14 03 2009

Was awesome. Exactly what we needed to recharge the power cells before knuckling down to a hopefully busy dry-season here.

Spent a night and day in Perth first, before catching the red-eye Air NZ to Auckland. Shit flight, during which I’m sure I picked up the head cold that would conveniently accompany me for the rest of the break. Transited to our Christchurch flight from there and just over an hour later, touched down in the old home-town.

It is a somewhat surreal experience being back to somewhere once so familiar, but also now changed, in my case due to the 20 odd years since I’d spent any real time just looking around. Back then, I was 17, the year was 1988 and I was in my last year off  High School.  I actually arrived there in March to stay at my fathers with his 2nd wife and her daugher. That particular episode lasted about 3 months, or until around the time my stepmother found my “diary” in which I described my stepsister, my age, as an “immature little bitch ” and also a  large, sharp knife that I’d aquired somewhere previously and kept because, well, you know, it’s pretty cool to keep a large blade in your sock draw, right ?

Stepmother didn’t think so. In fact, she deduced that I must in fact be on drugs (I wasn’t) and arranged for the police to turn up and search the house. They found no drugs, but the large bag of white powder under my bed had them salivating for a bit. Turns out it was my stash of Potassium Nitrate, bought from the hardware store for making gunpowder with my mates from school.  Things went from bad to worse here, with the effect being that I was shortly after sent back to my mother in Auckland and my previous school there.

And apart from 2 later trips to the South Island by motorbike, and a weekend spent there 14 years ago to introduce Dad to she-who-would-become my better half, I hadn’t been back since.

Christchurch is known as the garden city, for good reason, its green, lush, perfect for growing most anything. Its also a very English city, with its gothic architecture, street layouts and names, gardens and trams (they weren’t there in my day, except in the museum!). We picked up a quality Falcon XR6 at the airport, I’d been wanting to drive the new FG model since last year, so was pretty impressed to get an upspec one with the 6 speed ZF trans and of course, the Iphone plugged straight in.

We checked in to the hotel for the weekend, and the better half had to register for her convention on that weekend. Then she and the girls wanted a rest, so I went exploring ! We were right in the middle of town, so I basically spent a lazy afternoon checking out old haunts, and visiting old streets and buildings in the city I used to frequent years ago. My old after school gym : gone. Old warehouse where I worked afterschool when I was 13 : now re-renovated as a dine-in brewery. Wizards, the cities first video-game parlour where I wasted countless hours and money : amazingly, still there, just as seedy and enticing as ever.

And the city itself of course had moved on. There were new buildings and public artworks, the trams I mentioned, all lending themselves to the feeling that the city was keeping pace with modern times while at the same time, there was also enough of the recogniseable and comfortingly familiar. I’d never have admitted to it back in my angsty teenage years, but the old place with its friendly people, clean, green streets (no graffitti, no rubbish in the city centre!), and the mighty Southern Alps always present in the background, really impressed on me the notion of being “home”.

The next day was Saturday, so it was just me and the girls for two days. Had a great time showing them my old stomping grounds, where I lived and went to school and got into trouble. First thing they wanted to visit was the Antarctic Centre, after a term spent studying the place last year in school. Christchurch Airport has for years been the international base for Antarctic exploration and supply, to the NZ, Italian and US governments among others. Since my days there, they have turned it into one of the countries biggest tourist exhibitions as well, showcasing the Antarctic region and realities of life in the real down-under. So we got to see the penguins, all the exhibits and displays, ride in one of the genuine Haggeland all-terrain vehicles round an obstacle course and stand in a  dark snow-covered wasteland while an artificial storm dropped the temperature from -7 down to about -18 degrees C in a couple of minutes – typical conditions to be found down there it seems. Really cool, man!


After that, we went visiting. Jeffrey is an old mate of mine, actually the oldest seeing as we went to primary, intermediate and high school together here years ago. I hadn’t seen him in 14 years either, but we dropped in to catch up over a coffee. He had 3 kids, and his boys were also twins, all around the same age as ours. We reckoned there must have been something in the waters of the Avon river to hit us both up with a case of Double Trouble!

