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August 11
Hello from Christchurch (Gail)

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At Christchurch Cathedral Square

Every few days Russell picks up our email from friends and family.  As some of you may know we are expecting our first grandbaby very soon.  He will be Keegan Ryan.  Our son-in-law keeps us informed on the progress.  The latest report is that the baby has the biggest feet the ultrasound technician has ever seen.  I will proudly let everyone know once the big day is here.

Today as I’ve been going through our routine of packing up for the next adventure, I’ve been able to reflect on what we’ve seen and done.  This truly is a beautiful country; diverse in its landscape, making it interesting wherever we’ve gone.  We’ve seen rainforest, mountains, plains, coastal areas, glaciers, small towns, sheep stations, and cities.  We’ve felt welcome everywhere.

The innkeeper at the Top Ten in Franz Josef said that NZ seems to be behind the US in technology and culture.  Well perhaps NZ is actually ahead of us.  We seemed to have lost the friendliness that the people here take for granted.  To us, all of NZ carries a small town feel to it, not backwardness but friendliness.  This is very refreshing.  The best word I can come up with is civilized.  Perhaps in smaller town US this still exists.  We were never cut off on the road, no one ever raced a traffic light, and very few people used cell phones in public.

We realized that coming to NZ from the Bay Area must be less shocking than the reverse.  We only needed to remember to drive on the left on two lane roads (true some bridges had train tracks where you drive but you get used to such things) and adopt a calmer way of life.  I can’t imagine someone trying to navigate our six-lane freeways, carpool lanes, the billboards shouting useless info and everyone in a hurry.  We could learn something from the Kiwis.

Taking our lesson from the first day’s long drive, we decided to not rush ourselves or commit to any more long drives.  This was a good choice.  Weather at the fjords was promising to be overcast so viewing wouldn’t have been ideal anyway, and the weather we have had here has been beautiful, excluding today that is.

So, finally we have made it to Christchurch and have been here for the last five days.  Christchurch is by American standards a small city but offers so much.  As I don’t enjoy crowds, this has been perfect.

We spent one afternoon at Ferrymead, a living history museum.  Old homes and other buildings have been moved to the site to recreate a mid 19th century town.  We all enjoyed poking around the buildings.  The high point was the bakery where we all got meat pies for lunch.  The boys had a lot of fun with the funhouse mirrors giving themselves short squatty legs and no body.

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At Ferrymead

We took the TranzAlpine scenic train back through Arthur’s Pass and the day started sunny ending with rain showers.  It didn’t matter as we spent a comfortable day watching the mountains slip past.

Yesterday we went to the Canterbury Museum.  Cameron enjoyed the dioramas of the ancient peoples and Moa birds.  Joss enjoyed the giant globe, looking for home was his activity.  There is also a very nice exhibit of Scott’s expedition to Antarctica.  His venture left from Christchurch and they are very proud of that connection (even though Scott made it there second not first).  We walked down to the Cathedral, which is beautiful and spent some time at the old University of Canterbury that now houses an Arts and Crafts collective.  The best part though was the chess game in Cathedral Square.  The pieces are almost as tall as Joss.  The boys spent most of their time watching two men play a game.  We had to leave before it was done so they didn’t get their chance to play.

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Watching a chess game in Christchurch Cathedral Square

Today was rainy and cold, but today was a non-sightseeing day anyway.  We’ve been so lucky with the weather.  Today was laundry and packing for me and the pool for the guys, keeps them out of my hair.

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Waiting for the laundry to dry

In about twelve hours we are off to Australia.  We’ve learned some tricks on this New Zealand trip and will put them to good use.  We know we’ll come back to see all we’ve missed on this trip.  Perhaps in the spring next time.

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A rainbow viewed from the TranzAlpine


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