BootsnAll Travel Network



Our Antarctic Experience in Christchurch

Nov 7-8

It was rainy and cold in Christchurch (surprise!) so we decided to spend the day inside. The Lego and puzzles at the hostel were starting to wear thin, so we headed to the International Antarctic Centre. What a cool place (pardon the pun)! We even got to experience a simulated Antarctic storm, complete with parkas and a -40 degree wind-chill – we felt right at home.

From New Zealand (…
From New Zealand (…

Alexa and Simon loved the interactive exhibits, especially the snowmobiles, and the life-sized mock-ups of the Antarctic Research Centre.

Everyone’s favourite part, though, was seeing the group of blue penguins that had been rescued for various reasons and were being cared for at the Centre. We spent a long time just watching them swim and play together.

From New Zealand (…

The kids were fascinated and loved figuring out which one was which by their descriptions posted on the wall. Some had damaged flippers, some had difficulty swimming and one even wore a pair of blue slippers as he waddled around the enclosure. Alexa even pulled out Pengy, our stowaway stuffed penguin, to introduce him to them.

From New Zealand (…

Then a couple of Centre employees came out to feed the penguins and talk to the crowd about them.

From New Zealand (…

Before we knew it, we’d been at the penguin tank for almost two hours. We had to drag the kids away to visit the rest of the exhibits. We ended our day by watching a stunning photographic montage of the different faces of Antarctica through the seasons set to music. Even the kids sat silently mesmerized by the icy continent’s ever-changing faces and ethereal beauty. We all emerged into the grey afternoon with a new appreciation for Antarctica and its amazing inhabitants.

We spent the next morning exploring downtown Christchurch before continuing up the coast. First, we took the kids to Christchurch Cathedral where we climbed the 134 steps to the top of the bell tower.

From New Zealand (…
From New Zealand (…

Next, we wandered the markets in the square and watched some local characters play chess. Then it was back on the road as we cruised the coastline with the Southern Alps on one side and the South Pacific on the other. As we neared Kaikoura, we spotted a group of seals on the rocks and stopped to get a closer look. There were about a dozen of them sunning themselves on the rocks and looking at us curiously.

From New Zealand (…

Unfortunately, we accidentally spooked one seal who scrambled into a hole in the rocks to hide from us. Apparently, there was already another seal in residence, because the ruckus that broke out sounded like World War 3 and I almost dropped the camera. Eventually, to our relief, the seal emerged unscathed and resumed his sunbathing. We breathed a sigh of relief and headed back to the car.

That night, we stayed at a huge hostel in Kaikoura that was so nice it even had an inground pool and hot tub. In his usual fashion, at the last minute, Claude decided that he wanted some adventure and decided to climb Mt Fyffe which rises to the west of Kaikoura. He left at 4PM and got back around 9PM (it’s supposed to be a 6-7 hour hike in daylight) after taking some rather interesting self-portraits.

From New Zealand (…

Meanwhile, I decided to hang out by the pool with the kids who were actually adventurous enough to jump in for about thirty seconds before hitting the hot tub to warm up. Unfortunately, we were joined by some rowdy girls from the UK who were drinking by the pool and had no problem sunbathing topless, even with my kids around. I decided to take the kids inside for supper and the next thing I knew; our friends were naked in the hot tub which, regrettably, was just off the kitchen area. I wasn’t the only one who was mortified as the girls got drunker and rowdier. The pool deck emptied quickly as they tried to entice people to join them in the hot tub (let’s just say that these girls won’t be appearing in Playboy anytime soon). Luckily, the owner of the hostel arrived in time to shut down the party before it really got out of control. We could hear him yelling at them about self-respect and dignity all the way in our room and he sent them packing first thing in the morning. Fortunately, this was the only time we experienced anything close to inappropriate behaviour in any of the hostels we visited in New Zealand. The funny thing was, as I later recounted this story to a guy in another hostel, he asked me to write down the name of the hostel so he could check out the naked hot tub action. Backpackers!

To see the rest of our New Zealand photos, visit our web album.



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