East Coast, South Island

Trip Start Nov 06, 2003
Trip End Jan 24, 2004

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Thursday, December 18, 2003

We get up early from our brisk night to a misty, cooler day. We're the closest to Antarctica we get, and although it's roughly the same latitude as back come, I'd have to say it feels colder, especially after the heat of central Otago. Given we're three days from the summer solstice, at least it's a nice short night.

We follow the road's sways and curls over the back of the peninsula. The mists give way to drizzle, and we could easily be in the Scottish highlands. Lanarch Castle adds to the illusion, with its stone walls and lion statues. We have a scone breakfast in front of a massive fireplace, then trudge around the grounds, taking in the muted green views of the peninsula.

We cover 400 km back to Christchurch, stopping for a great lunch of smoked eel and fresh seafood at Fleur's Place - run by the previous owner of Oliver's of Clyde. We have a playful chat with a table of school teachers, celebrating their end of term. New Zealand kids are off for most of January (and February?) for summer break. Winter must be a bit of a tosser in July, as there's no Christmas to break up the dark days.

Just north of the town, we work off some of the dessert calories with a stroll down the beach to the Moeraki boulders. These five-foot globes of stone shouldn't be as interesting as they are; how exciting can it be to see a bunch of round rocks in a line? However, their colours and situation, sitting quietly along the shore, give them a certain magnetic quality.

We tumble back into the vehicle and head north. Car travel in New Zealand, despite the best efforts of its many crazed drivers, is never a fast affair. Although keen for roundabouts, Kiwis haven't expanded the concept to create bypasses. Highways slow to city speeds through every town and hamlet they encounter.

By late afternoon we've reached the southern part of the expansive Caterbury Plain, which we'll cross all the way to Christchurch. High-speed freight trucks and farm vehicles lose bits of their cargo on the roadway in passing, and small kamikaze birds descend between vehicles to peck up the grain and other tidbits. Emma is horrified we may cause another road death, but can't take her eyes off the scene. With so much traffic, you'd think the little things would get trapped, but mile after mile, we see them take flight at the last moment.

Don and Dorothy have a salmon dinner waiting when we reach Rapaki. It feels so nice to be back at our temporary home with warm beds folded down.
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