Christchurch centre

 The weather today was awful. So awful I felt homesick.

OK, that’s a lie. It was just awful. I really don’t miss home at all. Especially when, despite the rain, you get to see mountain ranges over the bay while you’re drinking your morning cuppa.

Pam and Rob fancied a chill out day and it seemed I’d passed some kind of test yesterday – Rob gave me the car keys and just told me to have fun.

Bwahahaa.

Only it was raining and Lou wouldn’t let me do any handbrake turns on the hill roads. Spoilsport.

We headed back to Lyttelton so that Lou could get a few more pictures and then drove into Christchurch town centre. Eventually. It seems that the UK rule of having a bloody-minded one-way system in all major built-up areas has spread down here as well.

 Finally, we parked up and wandered to Cathedral Square. We popped into the building for which it is named, and Lou bought a greetings card with a photograph on it taken in France around the turn of the century. There’s a man pictured in it who is uncannily like her brother. Spooky.

Our bellies were indicating that now was a good time to get some food and I spotted a pub that Rob had mentioned – the Holy Grail. Impressive place as well. It’s a sports bar/pub with several floors and a restaurant. And a games room. And a betting shop. It has a map on a plinth when you enter like the ones you get in shopping precincts.

It also sells very good food at very reasonable prices. And has a screen the size of my house showing sporting events. Plus a gazillion other smaller screens showing other live sport. Superb.

I enquired and they’re open 24/7, showing every World Cup game. We will be in the area for England’s second game (against Trinidad & Tobago), so I’ve made tentative arrangements with Rob to see him there.

 Stomachs sated, we walked around the corner to the tourist information centre and discovered that it had an attached aquarium and kiwi sanctuary. They also offered a discount to people with YHA cards (mine’s made its money back already), so we popped in just in time to see the fish in the main tank being fed.

The aquarium’s pleasant enough but nowhere near the size of the one I visited in Bangkok. However, it’s also cheaper and focuses mainly on species indigenous to the south island. The cinema shows constantly rotating short films about many birds, mammals and sea creatures – we sat and watched all of them.

Then it was kiwi time. The sanctuary only has two at present and they’re kept in a darkened room with a natural habitat for them to scratch around in. Both were close to the glass and very easy to examine up close once our eyes had adjusted.

They really are the most bizarre creatures… but also utterly gorgeous and cuddly. Kiwi do have wings, though they’re so small that you can’t make them out amongst all the fluff. A sleeping kiwi tucks its beak under the little nub of wing that it has. They’re unique in having nostrils at the end of their long beaks – all other birds have them on the top or near where the beak joins the head.

Watching a kiwi walk rang little bells in my head until I remembered where I’d seen something similar. The two-legged walker vehicles from Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. They don’t so much walk as fall over and just catch their balance on the other food.

 On the balance of things, I’m surprised to find myself happier having seen these little beasts than I did seeing whales. I’d have thought I’d have been the other way around.

Teatime approached and we had one more stopoff to make. Louise has a cousin just north of Christchurch who she’d stayed with recently and owed them some booze (as her and her other cousin had necked it all). Richard and his wife Helen run a guest house and we drove up to deliver said alcohol and to pinch a cup of tea in return.

A lovely couple, but as these visits have a tendency of doing, we stayed longer than anticipated and were a little late getting back to Pam & Rob’s. Instead of dinner out, we opted for a nice simple meal of sausage rolls and chips. Scrummy!

Early to bed though – tomorrow would see us rising before the sun. Again. Posted by Picasa

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