Next day, we took a drive through to Lyttleton Harbour, around the bays and over to Akaroa harbour, on the far side of Banks Penisula.

Akaroa Harbour

I got to play tour guide here to Justin, a mate from Broome who was also here as partner to his girlfriend who was at the same conference as the wife. Had a great day, weather was fine and dry, the girls got their promised play in a playground and we had our promised pub-lunch in Akaroa – Roast Pork washed down with a couple of Speights ales – divine. My head cold was really settling in by now, but I didn’t let it really bother me for the rest of the trip. In fact, it just meant that I had an excuse to ease up on the health kick and indulge in a few more excellent kiwi beers that, unfortunately, I couldn’t quite taste as well as I should of. But of the fact that they were excellent, I am indeed quite sure.

Drej&Co, Port Hills, Chch

Next day, dosed up on Sudafeds (the ones with real PseudoEphedrine and Codeine I found, are far superior to the “alternate” version), our little family finally hit the road.  First stop was Hanmer Springs, a couple of hours north of Chch.  Hanmer is a lovely little alpine village nestled in the foothills of the Southern Alps which grew up around the discovery of an abundance of sulphur and other elements to be found in its naturally occuring hot springs.

We checked into our B&B , a fantastic little fully self contained lodge, and then spent a chillaxin afternoon soaking in the hot pools. The girls were more impressed with the Hydroslides which they had all to themselves with school holidays being over, and we got to indulge ourselves a leisurely break soaking up the sulfur in  40 degC rock pools.

Next day, back on the road, over the winding Lewis Path in the Alps to the wild, West Coast. Reknown for its propensity to rain, we were lucky to have clear blue skies and sunshine all the way. We stayed the night at Punakaiki, home to the famous Pancake Rock formations and blowholes. Had another great spot to stay, nothing beats waking up to the surf crashing right outside your front windows in the morning.




Next day, we were off to Nelson, at the North of the South Isl, where we were basing ourselves for 3 days. We arrived around lunchtime, had a quick drive through Nelson, and then out to our B&B on the Mapua Estuary about half an hour out. A fine place indeed, we had a self-contained cottage right on the water, part of a large orchard and vineyard homestead. Each morning, a nice lady would let herself in at 8 and cook us all whatever we wanted for breakfast, and then clean the place after we left for the day!  Not bad!

Mapua, Nelson

And the girls were happy to have the run of the place, they got to see the local ducks and met the chickens where our morning eggs came from, and play as long as they wanted with the owners poodle that came to visit every day. Heck, they were happy enough with just the SkyTV and Spongebob!

So for 3 days we hung around the Marlborough region. Visited the golden beach of Kaiteriteri, went shopping, went to Nelson had a great pub lunch at the Upper Moutere Inn, the oldest pub in NZ, built in 1850!

Upper Moutere Inn

One day in Nelson we visited the National Wearable Art Collection and Classic Car Museum. This was a highlight for me, a mostly private collection of automotive memorobilia from all ages. There was everything from a genuine Model-T Ford, through to vintage racing cars and modern supercars like Ferraris and Porsches, even saw my first stainless steel DeLorrean, just like in Back to the Future. Couldn’t find the flux capacitor though. Will do a bigger post on this later with photos. They also had an awesome collection of racing and exotic motorbikes (drool…).

In fact, I did toss up hiring a bike while here, the South Island does have in my opinion, THE BEST roads in the world. And up Nelson way, are the best of these, the Nelson-Picton road through the Queen Charlotte Sound, and the Takaka Hill. But of course, here, in the region of NZ privy to the most sunshine-hours in the country, we got rain. Not a lot overall, but with the bike hire place renting for 3 day minimum hires, I figured around $1000 for maybe a day or so of good riding was a bit excessive. I’ve done it on my own bike a couple of times, and resolved that one day while I still can, I’ll do it that way again.

