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The Big Update (p1): Christchurch to Little River

NEW ZEALAND | Monday, 17 November 2008 | Views [1232] | Comments [1]

Hello Mom, Dad, friends, family and strangers, too.

Here’s part one of the big update. I’ve spent seven sunny weeks in New Zealand so far, four in the Marlborough Sounds and three traveling NZ’s various coasts. I will attempt to recreate my journey that took me to where I am today: Motueka.

It All Began at a Church…

Christchurch

Although it’s New Zealand’s third largest city (after Auckland and Wellington, the capital), the term “sky line” doesn’t apply here. The tallest building is probably, what, oh, seven stories high? (Although the buildings may lack in height, its art makes up for it. Christchurch’s (here forth fondly referred to as “Chch”) prolific public sculptures are often taller than the buildings; one temporary installment was a crane set up in a park with a sail boat hanging from it, three stories up – how high water may rise due to climate change.)

Still, it’s a city never the less, and what a quaint one it is! Most of the buildings are picture-perfect Victorians, and you can spend hours roaming the well-designed Botanic Gardens. (Which I did.) One of my favorite parts was the river. You can walk along the lush riverbank, following its meandering path through the Gardens and the city. It’s not a long walk – nothing is a long walk away – but it will bring you past or near many of the interesting sites. One of my favorite bits, which is why I love Let’s Go guidebooks, was walking around the Parliament Buildings. They are these old stone buildings, almost like gothic cathedrals, that you can wander in and out of, with passageways that make you feel as though you’re in a Nancy Drew mystery and should be carrying a torch.

Although Chch is lovely, there’s not much for tourists to do. One day I took the bus to the Port Hills and, with a Canadian that I met on the bus, walked up the very steep Bridle Path that the original settlers created when they first arrived. From the top you can see suburbs stretching into the distance, but then the great snow-capped Southern Alps loom in the background. Beautiful.

Just over the pass lies the town of Lytelton, which was named that for a reason. We didn’t find much (or anything) to do there, so we just took the bus back into town. By the end of the second day, I was ready to leave.

Heading to Akaroa (Little River)

Before I headed up to the Marlborough Sounds, I wanted to take a detour southeast to the Banks Peninsula. It was the presence of three volcanoes that gave it its shape, making it look now like New Zealand’s elbow. And this began a brand new adventure for me – hitchhiking! Mom and Dad implored against it, but I wanted to give it a go. I took a public bus to the outskirts of the city and stuck my thumb out. The rule of thumb (haha) is to get right on the very edge of the city; country folk are much more likely to pick you up than citysiders. Apparently I wasn’t far enough out because it was a long wait – about forty minutes to an hour. Fortunately I had a warm sun, some rabbits, and a nice countryside to keep me company. The first driver to pick me up was an eighth generation Kiwi who took me about twenty minutes down the road. The second (only waited about ten, fifteen minutes) was a man and his son who invited me in to their farm for tea (I declined, I wanted to get to Akaroa). But it was the third driver who was the noteworthy one.

Introducing Dags. He looks like one of the last people you want to get into a car with, but is in fact one of the kindest people I have ever met in my life. He’s a late-thirties-something who lives on the peninsula and is contracted to tie poi knots for a living (for fire twirling). In fact, he was on his way to Little River to pick up his five year-old son and attend the annual Little River Fire Festival, and so he dropped me off there. Before sticking my thumb out again (about a half hour from Akaroa), I decided to check out the festival for kicks. It was just a few buildings and tents along a river, and there were only a few people loitering around, but the prospect of fire throwing seemed pretty cool… the tickets weren’t that expensive so I decided to postpone Akaroa and camp out at the Festival for the night! Now don’t get the wrong impression – this was a small event. Think thirty to forty people camping out, drinkin’ beers, huddled together watching people do crazy things with fire. (One thrower, Nick, had a whip that he lit on fire! When he cracked it, a big fireball erupted and dissipated into the sky.) There was also a hot air balloon that I helped raise and pack up, though it didn’t get more than a foot off the ground due to the wind. It was definitely a very country event. One thing I was already starting to notice was how friendly Kiwis are. A couple women took me under their wing, giving me beers and offering me their tent to stay the night! This is why I love traveling with a loose itinerary!

Dags and I had exchanged info because I took some adorable photos of him and Jimmy, his son; he mentioned for Jimmy’s school holidays, they were planning on doing a tour around the Banks Peninsula and would I like to come along? Heck yeah! I told him I’d give him after a couple days in Akaroa and we parted ways.

next: Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula

Tags: christchurch, fire festival, hitch-hiking, laurfish, little river, new zealand

Comments

1

updte p1 soneyericsson

  mohamad Jan 12, 2009 10:14 PM

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