Decided not to continue the whole "Part 2" etc for the title- I'm wacky like that! ;)
On Boxing Day, we got up earlier than normal, finished packing and ran out the door. We left in such a hurry, neither one of us could remember if we brought the camera. Well, I should say, Darren was certain he didn't bring it because he didn't have room in his bag. I was also absolutely certain I didn't bring it because it wasn't in the pile of things to put in my bag. So, we started our trip with an hour-long fight over nothing: the camera was indeed in my bag! As a woman, though, I still found a way to make it all his fault. =)
The ferry ride was a bit long and quite crowded. We decided to have a "strategy" next time - to figure out where we wanted to be on the boat and go there immediately after boarding. The strategy worked quite well on the return trip!
The best thing about the NZ transportation system is that it's all connected - we checked our baggage when we boarded the ferry in Wellington, and picked it up when we got off the train in Christchurch. Speaking of the train ride...it was quite long (5 hours), albeit beautiful. We didn't take any pictures on the way down though, as the sky was overcast.
At the train station in Christchurch (CHC), we looked around for our hotel shuttle, waited a bit, then called the hotel. Surprise! The shuttle doesn't run on national holidays. (Would have been nice to know that....) We grabbed a cab and were at the hotel in mere minutes. The hotel - Chateau on the Park - is gorgeous, and I knew from the website that the rooms looked out onto gardens. Once we checked in, though, I found out that only the premium rooms are guaranteed a garden view. There are some "deluxe" rooms that have gorgeous views, but our "deluxe" room had a very good view of...the parking lot. Such a close view, really, that if someone waited 3 seconds too long to hit the brakes, the car would be in the room. Note to anyone and everyone considering this hotel: don't stay in an odd-numbered room!
After a bit of wrangling, they convinced me to upgrade to the premium room (the price included a breakfast buffet), which included lovely robes, a very very comfy bed and a beautiful view of the rose garden. Sorry, no pics. There are plenty on the hotel website, though.
We made our way into town via the park - a longer walk than anticipated (but beautiful) - to find dinner. Oops again! It was still Boxing Day, so all the restaurants I had picked out were closed. We did find a good Indian restaurant, though, and were comforted by the fact that it was very busy and full of Indian people. After a filling dinner, we walked back to the hotel through the park (we didn't know CHC was the "most dangerous city in New Zealand" at the time).
The next day was gorgeous, and we made full use of the hotel shuttle into town after eating the breakfast buffet. First up was the Aquarium. We loved it! For all of you who have been requesting pictures, here they come! We have some video too, but Blogger is not cooperating right now. Will edit this post to add them later -
The aquarium also has reptiles, such as the NZ native tuatara. This is no lizard! Nope, in fact it is a "living fossil". The reptile group that tuatara belong to, the Sphenodontia, has been on Earth for 225 million years. The ancestors of tuatara are known to have been in NZ for at least 80 million years (this is how long ago NZ split away from Gondwanaland). It was amazing to see one close up, as they are endangered (and nocturnal).
Speaking of endangered and nocturnal...the aquarium has a "Kiwi Encounter". Kiwi are flightless birds who historically had no predators. Over time, however, several different kinds of mammals have been introduced to NZ - many of whom find kiwi and their young quite tasty.
We had quite a bit of time with the two kiwi who have lived at the Aquarium for eight years. Once we learned to crouch down and keep back from the glass enclosure, the kiwi came out of a dark corner and ran around foraging for food. They look so different from anything we've ever seen before! Of course we weren't allowed to take pictures, so here is one from the Aquarium's website:
**Update! I have found a way to upload our videos! First video is of the Big Bellied Seahorses:
And now for an incredible Sting Ray:
Next up: Day 2 in Christchurch