But I did have one good drive, just myself and Joe Satriani on the Iphone, in the XR6, on Takaka Hill, in the wet. The new Fords have really got the handling side of things sorted, with a new front end and steering rack that really makes spirited driving in any conditions, a joy. So with the 6 Speed in Sequential-manual mode, I got to tear up and down the Takaka Hill, about 50km of 2nd and 3rd gear corners end to end, all on my own. My little bit of fun that I would not have been allowed to enjoy with the speed-limiting device (the better half) present 🙂


Our time up this way was hugely enjoyed, lots of eating and drinking and good times, which had to come to an end all too soon.  Saturday morning we packed up again, and headed back to Christchurch, via the Queen Charlotte Drive (first gear material here, in the dry anyway…) and Picton. Picton is where Dad lived, and where we would have otherwise spent most of this week had he still been around. But it wasn’t to be. Drove past his house, boat still on the lawn, said a silent goodbye and passed through.

Down the East Coast we then drove back to Christchurch. Had dinner at another terrific little pub just off the highway (half the pubs we stopped at this week brew their own beers!), and then 2 hours later in Christchurch, had another one when I couldn’t resist a happening-looking Mexican cantina restaurant! The Crusaders, my Super14 Rugby home-team were playing the Otago Highlanders on the box, so all the bars were full. The ‘Saders lost, but I did content myself with picking up a Jersey at the Duty Free in Auckland on the way home anyway 🙂

Last night in Chch we stayed at the Heritage hotel in Cathedral Square. Will absolutely stay here next time, perfect central location in the well-restored 100 year old Old Government Building with all the mod cons and the best gym setup I have seen in a hotel, period. Shame I was still too under the weather to use it, but I did have a look…. 😉

And then it was over, at least our flights home the next day were easier travelling than the trip over, I got to read nearly all of the excellent “River of Gods” by Ian McDonald, and with the time difference we were back in Perth around 6pm for a catch up with the inlaws.

Next day, Monday was some more window shopping in Perth, before the afternoon 2 hour flight home to Broome. A fantastic time, where I got to discover a whole new sense of “home” I’d forgotten about. Will be back for sure in years to come, especially as with this trip, we really barely scratched the surface of the Land of the Long White Cloud.




10 responses

14 03 2009

Jesus, she’s a bit of a round trip.

Great yarn. Know all the names and Kaiterteri is one of my favourite spots. We used to go to Nelson every year at the Tahunanui camp ground for the xmas hols. Loved it. We went for years. We used to go to Alexandra in Central Otago but the old man blew himself up one year (literally, dude) but somehow survived it but we never went back there.

Mapua *snicker snort* let’s save THAT ONE for another time. lol.

Nice car. Cute kids. Great photos. Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to see more.

14 03 2009

What Moko said. A poignant post in spots. I can get back to my hometown about anytime and it’s changed a lot (not for the better, unfortunately) over the last 20+ years.

Where is this ‘New Zealand’ you speak of? Never heard of it. 😛

Seriously, I’ve heard the place has some great views, and your pictures bear that out.

Good post-felt like I was traveling right along with you all!

Great stuff-felt

15 03 2009

Thanks boys! Moko, yeah its been one of my favourite spots in the world for years. More photos on FB if you’re interested.
YD, NZ is a glorious island nation in the pacific, aka Gods’ Own, comprised of the main North & South islands, and a very minor one to the west where all the undesirables, or westies, hang out, you may know it by its indigenous name, Australia :p

16 03 2009

Sounds like a great trip, I hate to think of the flight times.

16 03 2009

A misunderstood teen…sighs.

Hey that’s a great smile you’ve got going there.

17 03 2009

Bangarr, thanks, at least the in-flight entertainments better than it used to be, but I always have a good book as well for backup.
Nat! Welcome back, stranger! Misunderstood, oh, you have no idea…. 😉

22 03 2009
Big Bad Al

Great Travelog Drej.

In 1980 I was offered a transfer to the NZ Army for two years but circumstances dictated I had to knock it back. One of my few regrets.

Great Post.

22 03 2009

Hey, thanks Al! Hope you’ve had the chance to see it firsthand, or that you do in the future. Its cliche, but its all good !

26 03 2009

Mate what a great trip. Just don’t forget to let me know the next time you’re in perth.

26 03 2009

Thanks Chaz, usually down a few time a year, will catch up for sure.

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