Since we were last with you, we’ve travelled northwards along the east coast of the South Island, going from Dunedin to visit friends in our last New Zealand destination, Christchurch. The eastern side, much of it called the Canterbury Plains, is farming country. Sheep ranching gives way to dairy, hay, corn and grain crops, and looks more like the Midwest USA than anywhere we visited – except for the mountains. The Southern Alps loom to the west and one braided river after another carry water from the mountains to the coast. This water and wells provide for extensive irrigation, resulting in lots of prosperous farming communities.
…. but of course the highlight of the trip was the well-known Moeraki Boulders.
These are large, spherical concretions weathering out of shale and forming a flock of boulders along one section of the beach. The largest are about 2 meters (6 ft) in diameter and are big and beautiful. The interiors of the concretions have shrunk in volume and cracked, and the cracks have subsequently filled with yellow calcite forming “septarian nodules”. Yellow calcite filling is typical of septarian nodules—don’t know why though. Must be the fluid chemistry—chemistry explains all things.
Christchurch was a wonderful city to visit. The downtown is filled with statues, churches, parks, and generally old buildings.
Right now, the city is hosting a Festival of Flowers and Christchurch Cathedral (Anglican) was festooned with flowers including a river of blossoms down the center aisle.
We attended the Sunday Service during which a men/boys choir sang many parts of the liturgy in a wonderful setting complete with cathedral echoes – it was thrilling to hear the high clear boy soprano notes ringing in the nave.
Visiting Jan’s friends (and now mine) Sally and Dick Tripp was wonderful. They live on a steep mountain pass south of Christchurch and are stimulating and delightful folks. We were thrilled that they let us stay two nights … : )
One other item: the Christchurch museum has an extensive display on Antarctica. Many of the early explorations departed from Christchurch and New Zealand has a special custodial relationship with the continent. Their display of rocks (what else?) was outstanding and spectacular—orbicular granite, fossils and trace fossils, coal, and much more. In another section, molds of gold nuggets from Australia, some half as big as your head, got my attention. Just a little one and I would be thoroughly happy.
From Jan: Right now, we are in a motel not far from the Auckland airport from where we depart NZ early tomorrow. We flew from Christchurch this afternoon and once again, our airport interactions turned out to be interesting, to say the least: when we flew into NZ on Quantas Airlines, we were each able to check two bags free of charge, so we assumed the same would apply when we began our departure. Wellllll, seems the smaller commuter flight from Christchurch to Auckland has a one bag limit after which they charge you $15/kilogram. We did have three bags to begin with (one containing only rock samples collected by some unknown geologist), the total weight being over 50 kg.; we were shocked that they planned to charge us $150 to check our bags (Our tickets were only $70 each, so that charge would’ve been more than both our fares combined.)! Frugal folks that we are, we just couldn’t see clear to paying up, so we opened all our bags right there and began choosing things to toss. Seeing that we intended to do our best to meet the airline requirements, the agents became much more helpful and eventually let us check three bags totaling 43 kg. Always a drama, it seems ….