far as the quality is concerned.
This place is right across the driveway from where I'm staying. Doesn't it look like a mosquito farm? But I've not had one bite so, so far so good on the pestilent insect front too.
These camper-vans are Everywhere. I'm not seeing the big motorhomes that ply the highways of California but these guys and slighter bigger ones are The Thing.

I did very seriously consider doing this. I wanted to. Why I didn't, basically, I think, was that I wasn't up for the potential bother.

Still, I get a small wave of 'I should do that' when coming upon a scene such as this.

But then tonight two of the guests at my backpackers entertained the house, one playing the piano and the other singing various tenor arias from Grand Opera. I'm still smiling.
April 4

It's a light rainy misty morning and I'm off for Arthur's Pass. (**in Arthur's Pass I had no way to load pictures and here at my place in Hokitika I can only use a 'cafe' style system...so I'll go into town later to get a map and answer email**AND NO SPELL CHECK HERE---NOOOoooo)
There is a sightseeing rail route through here that is supposed to be one of the great train rides but so far I'm thinking kind'a like Mammoth and not so much like Torres del Paine.
I'm in New Zealand and I want a picture of sheep!
Here is a poster of the iconic Kiwi Bird. I haven't seen one and about the only chance I'll get is in a captured environment I fear. They are nocturnal and shy, and loud they say. They yell out KEEEEWEEEE.

There are actually several varieties, which I read about on a poster. They call them 'honorary mammals' because of how their ears and noses work, and that their wings are vestigial-with little hook-y claws.
Again, and why I can't say, the lunch I ate in this one gas pump town was great.
I went on a walk. Of course. That's what you do here. There are groomed trails for walks any where from 1 hour to several days...
...but I gave up waaay early. My knees were having none of it.
I like this cottage because of the colors, because it's made of corrugated tin, and because of the Tibetan Prayer Flags.
I like this cottage because of the colors and because of those three bushes on the right, papa, mama, and baby bush, and the red door..
Driving on this bridge gave me a serious twitch. Don't look down don't look down.
And then it was followed by this!
The backpackers I stayed in tonight was just fine, just not faabulous like the previous one. This place has four little cottages, each with three bedrooms holding up to three people. The cottages were lovely, really, except the bedrooms themselves which were entirely bare save for two camper-style beds and one kitchen-style chair. But...
...the lounge was warm and lively, the kitchen was clean and all kitted up, the dining room was entirely ok, and the bathrooms and showers where better than ok. There was plenty of wood, laundry facilities, picnic tables, and lounge chairs outside. Thumbs up.

I love you!
April 5 and 6

The internet situation has not been the smoothest...but I can write now from the lounge of my backpackers to the tune of one dollar for every ten minutes. I was all over town trying to get my own computer hooked up, which I managed for a few minutes, and now I'm back to the 'internet cafe' concept. And glad to have at least that.

What you see here is me taking a picture from inside the car looking out the front window. There is no snow anywhere but it must have been very wet and very cold in Arthur's Pass last night!
All the other cows looked entirely familiar. These guys made me stop.

OH Lordy, I need spell check. Often the problem is I can't spell, most often I just type away and don't notice and wait for The Computer to tell me what's wrong. I do hope I can get my computer hooked up soon.
I arrived early in the cute little West Coast seaside town of Hokitika, world famous (or so they say everywhere) for jade. It reminded me of a little western town - 5 blocks deep by 7 blocks wide, big streets, one and two story buildings, only one chain-looking place around. Cute.
And the last street in town fronts onto the Tasman Sea.
Looking back into town. I did enjoy the wander.
Then hmmm, what should I do? Go for a walk, that sounds good! This was a pretty one with a controlled channel of smooth running water on the right and a racing river on the left.
It's the DOC Department of Conservation we have to thank for all these wonderful walks. They probably do other things too...

I read about a movement in New Zealand to become bi-lingual and to bring the Maori language back into daily life. The DOC has given itself a Maori name. It's a long story about who wants it (more people than I'd imagine) and how it will be implemented (I can't imagine, especially if it goes the Quebec route), so I'll watch the developments with interest.
Where I'm staying - a very lively kitchen here! You can see four people in there now.

I usually eat breakfast 'in'. I keep milk, fruit, and a box of cereal on hand and I'm happy. Then I eat a late lunch out and try to keep it to a snack for dinner, depending on what I've bought, like crackers and cheese, or maybe nuts and fruit and a glass of wine to socialize in the lounge.
This backpackers is the first one where the guests are predominantly none-English speakers. The travellers in New Zealand in general are from Scandinavia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland - those climbing countries. It's amusing to hear them speaking among their own group in one language and then all use English when communicating outside their immediate 'family'.

This is the view out the dining area window.
It's all one big room - kitchen, dining, lounge. It's also full for the holiday weekend with old folks, families, and actual backpackers.
This is the outside and the room you see lower front in mine. It's fine but a little noisy from the traffic in the courtyard. It is also painted pumpkin orange and the drapes are royal blue.
Next morning

What's on for today? Why, a walk would be nice.
Today I did 2 little walks published as 30 minutes each which took me 45, and a longer 2 hour one way trip where I turned around after 30 minutes. You have to drive many kilometers to get to these walks however.

This is the first little guy that led from the fern forest above to this beach. Lovely. It was called Mananui Bush Walk.
Then I walked from a very excellent campground full of a dozen unique and appealing camper vans, to this place called Swimmer's Beach at Lake Mahinapuo.

There was a cute-as-pie young couple here from Sweden. I really really wish I had taken a picture of his tattoo.

Why do I have no pictures of all the many people I've spent time with? The owner of the first backpacker was so shy I didn't even ask. The British piano player, the Australian opera singer, the opera singer's German wife - seemed too shy too. The American mom and her ex-pat daughter at Arthur's Pass? I didn't get around to asking. All the lively kids here, and the retired woman, from Jersey in the Channel Islands, who rented her house and has been traveling for 2 1/2 years? Not yet.

And the people on the streets are kind of 'heads down about our business' types. I need to pay more attention!
Third walk - the bog. I did manage to cross the bog by collecting huge dead ferns and biggish sticks to lay out a hop-across path.

In the total of maybe 8 walks I've done since arriving I have seen exactly one couple, once, on one of the trails. It is entirely 100% safe I'm 100% sure but also I am Always on the alert for falling. Do Not Fall! It's my mantra.
There have been so so many wonderful birds and I have not got a shot of any of them. Their songs are gorgeous too, and chatty. This guy, about 5 inches long, was such a tease, he buzzed within one foot of my face again and again. I have no idea what he was thinking but I did catch a shot, even though neither sharp nor interesting, the only one so far.

Tomorrow morning I'm off before first light to make it to the glaciers I hope in time for The Postcard Shot.
HomeAustralasia • New Zealand • '07 Apr: Christchurch-Hokitika

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