The Canterbury Plains
Trip Start Jan 10, 2005
53Trip End May 10, 2005
We also booked a rental car to get around easily on our own. (The car rental company's called "E-Z Rent-a-Car" - I thought that the "I'm an E-Z Girl/Guy" slogan on the employees' T-shirts were rather derogatory.
Christchurch (population 330,000) is located on the east coast of the south island, in an area called the Canterbury plains. This area is mostly agricultural/horticultural. We noticed a lot of dairy farms, tree plantations and vineyards (relatively new - many farmers pulled out their orchards and replaced them with vineyards)
The New Zealand dollar is relatively strong here at the moment (about 90 cents CDN), so not that great for us tourists. When I was here twenty years ago, it was about 65 cents CDN. The country almost went bankrupt in the mid-80s and have pulled all stops to get their economy going. Almost all government services have been privatized (even the mail service), which is interesting considering that most New Zealanders consider themselves quite socialist in their philosophy. Tourism is booming here; the tourists come to see the lush, green pastures, the majestic mountains and to tackle the many well-groomed hikes (or "tramps") that the country has to offer.
There are two types of hostels in New Zealand: BBH (Backpackers' - new since I last backpacked!) and YHA. If you buy a BBH or YHA membership, you receive a small discount every time you stay there. In Australia/New Zealand, there's no advantage price-wise for a double room (versus a single room) like there is at home - you pay a set price per person.
We managed to get a room that slept four people at one of the BBH hostels in Christchurch. Our roommate was a woman from Germany who had lived in Ireland for six years, so she had a novel accent! She was a linguist who is currently looking for work. Her occupation made for some very interesting discussion.