Christchurch, Day 1

October 29, 2008 – Christchurch, New Zealand

Rain swept through our first morning in Christchurch. Peter dropped us off downtown, and we wandered through Cathedral Square and sought refuge in the Canterbury Museum. There we absorbed more of Maori and colonial history before making our way to the Antarctica exhibit. Artifacts and stories of the explorers who set out across wind-swept ice kept us engrossed until it was time to pick up our rental car. [Robin notes: Christchurch was the main supplier of food and materials for Antarctic expeditions.]

The friendly folks at Apex car rentals had us registered and ready quickly, thanks to our pre-booking online. Before we set off on left-side driving, we walked back to Mayur, a nearby Indian restaurant, for a meal of gingery dal, freshly baked naan, and creamy raita.

With blue sky peeking through clouds, we headed for Banks Peninsula. Ancient volcanoes sent tongues of lava that formed the steep hills that stretch into the sea.

Paragliders near Godley Head prepare for a tandem flight
Paragliders near Godley Head prepare for a tandem flight

From Christchurch we took the road that follows the sea and heads high over narrow roads, with steep drop-offs, and out to Godley Head. Paragliders coming in for a landing side-tracked us. We stopped to watch them take off on a tandem flight. [Robin says, “The Banks Peninsula is world renowned for excellent paragliding conditions.”]


By then it was time to make our way back toward Governors Bay.

View across Lyttleton Harbour toward Purau
View across Lyttleton Harbour toward Purau

With one stop at a saddle, to cross over a stile and admire the view of Lyttleton Harbour, we drove around the south side of the hills and down into the port village of Lyttleton. The photo looks southeast toward Purau Bay and Diamond Harbour.

Lyttleton's container port

Lyttleton houses the container port that serves Christchurch, a city set on water too silty and shallow for shipping traffic. This summer cruise ships will dock repeatedly in Lyttleton, including the Volendam, the ship on which we sailed. (In fact, the ship sailed in on October 30th, on the South Island leg of a tour that ends in Sydney.)

The road winds past Cosair, Cass, and Rapaki Bays before reaching Governors Bay. Peter and Janet Gough live in a hillside home surrounded by a profusion of trees and flowers, with an east-facing view of Lyttleton Harbour.

Their son, Ian, is just completing an electrical engineering degree and will be moving to Hobart, Tasmania. Naomi, their daughter, is a doctor in Invercargill but will also head for a job in Australia soon. So the family will be back to three in Governors Bay: Peter, Janet, and 18-month-old Sol, a Malamute with a sanguine temperament who’s ready to be friends with anyone.

18-month-old Sol
18-month-old Sol

Though both Peter and Janet had been working all day, they took the evening to drive us out to Akaroa on French Bay of Akaroa Harbour. Peter chose a route (over Jubilee) that would not have been passable without 4-wheel drive. The gravel road winds over steep hills before dropping down toward the Gallic-flavoured village.

Village of Akaroa
Village of Akaroa

Akaroa was a French settlement from 1840 to 1846, the only spot in New Zealand where France gained a toehold. Life under the naval regime was much harsher than what the British settlers were experiencing so the French residents were quite happy to see the French flag come down in 1846.

There were only two places open for dinner on this shoulder-season visit. We bypassed the fish and chips and opted for a meal with a harbour view.

Peter and Janet Gough and Cathryn dining in Akaroa
Peter and Janet Gough and Cathryn dining in Akaroa

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