New Zealand- Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 378 (188)

Christchurch

Monday 21st March (2005)

More relaxation was definitely on the menu today with no travelling around planned. Fitting, I thought, since today is my thirty-eighth birthday. Yes, that’s right, I’m slowly becoming an old fart. Since I’m half way around the world and still racking up some pretty impressive lifetime experiences, however, none of that seems to really matter at the moment. We’ll see how I feel about it when we’re back in Europe and have to re-enter the rat race again. With a child on the way, no job, no home and little money, I’m sure there will be plenty of time to worry about the rest of my life but for now, I’m too busy enjoying myself. Since we are essentially stopping in Florida more to re-visit our old lives there than to actually travel, the effective completion of this trip is now less than a month away. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been on the road now on this final leg of the trip for six and a half months already. Where does the time go? On the flight home from Dubai at the end of the first leg, I tried to summarise the whole experience and attempted to pick out some of the highlights. When the time comes to do this again in a few weeks' time, it will be a much more difficult task. It will feel like a sad ending to a deeply moving tale and it’s a task I’m not particularly looking forward to, for it will be like stamping the terminating seal on this overall epic journey that we’ve made together. I suspect it will be a difficult transition back into a normal life again. My how we’ve enjoyed ourselves on this trip so far. The ending is not yet neigh, however, and there are still plenty of good times to be had ahead of us, and so we soldier on.

The rental car problem was still eating away at me this morning. I wanted so desperately for that offer of a cheap car out of Wellington that I read about yesterday in my e-mail to be still valid this morning so the first thing I did, after Sandy ‘wished me a happy birthday’, was to call to find out if that was the case. As luck would have it, it was and the guy on the other end of the phone confirmed that the NZ$35 (€20,30) per day rental rate was still available. I wasted no time in securing the booking with him via a 15% deposit on my credit card and was so very glad to get that problem finally off my chest. The only problem now is that we will be arriving too late in the afternoon to collect the car and will have to first find our way to a hostel for the night before picking the vehicle up the next day. The upside to this is that we will save on a day’s rental cost.

For the past few days here in New Zealand, we’ve had the definite feeling that the summer here in the Southern hemisphere has finally given way to autumn. The cloud cover is now nearly constantly overcast and the temperature has dropped markedly. There has also been the barely perceptible hint of drizzle in the air on and off. It’s perhaps fitting that we’ve just about completed our tour of the South Island but Christchurch itself may yet have one or two surprises for us and so we completed breakfast and wandered into the centre of town. Cathedral Square marks the epicentre of the city of Christchurch and I thought it might be a good idea for us to wander over there just to see it for ourselves. Parking in the inner city was sure to be problematic so we decided to exercise our legs for the day.

Indeed, Cathedral Square is a hub of activity with locals and tourists criss-crossing each other throughout the open space of the square. The cathedral from which the square derives its name stands majestically on one side of the square and we wandered inside to look around for a while. The apparent commencement of a burial service seemed like a decent enough cue for us to make a respectful withdrawal. Just across from the cathedral is an information office and this seemed like a good place to investigate what else the city centre had to offer. Annexed to the information office is an indoor aquarium and nocturnal kiwi enclosure. We missed up on the opportunity to see the rare and endangered kiwi when we were in Queenstown and for the sake of just NZ$10 (€5,80) each, after student discount, we were able to rectify this today. We spent nearly an hour exploring the aquarium and watching the continuously running video presentations in the purpose built little cinema that they had there before stumbling onto a gold panning exhibit, apparently with real gold flakes buried in the gravel and silt. Since we are now both old hands at this, we simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give it a go. And indeed we did find several flakes of gold to add to our growing collection – yet more mementoes from our time here. We finished up with a visit to the kiwi enclosure, where they had a male and female bird wandering around in the nearly completely dark enclosure. The kiwi is quite a strange bird indeed. In fact, with no wings and no tail, it’s difficult to even think of it as a bird at all. They are a very odd and unlikely looking animal at just about thirty centimetres tall and we sat there on our knees the whole time in the dark enclosure just captivated by the pair of them waddling around and using their long beaks to forage beneath the dirt. By all accounts, you have to be exceedingly lucky to stumble into one in the wild and we were both extremely thrilled to be able to see a pair of them up close, even if only in a semi-natural environment.

We didn’t really have much of a plan for today and after emerging from the kiwi house, we spent the next hour or so wandering around the inner city streets. Sandy led us to a large shop where she shopped for a few new clothing additions to her backpack. After this, we started to make our way back towards our house. This turned out to be quite the trek, as we had by now made our way clear across to the opposite side of the city (Sandy insisted I add that last bit). Had we had any idea of which bus to get onto, we’d have probably jumped onto one but at least we got our exercise for the day.

Back at the house, finally, Sandy prepared a meal from the last remaining fresh foodstuffs that we have in the house whilst I called around for a hostel in Wellington. I was a little nervous at first since several people had previously told us that we would have to book at least several days in advance, due to the fact that Wellington has fewer budget accommodation options for the number of budget travellers that pass through it. As luck would have it, however, I did manage to find a place with a double that was able to take our booking for the next couple of days at just NZ$50 (€29) per night.

With our accommodation and transportation for the North Island now sorted and out of the way with, we were finally able to sit and just relax for the remainder of the evening. There wasn’t much on TV so I whipped out the laptop and we sat through another Harry Potter DVD.

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