We gave ourselves a few days to recover from the
long flights back to NZ and then decided to hire a car and go exploring. It may
seem odd to hire a car and stay in hostels when we have a perfectly good boat.
However the distances in this long thin country are deceptive and we were warned
that the sailing in the South is often challenging. The west coast is well into
the latitude of the roaring 40s with winds that have nothing to stop them except
south America and Cape Horn.
stop was Napier, a seaside town that was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1930s
much in the way that Christchurch has just been hit. Consequently much of the
town was rebuilt in Art Deco style and has a bit more character than some of the
unplanned town centres we have visited. We stayed in a very average hostel with
my sister Mary and her friend Penny before heading on to a rather better hostel
close to Wellington. At both places we managed to find good restaurants to eat
out. Generally the standard of food and especially coffee is excellent in
The weather was kind and we had a good
walk over the hill behind our hostel.
An early start the next day to catch the ferry across the notorious Cook
Strait where the wind funnels between the North and South Islands. Fortunately
for us the weather continued to play along and we had a good crossing, the ferry
entered the Marlborough Sounds which make a dramatic landfall. We landed at
Picton, buying lunch at its excellent bakery then had a good trip down a scenic
road to Kaikoura, famed for its whales and fur seals, its views and its
mountains that plunge right down to the sea. Sadly for us the weather decided to
turn and we had a day of almost continuous rain except for a brief respite in
the afternoon which allowed us to walk along the beach and see the fur seals
that make their home here. They have the ability to walk on their hind legs and
were reminiscent of the sea-lions that we enjoyed so much in the
There was plenty of birdlife
along the shore including these cormorants.
Our next stop was Christchurch. It seems
incredible that we were in the Cathedral where many people lost their lives a
few weeks later. It was a buzzing place and when we were in the Cathedral
square there was a party atmosphere with street performers entertaining the
The earlier earthquake had left some
obviously damaged buildings such as this one but the scale of the damage was
tiny in comparison with this week's events.
Christchurch was the most attractive town
that we visited and we both said that we would have liked to have lived there.
Our hearts go out to the people of what was a wonderful city and hopefully one
day will be again.
On a lighter note our hostel for the night was
in the old Jail-house. This building was, until about 1997, a high security
jail. An excellent renovation has brightened the place up but it still had the
air of a jail-house and it was strange how people seemed in awe of the stark
building and its history and consequently moved around rather quietly.
Our cell on the left and an original cell on the
right complete with inmates' artwork.
We have no iea if the building survived intact in this
last earthquake but it was maasively built in concrete and had sustained no
damage in the previous earthquake other than a broken clock that fell off the