Back to civilization! We got in late from McMurdo last night, didn’t get to the Rendezvous Hotel until about 11pm. First thing I did was sit at the bar with my buddy Joey and have a cider, then I took a much needed, longer-than-2-minute shower, and then I passed out on a wonderfully comfortable, full-sized bed and slept without being awoken by fire alarm tests. (All glorious things I could not get while on the ice!)
So now for a full day in the beautiful city of Christchurch! I was going to spend a few days here and explore some of the surrounding area, but unfortunately plans have changed. Between the USAP booking rooms for its participants, New Zealand playing Sri Lanka this Saturday in the Cricket World Cup in Christchurch, the Lyttelton Summerfest and several other events, every single hostel and hotel is booked full for 20 miles around. So tomorrow I’m headed to Queenstown to get a jump on some Lord of the Rings touring, hiking, wine-tasting, and maybe even some mountain biking.
Anyway, back to today. It started with a glorious cup of coffee that didn’t make me sick (Antarctica is really lacking in the coffee department). The Rendezvous Hotel was such a treat—free Wifi and the room was really nice; breakfast wasn’t too cheap at $20NZ, but it was convenient and delicious.
In just my first few steps out the door I found this gigantic Lego map of Middle-Earth, which overwhelmed me with excitement for this trip.
I found my way to the Canterbury Museum, next to the botanical garden. To be honest, the only exhibit I found interesting was the Maori cultural stuff. I’ve seen rocks, minerals, dinosaur bones and mummies from Egypt before, but I guess this would be a cool museum if you had tiny humans that needed to be entertained for a while. They also had a section about Antarctic expeditions, which I walked through and had a good laugh.
The botanical garden is my absolute favorite place in Christchurch, particularly the Azalea and Magnolia section. Here I napped for a several minutes in the sun, enjoying the feeling of grass and the smell of dirt. (Sorry anyone still at Pole who’s reading this…)
At several people’s recommendation I had lunch at Cheesemongers, just down the street from the park. You pick out one of their delicious cheeses from their “cheese room” and they’ll make a sandwich for you (I got Brie). They’ll also package up an assortment of their cheeses for you to take away. I wish I had gotten a take away box—my sandwich was absolutely scrumptious, I could eat there every day. If you ever go to Christchurch, eat here.
Lastly I stopped by the ReStart Mall, completely constructed from colorful shipping containers. There were loads of people here: locals having their lunch breaks, tourists shopping, people using the only ATMs for a few blocks around. It was tempting not to do a bit of shopping, but I also have no more room in my backpack for any single thing. Wondering how on earth I’ll fit in some souvenirs a month from now.
Now I’m lounging around my hostel, At The Right Place. (Not sure if it is, but that’s the name of this joint.) It’s currently about 24˚C outside, and just two days ago I was leaving the Pole where it was about -40˚C…
I’ve been sitting on this lovely patio here catching some rays while I type this up, and also watching a spider crawl around the table I’m at. First spider I’ve seen in 4 months! Someone here told me there are no poisonous spiders in New Zealand. I still want to smash it…