“Everywhere you go you always take the weather, Everywhere you go you always take the weather with you” – Crowded House
(Some of you might be wondering why I chose an “Australian” song to start off a blog post about New Zealand. “This is blasphemy” you cry. Relax Bogan, one of the founding members is a Kiwi and considering Australia claims most of New Zealand’s accolades as their own anyway, I thought a reversal in tradition was warranted.)
We most certainly were following the songs instructions. It just wasn’t the weather we wanted to be taking with us. We walked and jogged through the streets of Kaikoura with our eyes squinted and heads dipped. Because everyone knows that by extending your neck in a downward forward motion and reducing your vision, you actually help decrease the amount of rainfall you come in contact with. A hand raised in the salute position approximately four inches from your forehead also seems to help. We took the knowledge we gained from Patches O’houlihan and we dodged, ducked, dipped, dived, and dodged the rain by scampering from awning to awning, bar to souvenir shop, and of course restaurant back to the bar. Even our visit to the famous BBQ Kiosk to grab some seafood lunch had us hiding in the car to avoid the bad weather.
We pulled into Christchurch with most of the afternoon to spare. We had heard about the cities continued displacement and most of the people we came into contact with suggested skipping through this “ghost town”. Telling stories about a CBD that was reminiscent to a war zone and a list of things to do that started and ended with a single word, nothing.
It has been a long and slow rebuilding process for the city of Christchurch since the devastating series of earthquakes in 2011. While I will admit that the CBD is a sight for sore eyes; large blocks of abandoned buildings cordoned off, the concrete rubble and bent steel laying in the same position as just moments after the quake occurred. But it is far from the war zone fellow travellers had described. The first thing we noticed was the large amount of tangible items that were still visible through the office building windows. Phones, chairs, computers, clocks, and everything else a standard business would utilize, were still in place almost 2+ years later. I was amazed that these objects weren’t snagged up in the first hours of the travesty. I have been in a war zone or two and I can assure you that everything down to the wood frame on the back door would be stripped away faster than you can say Sexual Chocolate. I actually had to google if there had been any looting after the quakes because I was that amazed at the Kiwi’s respect for other people’s property. While I found a few stories, there was nothing in comparison to the cops in New Orleans filling up their shopping cart at Wal-Mart.
The more important and less storied attributes of this recovering city is the creative and persevered resurrection of its crumbled central business district. Like peeling open a dark and chipped clam to expose a beautiful pearl, the cracked grey concrete of Christchurches downtown has a pearl of its own. A series of shipping containers have been transformed into a funky new beginning for the CBD and serves as an inspiration for those who have stayed to rebuild.
We left Christchurch with the high hopes of experiencing the “best drive ever”. We decided to take the inland scenic route from Christchurch through Mount Cook and onward to Lake Tekapo at the suggestion of one of our more referenced blogs. Their opinion and suggestions have been considered scripture during our trip thus far. But like Monteiths and their line of excellent beers, statistically you’re bound to fail eventually, and shit out a hot garbage excuse for an adult beverage (see the Radler).
Like the confusion that overcomes you when you regurgitate after letting the Radler make it past your lips, we ended our five-hour journey with bewilderment as to how such a trusted source could put forward something so out of line with the rest of their quality information.
Ok, ok, I may have taken that comparison a bit to far. To size anything up to the Radler is completely unfair, and the truth is the couple at Worldtravelforcouples do a far superior job at blogging about travel in every aspect. Also to their credit, the first 40 minutes of the drive was absolutely amazing. But the excellent mountain views quickly faded into low rolling hills and then eventually became the typical New Zealand farm land. We personally found the drive out of Queenstown up the west coast to be more impressive geographically and captivating. But the walk at Mount Cook was fantastic (and short, score!) and the view from the old church overlooking Lake Tekapo was impressive enough to make anyone consider attending Sunday service.
We decided to split our last four days in the south island between Arrowtown and Queenstown. Our Great New Zealand Road Trip (South Island) began in Queenstown, so we didn’t have to many things left to accomplish in the south island tourist hub. But Sally had caught wind of another bike/wine tour in Arrowtown and thoughts of redemption were heavy on my mind.
We marvelled at the shocks on the well equipped mountain bikes, not realising they would serve as a prelude to our unexpected and extremely intensive afternoon of biking. We spoke with the young Dutch girl who was working as the temporary front desk of our hostel. While she had never actually rode the track to the wineries herself, she assured us it should be quite fun and easy.
We set off with the a smile on our face and wine tasting on our mind. The first stretch was approximately 8K’s and we thought it would be a great way to build up a thirst. An hour later, 42 hills climbed, and energy levels on low, had us re-thinking our afternoon. We spoke to a few of the locals and they mentioned that while we were close to the wineries, the track narrowed and intensified on the final stretch. It was enough of a deterrent for us to change our plans of sucking back free shots of wine. It would have been an excellent treat at the end of our ride, but to weaken our legs with the delicious alcohol at the half way point, we would have certainly damaged our moral and enthusiasm beyond repair for the ride back. We did an impromptu mapping of a different track home and decided to ride hard, then get home and drink hard. But the mixing of the two would most certainly not be happening on this horrendous excuse for a “fun and easy” bike ride.
We did the calculations at the bar over an ice cold beer and discovered we had managed to squeeze 33K into our four hour bike rental. While we congratulated ourselves on the accomplishment, we also cut our hands and made a deal that is bound for eternity, never to attempt a ride that fast, long, and intense again, ever.
Our last remaining days in the south island were highlighted by the second best thing you can do with your mouth, eating. (Drinking alcohol of course being the clear first, kissing third, using profanity fourth, and from there after the placing system becomes a little blurred.) We had heard great things about Fergburger and the perpetual lineup that made its way often times around the corner was all the confirmation we needed to wait the 30 minutes to try one of our own. Words can’t describe the amazingness that followed.
Our final night we paid homage to the unofficial mascot of New Zealand and cooked a roast lamb for dinner. The three bottles of wine and overzealous selection of the meat ensured that we not only burst the zipper on our jeans that night, but had enough lamb to eat the leftovers for breakfast before we flew back to Australia.