Christchurch and Akaroa
Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
87Trip End Dec 29, 2008
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Not only were we late getting into Christchurch, but the immigration procedures here are the strictest we have encountered anywhere on our travels (with the exception of Sierra Leone, but that was something else entirely!). The customs and immigration people were not so much concerned with global terrorism but with the importation of vegetables and other ecological issues. The first thing we had to do was to complete the immigration cards where we had to list EVERY item of food, plant or animal material we were carrying (including walking boots used during the last 28 days!). As it was obvious that the NZ took this all very seriously, we declared everything, or so we thought!!
We arrived in Christchurch in the late afternoon and picked up the shuttle-bus into the city centre. As there were only three of us on the bus, the driver treated us to a running commentary on what to do and where to go in the city. During the drive we pass through the more select areas of the city and were very impressed with all the houses we saw along the way. The town itself is very pretty and reminded us of Cambridge (even to the extent of the punts on the river!) in fact Christchurch is often described as the most English of New Zealand's towns. Even on the drive in to town we were saying to each other that this is somewhere we might consider living.
We had decided to stay at Stonehurst, which is sort of a combination of motel/hostel/apartments and had arranged a studio, complete with mini-kitchen for 4 nights at NZ $80 p.n
The next few days were really spent sorting out the rental of a campervan for our two month road trip around New Zealand. Campervans are a very popular over here and there is a bewildering array of choices, from very small and very cheap ($15 p.n.) to extremely luxurious and expensive$175 p.n.) Being the middle of winter, prices are very reasonable at this time of year as apparently very few people relish the thought of living in the back of a van in sub zero temperatures! After a couple of days we (by we, I mean Carolyn), do a deal with Adventure Campervans for a 2 berth Fiat for 55 days @ $35 p.n.
Having sorted out the van we spend some time having a look around Christchurch, doing some shopping for stores for our trip. The shops and restaurants in Christchurch are great and seem to offer a greater variety than those in Australia and at prices much, much lower. There are masses of shops selling cold weather gear made from Merino wool and Possum fur, ranging from hats, gloves and fleeces to thermal underwear and sweaters (we even saw Merino boxer shorts - the lady in the shops was keen to point out how good they felt next to the skin!!).
Eventually it is time to pick up the Campervan and we head off first to fill up with diesel and then to the supermarket to stock up on food for the first few days of the trip.
Our intention is to spend roughly equal amounts of time in the South and North Islands and whilst in the South to head south to the lakes and then down to Queenstown and back up the West coast before crossing on the ferry to the North island
Of course one of the problems of parking on a hillside, by the sea, in the middle of winter is that it is bloody cold and this apparently was one of the coldest nights of the year so far and, it was also very windy. The upshot of all this is that we identified the shortcoming of the van during that first night as the wind rocked it from side to side we couldn't help but notice the gaps in the doors etc. And the resulting drafts. The electrics also turned out to be a bit dodgy and someone had spilt some milk on the carpets and we had not noticed the smell of rancid milk until the van heated up
We phoned the van rental people the next morning who told us to bring it back the next morning to exchange for a different van. The rental people were really great and had already sorted out a new van for us to look at. This one was much larger (4/6 berth), virtually brand new and came with just about everything you could possible want, shower, hob, microwave, refrigerator, two double beds and, even a DVD player and TV! This truly was the lap of luxury and to top it all, Carolyn put her negotiating skills to use once again and did a deal for an additional NZ$ 200 for the whole trip or about 1.75 sterling per night!
After switching over our gear to the new van and playing with the manager's pet Rottweiler for a while (a very big, strong and thankfully friendly dog!), we head off on our way down south to spend the night at a town called Geraldine.