If you aren’t over 35 and from the UK the above probably means nothing to you…. but there are two types of Penguin in my world, one is about two and a half inches long and comprises of two rectangle chocolate biscuits stuck together with chocolate cream and then covered in chocolate and the other are short and feathered and waddle a lot. I was going to say that they are also black and white but that is not the case as the four that we have seen over here have all been Little Blue Penguins, one loner just as we were leaving Wellington contemplating what the ferry was doing in his waters, one chilling out in Doubtful Sounds mid afternoon and now two more coming back to their nests in the rocks at Timaru – well, to be fair one went to his nest and the other decided to hang around on the beach for a while having a little clean and waddle but I am sure he found his nest after we left!
We left Lake Tekapo and headed to Timaru with the hope that we would get to see Penguins but it is getting towards the end of their nesting season as the chicks are getting bigger and the parents are now getting into the period where they shed feathers and therefore don’t go out to sea. We set out just before 9pm and sunset was at 9:22pm and the first penguin came in riding the waves just after 10pm. We were really lucky as they were only a few feet away from us – very, very cute. The little blue penguins grow to a maximum height of 40cm and weigh less than 1kg but they can swim up to 25km at a time and go at up to 6kph underwater …. pretty cool little things!
We stayed one night in Timaru at the RSA club so we could catch up on washing, get our last shop in and of course ppppick up a penguin…. not really, although it was good to see them!
Leaving Timaru in the morning we did a slight detour via a small town called Geraldine as it is known for being a bit of a foodie area. Very pretty, considering that pretty much everything from Timaru feels like an extension of Christchurch, built up all the way along the main highway. We managed to buy some more cheese but held back on the Barkers jams and preserves – although they were delicious – as we just wouldn’t get through them in the next few days.
After rejoining the main highway again we continued to trawl through industrial areas until we were about 15km South of Christchurch when we arrived at the NZMCA. We decided to use it as a quick stopover to check out the facilities (as we had heard there was a washing machine) as we were planning on spending the last night or two here before we hand Ava back.
Needless to say that the washing machine has disappeared…. although there is a dryer. I am guessing that it broke and they have decided not to replace it – ah well. It is a lovely site with all the other facilities and we had a lovely BBQ with homemade Burgers … so not going to complain.
As it rained overnight it was very grey and overcast in the morning but we were still able to get on and do our normal routine before heading off to The Banks Peninsula and Akaroa. As we drive towards the peninsula we did question our sanity as you could barely see it, thankfully however we continued and as the journey went on the sun came out and the cloud started to lift. Akaroa was settled in by the French starting in 1840 and the French still have an influence on the shops and restaurants. We had planned to have a walk round the town and bay before heading back to Little River for the night but as it is such a pretty little place and we found a lovely route to walk on Saturday, we decided to stay as they have a Freedom Camping area which amazingly had space.
After a very warm night I had a run along past the lighthouse tussling with a few of the Cruise ship passengers who had arrived on the early boat whilst Keith did some exercise back at the van before heading in to Akaroa to have a look at the Saturday morning market. It was small but very French and probably the best pastries we have seen in the last few weeks …. not including the Carrot cake at the top of Mount John!
Not in the market for additional food – really hard with only two nights left in the motorhome – we put on our walking shoes and headed up the big hill in the middle of the peninsula. The route was called the ‘Around the Mountain Curry Route’ and I am sad to say that there wasn’t any curry in sight but it was a steep climb for a couple of hours to get to the summit where the views were fantastic. A lovely 11km circular route taking in both sides of the peninsula although the legs were definitely feeling the 750m climb on the way back down… especially after this mornings run!
Back at the motorhome we packed everything up and headed back to the NZMCA in Christchurch via the scenic route which was absolutely stunning. The road was narrow and it worked its way along the ridge (where we had walked in the morning) and then back around the bottom of the inlet before winding back towards the mainland. We arrived back at the site just after 5 and although it was pretty full we managed to find a space and settle in for the evening where we had a spectacular sunset disappearing behind the rest of the motorhomes.
Waking up to a lovely morning we set to our tasks after breakfast, it was always going to be a day of ‘chores’ so we headed out to give Ava a good scrub at the car wash before coming back to empty the cupboards and do the same inside. It is fair to say that she was sparkly … or maybe that was just relative as she has been a bit dirty recently! However as we settled down to a glass of wine and a beer just after 6pm we were pretty satisfied that 95% of things were packed and about 80% of Ava cleaned… the rest to be finished in the morning.
