23.01.2011 - 25.01.2011 28 °C
The day after the night of the crayfish feast, I caught the train down to Christchurch. Tranz Coastal's route along the west coast and through the Canterbury Plains is rather scenic and I made full use of the outside viewing carriage. (Outside, in that it had a roof to keep off the, fairly frequent and heavy, rain - but no sides.)
Upon arrival at Christchurch station, I had to walk 5kms into the city centre (with my very heavy bags - about 30kgs total) only to discover that the hostel I'd planned to stay at was fully booked. I then phoned 20 (no exaggeration) others - practically every one in the city - and they were all booked up too. Or destroyed by the earthquake. Great. (*I should point out that this was the first, largest earthquake - not the dreadful one that's just occurred recently. Good job I was there last month and not this one.*)
The 7.point-something quake had seriously damaged many buildings in the city, including lots of hostels. So, the surviving places were inundated with backpackers who'd all had the common sense (unlike myself) to book well in advance. Anyway, I finally found somewhere, 2km out of town, with a bed for me. The owner was even kind enough to pick me up and drop me back by the bus stop the next day.
Christchurch is the most 'English' of NZ's cities. One can punt on the River Avon and much of the architecture looks English. There are many familiar sounding street names: Hereford St, Gloucester St, Oxford Terrace etc. My hostel was, by chance, on Worcester Street! (Although they pronounced it 'Warchester'...) Given that I had only a month in NZ, I decided to spend as little time in ChCh as possible, figuring that, if I wanted to be in England, I wouldn't have bothered flying to the other side of the globe.
So, the next day (the 24th, my Birthday) I got a bus to Lake Tekapo, in the MacKenzie region. I set up my tent in the grounds of the YHA, by the lake. The views from the tent door were incredible.
On the lake shore lies the Church of the Good Shepherd and a statue of a sheepdog - a tribute to the first shepherds who roamed this area, and their trusty dogs.
What a place to spend a Birthday!
Mt. John, rising from the western shores of Lake Tekapo has a path leading up to an observatory at the top. (**To Marilyn+John, Nick+Sue and Rosalie+Frank, this is where I was when I replied to your Birthday text.**)
Rather a nice spot for a cafe.
A pretty enviable place to live.
Loads of wild hares.
By the time I'd got back down to the lake, the sun was very low in the sky and it painted the mountains many colours.
The vista, with shimmering reflections in the lake, was sublime.
I cooked and ate with a German guy, Chris, I'd met that day and then sat outside and watched the stars. Lake Tekapo has the clearest skies in the whole of NZ, hence the observatory, (no light pollution anywhere around - it's pretty remote) and is one of the best places in the world to see the southern sky. I decided to sleep with my head outside the tent and drifted off under the countless millions of stars above.
An incredible way to end an incredible Birthday.