The next morning was the first morning I’ve woken up in the tent with rain outside. That, along with a thumping headache made getting up a bit hard, though I still managed to get up, cook breakfast and leave by 9.30am. I was going to head south, avoiding Christchurch on the advice of a German guy working there, though the lack of supermarkets and the prospect of another night in a wet tent steered me in direction of the city. Just as well, as when I got another puncture (caused by the Singapore $2 note which was holding my tyre together chaffing on the tube), I noticed that the rubber on the tyre is starting to fall off, revealing the fabric below. I suppose that’s what happens after five and a half thousand kilometres!! Thankfully this happened 20km from Christchurch.
I stopped by the International Antarctic Centre near Christchurch Airport. It’s a huge visitor attraction, with models of the Scott Antarctic base, a ‘blizzard room’, actual penguins and numerous informative displays. I just thought I would stop by to compare it to the real thing which I’ve seen for the past 4 years working down by Antarctica myself. I’m afraid I found it all rather corny and doesn’t put across the magic of the place, with one exception. There was a 20 minute film shown on a large screen with no dialogue which was fantastic. It brought back many memories for myself, and gave the other visitors who aren’t as fortunate as myself an insight into the vast wilderness down there.
Christchurch really is a bit of a ghost town. I’d guess at least one in five houses appear to be no go areas, and the entire city centre (at least 5sq km) is out of bounds. The result is a city without a heart, which is very strange. I spent over half an hour earlier in the day trying to book a space at a hostel, though every one of them was fully booked. Countless people are flocking here to work on the (rather slow) rebuild, and many people have been relocated due to their houses being to dangerous to live in. This means It’s hard work getting a bed in the city. I did consider going into the cordoned off city centre and pitching my tent in the middle of the street, though I’m not sure I’d sleep to well!! In the end I had no choice but to opt for a motel – the most expensive night’s accommodation in the trip so far.
I has a good look at the map and a calender and decided to catch a bus down to Dunedin which will give me more time to explore the south of the island. Dunedin is known for being the Edinburgh of New Zealand, and it shows… Countless street names are taken from the Scottish Capital and it even has a Water of Leith! The owner of the guesthouse I’m staying at mentioned that Dunedin has the steepest residential street in the world, which I obviously had to go and cycle up. Just. It’s 1 in 2.6 at it’s steepest. Quite simply ridiculous. I certainly wouldn’t like to be the postman round here (they deliver post by pushbike in NZ towns). It’s apparently freshers week this week, so I may venture downtown to see what madness I encounter. It’s really nice to visit a city which I’ve visited countless times during my cruise ship days, though never once managed to step off the ship and take the time to explore.