Catlins, Dunedin, and into Christchurch
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So it’s now March 23rd, 2007 here, and a lot has happened since the last time I posted. I’m now in Christchurch on the East Coast, and the second largest New Zealand city after Auckland, as I had to get out of freezing cold Queenstown, which actually did warm up eventually. The treat of Queenstown was that I was able to meet up with my Mom as our trips crossed paths here, and she actually had a free day to cruise around with me and go hiking and go out to dinner, and it was just so nice to be with a familiar face and family again so far from home. Once again anyone ever wanting to visit is welcomed. She helped me run some errands to restock the food supply in the van (the cardboard box labeled the kitchen) and various other tasks, and it was great. We parted ways in the morning, her headed North and I plunging further South.
After finally leaving Queentown (and the money sucking casino) behind me, I dropped down into Invercargill and checked out the Southland Museum that was full of Maori artifacts and displays on the SubAntarctic Islands that lie to the South of NZ. From there I wound my way through the Catlins, the stretch of New Zealand on the southernmost cape that is full of wildlife and endless empty beaches and coves, albeit freezing even in March. Visited Slope Point, which is the southernmost point of the South Island, and was actually standing closer to the South Pole than the Equator, weird. Later on I went surfing at Cannibal Bay with these massive sea lions and elephant seals, and it was a trip sharing the water with such beasts, seeing as in Hawaii you just get the dolphins and sea turtles.
Eventually I headed into Dunedin for a wild St. Patrick’s Day where I met up with some American study abroad students from Sitka, Alaska, and through a progression of events not so clear to me ended up DJing and running the lights from the DJ booth at this huge club called the Bowler (that was actually bought by Otago University and sadly no longer exists) to a huge audience, and it felt real good to be back doing some DJ stuff and in charge of all of the action. The next couple of days consisted of surfing and dealing with dead batteries in the van, and I finally got the opportunity to see some penguins in the wild. At Sandfly Bay on the Otago Peninsula there is a spot where the yellow-eyed penguins, the rarest species of penguin in the world estimated at only 3000 remaining, emerge to the shore from the sea right at dusk during this time in March. You have to hide in this little hut so that they don’t see you, but it’s wild watching creatures just come out of the ocean and then start walking.
Eventually I found my way up to Christchurch and met up with Ted after about 1000 km of driving since I saw him last in Queentown, and he is just finishing up his paragliding course today before we head further North. I’m spending today just cruising around the city center of Christchurch, and jotted down a few observations as I strolled the streets.
The first was that I find few things more satisfying in a new location that simply riding the city bus for the length of a route just to get a tour of the city and watch the people, and then nestiling up somewhere with the local newspaper–always refreshing and intriguing to get a perspective on global and local events being different in each place. As I walked through the streets I was also reminded of past places visited, specifically the bus headed towards Belfast in my pre-Christmas days spent in the capitol of Northern Ireland and the great little Christmas square there, to the signs for fresh souvlaki at the greek restaurant reminding me of the days that I would cook “ena cutopolo souvlaki”, one chicken souvlaki, for many Greek customers while working on the island of Corfu in Greece. When I walked in the Christchurch Cathedral I couldn’t help but be reminded of the 19,000 or so cathedrals that I visited while in Spain and Europe–a tribute to the past British and European colonial ties that stretched even this far away in the Pacific.
Anyway, the rest of the day holds visting a local Maori meeting ground–marae– picking up the tickets for tomorrow’s big rugby game, and then a little paragliding graduation ceremony on the town with Ted.