Thursday, December 23, 2010

A/NZ - Christchurch - Day 24

We docked in the port city of Lyttelton. Christchurch is actually inland on the other side of coastal mountains (extinct volcanic formations). Aside from the shipping container activity, it was a very scenic area. Unfortunately, we had to board a bus to get to Christchurch and had only one opportunity to photo the area except through the bus window.

This is the Timeball Station. Every day from 1876 to 1934, the ball was hoisted and dropped to signal Greenwich Time to ships in the harbor. I suspect that the Times Square Ball drop on New Years at midnight has its origins in this method of displaying time.

This is one of those "bus photos" that never really look all that good. I guess it is better than no photo.

The hillsides are covered in yellow flowering bushes that are considered weeds. They tend to crowd out the other vegetation.

The road was challenging for the bus.

A really nice view of Lyttelton Harbor if it weren't taken from a moving bus.

We did stop at a scenic lookout for these photos. Here you can see the Canterbury plains with mountains in the distance.

Kind of hazy, but this is downtown Christchurch.

Our tour guide was a colorful person.

Our first stop was the Riccarton Bush and the Dean family home. This is our guide for the bush area. The bush is a protected area covering about 3,000 acres. It is one of only a few un-touched native growth areas on the plains. It is carefully protected by fencing and double gated entry points to prevent non-native animals from getting into the bush and endangering the native animals living there. The bush was very dense and dark so there were no good photo opportunities there. It was a very interesting walk and you felt isolated from the busy city that surrounds the park.

The Deans were early European settlers in the area. It is too long a story to tell here, but this is the family house. It was the Deans who set aside the land for the Riccarton Bush.

We toured the Dean house and discovered that photos weren't allowed as soon as we took the picture.

After touring the house, we hopped back on the bus and drove for 30 minutes to the Dean's country farm estate.......Homebush. The farm is still actively raising sheep and cattle and entertaining tourists. We had lunch at the ranch featuring lamb on the barbie. We ate lots of lamb on this trip. They even had it regularly on the ship.

We were treated to another demonstration of sheep shearing and the use of dogs to herd the sheep.

They have a large nature area at Homebush. We all went for a walk and enjoyed the very large trees......many of which were imported for other parts of the world. The trees were planted way back in the 19th century, so they have had time to grow. This was a California Redwood.

They had another mansion at Homebush and this is what is left of it after the September 2010 earthquake that struck Christchurch. They plan to rebuild.

Our next stop was the International Antarctic Centre. The Centre is a joint project with New Zealand, the U. S., and several other countries. New Zealand has always been one of the starting points for Antarctic exploration.

They had "snow cat" rides available.

The Centre has a "cold room" for the tourists. You have to remember that Australians and most New Zealanders don't experience extreme cold weather, so going inside the room is a new thing for them. The actual temperature in the room was only 17 degrees. They did start a fan once you were inside the room to create windchill to add to your experience. The snow on the floor is real. Everyone had to wear booties to keep the snow clean.

They furnished the coats.

The Blue Penguin is an endangered species and is native to New Zealand. There were a few of them on display at the Centre.

It was a good day but also a little disappointing. We got behind schedule by about 30 minutes so the rest of the day after the centre was rushed. We drove around downtown Christchurch and it is a very nice city, but we only got to get out of the bus once. What should have been a 45 minute opportunity to walk around turned into 15 minutes. Even more unfortunate, was the fact that we had planned to meet up with my cousin, Arnold Parr, at this point in the day for a short visit.

Arnold lives just outside of Christchurch so we were on his home turf. As a matter of fact, we stopped at what was the university campus that he taught at for many years. We did connect with Arnold, but 15 minutes wasn't nearly enough. Arnold was kind enough to bring homemade honey for us. He keeps the bees and makes the honey himself. We enjoyed it for days after getting back to the ship. I was so distracted by the pressure to get back on the bus so quickly that I failed to even take a photo of Arnold......more disappointment. We waved goodbye to Arnold from the bus. He is coming to the U. S. and Canada this summer, so we hope to see him again then.

As we were driving through the city, we did pass by parts of Christchurch that had major damage from the earthquake still visible. Entire buildings were collapsed. It was obvious that only the older structures not built to withstand earthquakes were the ones with damage. The newer structures went unscathed.

When we returned to our cabin, we found a towel animal that was a real work of art. Cabin attendants are skilled at doing this and this is just one of the animals that we had waiting for us on the cruise. Sigrid had asked our attendant earlier in the day if he knew how to do a turkey. We could tell that it wasn't something he normally did. I guess he researched it and came up with his own design.....impressive. The gold disks are wrapped chocolates.

Our next stop is Picton, New Zealand.

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