In Christchurch we slept in a rundown city campsite close to the train station. Compared to all the other excellent clean sites we had in NZ this one definitely is due for a renovation. In the early morning we took the Trans Alpine Express across the Canterbury plains, over the mountains to Greymouth on the West coast and back. Totally a 9 ½ hr train journey. It was a luxury tourist train with new carriages, onboard service, and an open viewing carriage for picture taking. Almost all passengers were (foreign) tourists. Some taking the train only to Arthurs Pass in the Alps and then turning back (by bus) while others continued their holidays from Greymouth. A few did the daily return trip like we did. The track from Christchurch up to the mountains is the most interesting. After the agricultural lower part of the Canterbury plains you enter, closer to the alps, the hilly sheep station area. Several wide braided glacier rivers run down the mountains, creating valleys and gorges. The train line crosses then over bridges and through tunnels. At Arthur’s pass the train goes through a 8,5 km incline tunnel to the west side of the Southern Alps and down to the Tasman sea at Greymouth. Already at the pass the weather changes significantly from sunny and dry to cloudy and wet. On the return trip we experienced the opposite. In Christchurch is was again sunny. A well spent relaxing day on one of the world’s most scenic train journeys. A no driving day.
We moved to a much nicer camp spot just outside Christchurch in South New Brighton. Much more relaxed and clean. The next day we drove back into Christchurch to visit the town centre. It was destroyed by consecutive earthquakes in 2010/2011. The heart of the old City is destroyed. Rebuilding has slowly started but several building are still strengthen by large beams. What is to happen with the cathedral is still unknown. After visiting the (again free) Canterbury museum with a large Maori and Antarctica section we went to the botanical gardens. These was started in 1850’s and the planted trees are already very large due to the good soil and mild winters.
Everything grows quicker and larger in NZ, even the people as can be seen from the picture of Rudy with his 2 cousins, David and Peter, (sons of his immigrated (1951) uncle Felix Knoef, his mother’s brother). We stayed at David and Marianna’s house for the night. David is a trained cook so we enjoyed a fantastic evening meal, joined by David’s sister Julia, before settling down to watch the less appetising cricket match of NZ vs. AUS (NZ lost big time). It was great to tell our family stories and hear those from our immigrated family members.
Before bedding down we noticed that the back door of the camper could not be closed. Only the next morning were we able to remove the stuck spring mechanism so it can close again. Since the day was already half spend David took us out to his favourite Dimsum restaurant. We have never had such good Dimsum snacks. It was truly the best restaurant in town. Thereafter it was on the road again following the coastal SH1 to Kaikoura (198 km).
The idea was to go out with a boat to watch the whales. Both at the booked 10:30 and the alternative 12:15 trip was cancelled. Apparently the whales were spotted beyond the reach of the excursion boat. Thus no whales. We amused ourselves, while waiting, with a coastal walk spotting fur seals before driving up to Picton (183 km). We stopped at Ohau (on the SH1) to see more seals sunning themselves and the pups having a great time in the pools in-between the rocks.
In Momaranuit we finally, before leaving the South Island, found a campsite along the Queen Charlotte coastal drive with a direct view of the sound from the camper! A fitting end of our trip to South Island.
Tomorrow afternoon we catch the ferry back to the North Island. We had a great time here on the South Island on both the West and East Coast. The lifestyle here is so relax that we are even thinking of moving here to live. Jamaliah tending the garden and Rudy fishing and hunting.