We are currently in Christchurch and it is Christmas Day here. Everything is closed, except one “Email” shop on Cathedral Square, in the “City Centre”. We are doing well in spite of the rain, which came in overnight after a brilliant, sunshiny day yesterday, which we both really needed. Christmas Eve morning found us in Akaroa, a small town on Bank’s Peninsula, right outside of Christchurch. The night before, the wind howled and the rain blew horizontally down the streets while we searched in vain for a cheap place to eat.
An aside: While jet lag wasn’t a big deal on this trip for either of us, the change in the amount of daylight hours has proven to be a little challenging. When we left Memphis, we were used to a sunrise about 7:30 AM and a sunset before 5 PM. However, after landing here, with the change to the Southern Hemisphere so close to their summer solstice, we immediately began (joyfully) experiencing sunrises at around 5:30 AM and sunsets close to 9:30 PM, and the time with daylight actually increased as we moved south down the island. As a result, we found ourselves staying up late, usually after midnight, and then trying to rush to get out of the hostel and on the road by 10 AM the next morning. This also usually pushed back our arrival time in the next place we were going a few hours, which occasionally made the difference between getting to town in time to visit a grocery store (many of which strangely strictly close at 7 or 8 PM, right when a lot of people want to do their shopping) or digging some ramen noodles out of the tucker bag. Several times, we found ourselves in towns full of visitors and people out and about but absolutely no stores available in a 50 KM radius. You would think that one store would open, if only because they would get all of the business of all of the visitors in the town, but, nope, everything was closed.
We really aren’t complaining and we were able to deal with it; after all, this is one of those interesting little cultural things that you experience travelling. But in this world of SuperCenter Wal-Marts and 24-mega malls, you would think that convenience store that stays open to, say 11 PM instead of 8 PM, wouldn’t be that strange. However, in the rural areas here, that is as rare as hen’s teeth.
Christchurch has proven to be a very relaxing place after the hectic nature of Dunedin, which cannot be completely chalked up to pre-Christmas preparations. This place has a must more laid-back style to it, with a lovely stream called the Avon snaking through town and a very accessible botanical garden a few blocks from the very center of the city. The streets are very walkable, and the variety of food on offer is greater than anywhere else we’ve been in New Zealand. It could probably be said that it rivals New York, especially per capita. Malay-Indian fusion food, anyone?
We are having a very relaxed Christmas holiday, sleeping in and enjoying a breakfast cooked by our B & B hosts, Gerald and Pauline. Tomorrow we fly off to hectic Sydney for a week of catching up with our friends there, including taking in a trip out of town to Hawk’s Nest, near Newcastle.
We hope that all of you are with loved ones for the holiday season. Merry Christmas!