Our last supper in Ava was a butterfly shoulder of lamb with a mixed bean salad as well as a corgette salad…. not a bad way to end the trip!
Where did the last twelve weeks go? It is difficult to believe that the time to give Ava back has come round so quickly but waking on Monday morning I set off for a run whilst Keith did his exercises, showered, breakfasted and finished off the last bit of packing and cleaning. I haven’t ever worked out how things take so long, thinking that we had done most of the work yesterday it surprisingly took us another two hours to sort out the last bits before we were ready to go to the airport and pick up Tracey and Geoff and say our goodbyes to Ava.
With everything handed over we headed into our Airbnb and Geoff an Tracey to a campsite with a rendezvous at 18:30 at the Little High Eatery.
Our Airbnb is in a new apartment block which is fairly central and was probably built as a two bed apartment and split. So we have a room and en-suite bathroom, all perfectly formed and clean and tidy … it possibly just would have been nicer to have a bigger window that let more air in as the temperature has just decided to take a hike and it was sweltering in the room.
We headed out for a quick look around so we could work out where we were and buy some bits before wondering over to our rendezvous.
The Little High Eatery is a group of 8 or so restaurants who share an old warehouse, all of which looked like they were decent quality and the clientele certainly thought it was worth a go as it was buzzing. After a quick drink, Keith and I ended up with two enormous burgers with a variety of fillings (it is fair to say that there was a lot of bacon), accompanied by Deep Fried Cauliflower in maple syrup – yep, sounds very odd but it was actually very good – and chips. Geoff and Tracey opted for some Dumplings and deep fried squid – so a real variety, all of which was delicious.
It was lovely to catch up with Geoff and Tracey over dinner and it is good to see that they are ready to take on the South Island where we left off. It’s going to be really interesting now watching from the other side and seeing where they go and what they do. All we can hope is that they have as a fantastic time as we have had and find Ava as comfortable as we have …. as ironically we have actually spent more time in her than they have!
I’d like to say we woke, but I am not sure there was a lot of preceding sleep so, we got up and I went for a tired run along the river and round Hagley Park whilst Keith did some ‘hotel room’ exercise. It is weird how you get used to things as whilst having a shower and running the taps in the bathroom I was waiting for the water pump to kick in ….. obviously been living in a motorhome too long now!
Dull as it is, as the room had a washing machine and dryer we decided to put a load on before heading out and exploring Christchurch a bit further than our quick walk yesterday afternoon. I hadn’t really thought about what we were expecting although I had heard from my mum that it was still ‘work in progress’ following the horrific earthquake that they had in 2011, although we were pleasantly surprised by the feel of the place. There are still a lot of buildings in ruins and even more under construction but those that are complete look fantastic and the city itself is doing its best to be modern and provide lots of green space for living.
Like Dunedin, there is a lot of street art which brightens up some of the derelict buildings, some of it is disappearing as they rebuild though.
The main Cathedral below has been going through a court case which was only resolved in 2017. The Anglican Church had decided that it wanted to destroy the building and start again rather than reconstruct on top of the bits that were still stable – something the government is highly opposed to and the insurers wouldn’t pay for ….. reconstruction has now started but looking at the site below, if this is where they have got to in 16 months, it isn’t going to happen any time soon!
The building below however is the ‘Cardboard Cathedral’ which was the ‘pop up’ replacement…. and yes, it really is made of cardboard underneath! There are 86 Cardboard tubes, each weighing 500kg sitting on top of containers …. a common theme in Christchurch!
Behind the Cardboard Cathedral you can find the memorial to the people who died in the earthquake – a chair for each person – nothing fancy but it delivers quite an impact when all the other buildings around have been raised to the ground.
Whilst walking through the city and soaking up the history we felt it necessary to indulge in the up and coming businesses of Christchurch and go find the Gelato Cafe that we fell upon the day before – Rollickin’ Gelato Cafe, probably the best Gelato that we have had outside Italy – delicious!
It is fair to say that we haven’t been disappointed by the food in New Zealand, despite it being more expensive over here, everything we have tried has been of high quality and full of flavour.
Now at the end of our 12.5 weeks it is great to see our little map of where we have been …. including a few loop the loops! We have had a fantastic time and we have even left a few bits to come back and do next time!
Now, with 24 hours of flight ahead of us and temperatures falling below zero in the UK we are ready to get back to Hattie and start thinking about our next trip…..