~ Christchurch ~
This is a photograph of Christchurch's only seaport, Port Lyttleton.
Well then, where did I leave off. That's right, I was just about to leave Glenmark Wines. My journey down to Chistchurch was uneventful. John dropped me off at the only convenience store in Waikara where I caught a bus to the city. My first stop was at Warner's, a hostel in the center of town. Due to a flood which devistated Queenstown, a touristy town in the center of South Isle, the rooms were all booked for the evening so I was directed to Cokers, a less expensive hostel on the edge of town. The hostels in New Zealand are all pretty much like hotels. Rooms range in price from about $15 for a dorm bunk to $35 for a single room. At first I was somewhat concerned about the safety of my belongings but now that I've been gone from the McCaskey Ranch for almost two weeks, I've gained confidence in their overall security.
My first night was rather hectic. Almost all of the rooms in Cokers were bustling with activity, as was the lounge and bar. Being at loose ends for the first time since I arrived in Christchurch was a rather heady experience. Most people here speak English and everyone seems to have a well founded interested in Americans. I mentioned earlier that California seems to influence this country greatly. Inversely, New England and most of the east coast is entirely foreign. The sweeping generalization which I use regularly is that New England is very conservative and traditional while California eopitomizes liberal -- much like New Zealand.
After exploring the neighborhood for a few hours, I settled into the Cokers bar where I met and played pool with a group of Irishmen and women. One of the women had just returned from the US where she had been visiting her sister, a successful New York city actress. Given my aspirations as an actor I couldn't help but inquired as to her degree of success. She replied that her sister wasn't heading towards an immediate Hollywood promotion but that she had a producer and was contented, if only temporarily, performing for smaller crowds (she had a producer - gasp). I played some pool, and then some more pool. It's unfortunate that you have to be at a bar to play pool. Anyway, that was my first night.
Christchurch is just another city. There are bums and hooligans on the sidelines, malls and beauty salons lining the streets, and the occasional corporate skyscraper. On Saturday, Nov. 20th, I began the day with a pleasant breakfast at a corner cafe, I checked into Warners (the one hostel located directly in the center of town - also known as Bailey's Irish bar) and began my inspection of the area. What do people do in the city besides spend money? What should I be looking for? I spent a few uninspired hours perusing used book stores and newspaper stands. Having walked through town square a half dozen times by mid afternoon, I began to wonder what was missing. All the commercial industry is present just no quality entertainment. With the exception of the Royal Theatre, and one particularly classy strip of bars lining the park, pool halls and casinos are the foremost attraction. The demand for 24 hour diners is satisfied exclusively by the standard selection of fast food joints. You guessed it; McDonalds, Burger King, and KFC. As a matter of fact, there simply aren't many good eateries in town. Instead of the cafes or foreign restaurants which you might ordinarily expect to see beneath the awnings lining a city street, there are fish and chip diners or burger depots. I'm sure there are places hidden away that I didn't see but the inner city streets simply don't posess the thickly settled atmosphere seemingly common to our thriving East coast cities. Then again, I'm not exactly a practiced citygoer myself. Summarizing the highlights of a city proves to be an overwhelming task. After eating the U.K. Special (sausage and mashed potatoes) at Bailey's, I took a public bus to Hoyts 8 for a relaxing cinematic interlude (This is a reminder to rent Anna and the King starring Jodi Foster when you return).
Two days have passed and I have decided, despite the expense, to rent a car for a few days. I spoke with Warner's front desk and they arranged a four day, unlimited mileage rental with Trusty cars. After sitting through a thorough interrogation unleashed by the dealer, I was happily under way. My first destination, Port Lyttleton, is just south of Christchurch. Lyttleton harbour is sheltered by a penninsula jutting out from the east coast of South Isle. Arriving at the port by early afternoon, I came across a gondola information center where it was recommended that I use my car to explore the ridge between Lyttleton and Christchurch. Taking their advice, I spent my first afternoon driving along a spectacular mountain range overlooking Lyttleton harbour, Governor's Bay, and Diamond Bay (see photos). After a fun filled afternoon of driving (taking care to stay on the left side of the road), I found a deserted camping ground at the far end of Diamond Bay where I settled down for the evening.
On Tuesday, November 23rd, I woke up early and walked up the hill to a small grocer where I ate breakfast. Still interested in finding the very farthest reaches of the penninsula, I returned to my car and spent the morning following a poorly kept road up the edge of a precipice. By mid-morning, having scaled a number of treacherous roads, I was hailed down by a couple of men working on an embankment. According to their warnings, the final pass had begun to erode dangerously and would be useless until fixed. Upon returning the way I came, I stopped at a small town overlooking governors bay where I found a small restaurant with a marvelous view. Noticing a variety of New England specialties on the menu, I learned that the owner had lived twenty odd years of her life in Boston before returning home to New Zealand. Mentioning that I was particularly drawn to Lyttleton harbor given its marked resemblance to the tropics (specifically the Caribbean), she mentioned that one of her close friends has lived all her life in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She was a friendly woman (with her daugters my age lurking in the background), and learning of our common ground was a nice coincidence.
I stopped at a waterfront estate as the sun was setting and enquired about a place to pitch my tent. The old fellow who I spoke with said that the nearest motor camp was in Christchurch but that I could stay on the green if I liked. Shame on me for not taking a picture of the property; enormous pines lining the drive and series of grassy terraces on either side.
The next day, I bought a train ticket down to Invercargill scheduled to depart the following morning, I stopped at the rental agency to settle my dues, developed my flim and scanned the resulting photos for my web page (kicking myself all the way for not owning a digital camera), and took another pass at the movie theatre in anticipation of country life.
On a personal note, I'm looking forward to leaving the city. Besides, it's too expensive to stay any longer.
The next morning, I awoke at 7:00 and returned to Trusty Car Rentals. The day before, I had told the dealer that my train would be leaving for Invercargill at 8:30. He agreed therefore to meet me at 8:00 am at his office to settle my dues. However, upon closer inspection of my ticket, I came to the surprising realization that the train was actually scheduled to depart at 8:10. Realizing that I would not have time to get to the train if I met the dealer at 8:00, I decided that there was nothing for it but to leave my payment, the keys, and the car in a place where he would find them. Since the dealership was surrounded by steel fencing, preventing me from delivering my package to the office, I placed my payment and the car keys in a bag with an un-eaten loaf of bread and chucked it over the fence into the center of the parking lot. By that time it was 7:50 and my cab had arrived to deliver me to the train station. I arrived with five minutes to spare and checked my bag once I had boarded the train.