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October 30, 2004

Closing the Loop: Return to Christchurch

After my tour of the sparsely populated South, Dunedin shocked my senses back into urban mode. Horns blared and tires screeched at this too-chill-for-safety country boy. After getting crosswalk-trained again I indulged in urban activities: at the Otago Museum I admired the life accomplishments of Sir Edmund Hillary, at the University I pretended to be a student for a few hours, and with a lively group of Swiss I hit a nightclub and caught up on my beer drinking.

Dunedin is at the base of the Otago Peninsula which offers interesting wildlife encounters: Albatross (very rare), fur seals, sea lions and penguins. I viewed all of these via a guided "eco-tour". The one Albatross that we observed was skimming over the water too far to see clearly, but as an aeronautical engineer I was humbled by Nature's most perfected glider. Indeed the creature has the ability to lower the tips of its 10 foot wingspan to a few centimeters over the water to prevent the buildup of draggy vortices, and uses the energy of the ocean to propel it forward by remaining over the steepest part of the wave at all times (surfing on a cushion of air, literally!)

Not being a naval engineer I didn't get as much a kick out of getting real close to sea lions and fur seals; and the penguins, being flightless birds, only reminded me of broken airplanes (still, cute broken airplanes.)

Sea Lions.

Penguins and sheep.

I have had my fair share of surprising ecounters wth other travellers here in New Zealand, so I wasn't completely stumped when I ran into an Irish couple I knew from Christchurch's "Dreamland" at the Dunedin hostel! These fine folks offered to drive me back to CHCH and let me stay at their place. I failed to resist that offer. The drive up the East coast revealed that I was right to zoom through that area without stopping.

I had to wait one week before getting my last Japanese Encephalitis shot, so after resting in the city I headed for the Banks Peninsula. Akaroa is the site of the first (and only?) attempt at French colonization of New Zealand. However, apart from a delicious "croissant au chocolat" and a few French names and flags scattered around, little is left of the culture.

Set between green hills and a deep bay this tourist hot spot is a delight to the eyes. Apart from enjoying the scenery I was entertained by sailboats sparring on the milky-blue water druing a perfect spring Sunday's yacht race.

On my way to Akaroa (and, hopefully, a haircut).

Akaroa buildings.


I spent two nights a little further out on the Peninsula in one of New Zealand's best hostels: the Bon's Bay Backpackers. Up the hill from a tiny 100-person town it is a place to relax and enjoy good food. The owner cooks dinner every night in a wood stove using ingredients picked by his kids in the garden, or caught from his boat. While the meals were memorable, the highlight was to visit the settlement's school during an open-doors day. The twelve students, aged from 6 to 12, prepared artwork and speeches about their pets (one kid brought his calf). To witness a world so different than my own was a treat topped only by the hospitality that Kiwis are known for: our attempt to leave quietly after the awards ceremony was thwarted by an invitation by the teacher for afternoon tea.



Relaxing Setting.

Posted by piegu on October 30, 2004 11:44 PM
Category: New Zealand

How neat! I really enjoy reading of your adventures and seeing pictures. "Cute broken airplanes"...I love that. :) Pumpkin and fetta salad, huh? I love pumpkin anything, so that sounds very intriguing to me. Keep the writings and pictures coming as you can!

Posted by: Rebecca on November 1, 2004 08:37 PM
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