We drove from Twizel to Christchurch on February 7, and upon our arrival we checked into a hotel across from the airport, returned the IMAX, and repacked our bags in preparation for a 9:40AM departure on Thursday morning. None of us looked forward to a day of travel back to the States, but Jane feared it the most, as she acquired a cough and sore throat during our last few days.
Most of the road trip from Twizel was characterized by rolling farmland and pastures. We stopped at a rest area in Rakaia, and a statue of a huge leaping salmon caused me to initiate some online research. I learned that the Rakaia River is New Zealand’s premier salmon fishery with runs occurring in the January through April time frame, but salmon fishing was not in our itinerary.
We arrived at the Sudima Hotel in Christchurch by 3PM and quickly checked into our rooms. The hotel provided a shuttle service, so we decided to return the rental car as soon as possible to remove one chore from our morning list. John remembered that we needed to top off the gas, and that resulted in a fairly time consuming nuisance adventure. We used the phone app to navigate, and it led us astray twice, before we found the Allied Petrol Station. All the pumps were occupied by commercial vehicles with large gas tanks. We patiently waited for a pump to free up, but when we punched in the credit card information, it requested a PIN. We shrugged our shoulders in disbelief and embarked on another circuitous route to a BP station. This unwelcome tour of the airport surroundings involved circling endless roundabouts. Fortunately we eventually hit pay dirt and topped off at the BP.
With this task in the rear view mirror, we continued back to the airport car return, and shed the IMAX. The Hyandai minivan provided workmanlike transportation, but no tears were shed, as we said goodbye to the cumbersome boxy road warrior. At first we were perplexed by the walking path back to the Sudima, but after a false start we figured it out and crossed a busy roundabout and returned to the hotel.
Both parties completed additional packing, and then we rendezvoused at the lobby and strolled to the nearby bus stop. Twenty minutes elapsed before we boarded the number 29, and the Metro bus efficiently transported us to the Christchurch bus exchange. High Street was highlighted on the map as an area containing shops and restaurants, and its proximity motivated us to pay it a visit. We stumbled across a cool outdoor bar/food spot called the Smash Palace. A bus was situated away from the street, and it was converted into an outdoor bar. We approached the Kiwi bartender, and each ordered Bodgie brews, since they were on a happy hour special.
After finishing our brews we explored more of Christchurch and found O.G.B, a trendy restaurant in an Old Government Building near Cathedral Square. Upon the completion of our dinners a brief walk of two blocks delivered us to an ice cream shop, where Brenda and John indulged in a cup of frozen dessert. Throughout our wanderings in Christchurch we were amazed by the ongoing construction, as the city continues to recover from the major earthquake in 2011. The devastation must have been massive, in order for the effects to endure for seven years.
We wandered back to the bus exchange and returned to the Sudima. I set the alarm for 6:30 in order to catch our 9:40AM flight from Christchurch to Auckland. We were about to return home, and memories of three weeks of travel adventure and spectacular scenery dominated our thoughts.