Blog Entry Sunday 7th 2010
Had breakfast at the hotel before heading out on our bus with Dawn, our bus driver, after a brief tour of Christchurch's Cathedral Square we left Christchurch and passed through the suburbs and out of the Canterbury Plains through a tunnel and into the town of Lyttelton. This port was the original landing site of English settlers in New Zealand. This small town perched on the hillsides of an old volcanic crater looking out over the mineral rich turquoise water had a quaint small town feel and lots of logs waiting on the wharf to be shipped off on container ships. After Lyttelton we had a brief stop on the lip of the old crater to look out over the Canterbury Plain, and Christchurch, towards the distant Southern Alps.
Returning to Christchurch we passed through some wetlands in which bird life abounded, we saw a flock of the oystercatchers, Pukeko, black swans, white faced herons, and assorted species of ducks. Back in Christchurch we toured the University of Canterbury and viewed the historical homestead of the Dean family which were amongst the first to settle the area, the LARPers, live action role players, were displaying their swordsmanship on the lawn and kindly included a few whacks to certain group members helmeted heads, all caught on film of course.
Traveling past the heavily populated cricket fields we returned to the center of Christchurch were we toured the museum taking in the local history and facts surrounding New Zealand, I especially found their bird collection excellent and allowed a close up view of all the species both extinct and those which eluded me. Hitting the streets in search of lunch the group spread out, some towards the botanical gardens others drawn toward a street performer giving a spirited juggling performance including high unicycles, flaming torches, and a knife. After the performance we hit up street vendors for lunch before wandering off to do some shopping, or wandering perilously close to becoming lost.
Three-thirty found the group gathering at the hotel and getting on our bus to go the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and Ko Tane Maori Cultural Center. We began by getting a tour of the conservation section of the park we were allowed to meet such denizens of New Zealand as the Weka, a flightless rail, the New Zealand pigeon and others. Going inside the Kea aviary was awesome as the parrots, with a little honey bribe, came quite close and actually landed on some of the group or just sampling a finger here or there. The next native was a pig with a unique squashed in face that made it look they had experienced horrible skateboarding accidents and no amount of plastic surgery could repair the damage, but despite this they were friendly and had a certain charm about them. Then we were allowed into the Kiwi house in which they had six North Island Brown Kiwi with a switched day night cycle, so they were moving around during the day and could be viewed. The first few were asleep then we had a close up encounter with a very active representative of the race who showed us first hand Kiwi's method of interacting with the surrounding environment which is to probe and smell through the tip of their beak, somewhat like a blind person just using scent to guide them. While some of the group continued on the tour two of use stayed back to further observe the Kiwi and were not disappointed in their nocturnal roving as they kindly demonstrated their power of smell in detecting our camera, or blowing bubbles in the stream they proved to be fascinating personal creatures that I did not tire of watching. We finally had to bid them goodbye and run quickly past the Kaka, Blue Duck, and a family of Pukeko to make it to our Maori cultural experience. We were led by our guide, a native woman dressed in a fur robe, through the reserve and told the importance of some animals to Maori culture, before being accosted by a fierce warrior and narrowly avoiding a fight, we then were invited into their village where they performed a native greeting and then showed us the Maori version of the Hokey-pokey. Then the boy's learned and performed a somewhat questionable version of the Haka before we were sung farewell too and left the reserve for our hotel.
Dinner was fun and full of laughter with a spirited conversation and playful banter being bandied about. It was a little sad to bid our awesome bus driver farewell but the group photo was hilarious and we parted with promises of her looking us up if she ever came to America.