We have been relaxing a lot and spending most of our days wandering around the Cathedral Square area of Christchurch, the center of the city from which all the streets seem to extend like spokes on a bike wheel–having coffee and pints and fish and chips, and running into Daniel’s friends from South Pole. In the square during the day there is a smallish market where you can buy roasted nuts and Souvlaki, greenstone jewelry in traditional Maori shapes, commercial alpaca and sheepskin clothing, and All Blacks rugby accesories. It’s a pretty hippie-friendly city and there are street musicians, jugglers and fire-throwers performing in the city center, as well as lots of tourists from all over the world. We’ve met people in our hostel from Germany, Sweden, Argentina, Ireland and Canada.
Daniel and I spent our first full day together visiting the Botanic Gardens– a very large free garden that, according to the guidebook, has over 10,000 species of plants. There are some beautiful, ancient-looking cypress trees, Cinderella colored hydrangea puffs and lots of great smells. Coming from frozen Minnesota and even-more frozen Antarctica, the flower scented air is a very welcome change, and it’s not just in the Botanic Gardens, but all over the country as far as I can tell from the places I’ve smelled so far. The next day we napped on the bank of the shallow Avon river, eating cheese sandwiches, getting slightly sunburned and watching the suspendered punters push their tourist filled, flat-bottomed boats up and down the river for hours.
Daniel, Maggie, Nicole (a friend of Maggie’s from UMD who now lives in Auckland) and I spent the weekend together. We visited the Christchurch Art Gallery, home to some great Kiwi and international art, as well as the impressively large Canterbury Museum which had a really great section on Antarctic history and some very interesting artifacts from past explorers. We spent Valentine’s day on the beach. It was a little chillier and overcast than we had hoped, but still beautiful, and we still got to wade in the ocean and wander out onto the New Brighton pier. On the pier we watched recreational crab fishers pulling up their catches, and we accidentally crashed a wedding photo shoot before getting back on the bus to return to our backpacker in the center of the city.
We are hoping to acquire bikes and head out to go camping in Akaroa in the next few days to see the countryside.