Even though the Southern Alps block most of the rain coming across the Tasman Sea, giving Canterbury a reasonably dry climate, it was pouring rain when I arrived in Christchurch this afternoon. This didn’t dampen my enthusiasm at all, nor did it wipe the silly grin off my face. I kept thinking that I’m in New Zealand, and whether it’s raining or sunny, it’s still New Zealand, the setting for what is going to be a fantastic trip.
Plus, I think it would be difficult not to be excited after standing in line at Christchurch Airport immigration. No, I’m not being sarcastic; the imagery they display on video screens all around the immigration hall is stunning, and it’s only a car drive away if you want to see those places for yourself. I think it was a great idea — it certainly kept my mind off the tediousness of waiting in line.
Soon after I’d met up with the lovely Kelly from Canterbury Tourism, I had a rental car and was on my way. The outskirts of Christchurch passed by in a flash and I was soon on the highway heading north to Kaikoura, a small coastal town known for its diverse wildlife population and its snowcapped mountain backdrop.
Even though it was raining steadily and the clouds were down, I found the scenery very striking. It occurred to me that it seemed very much like English countryside with its rolling farmland and fields full of spotted cows and soggy sheep; this thought was echoed by a friend on Twitter who said one of my photos looked “like the Lincolnshire wolds.” I found this very fitting given that Christchurch is often said to be the most English of all Kiwi cities!
As I approached the Waipara region, the trees became noticeably more colourful, especially around rivers and streams. Swathes of trees were ablaze in reds, oranges, and golds, which I loved, having lived in the land of the gum tree for so long. I can only hope that there is a bit of blue sky on my way back through so I can capture them in their true glory.
The other noticeable addition around Waipara were the vineyards. Luscious, deep purple grapes were just visible under the ubiquitous vineyard netting. Luckily, I get to go back and taste some of the wines made from those grapes on Friday.
The rolling hills seemed to get larger and more imposing as I moved north. I didn’t realise quite how large those “hills” really were until the road started winding towards the coast. The turns became hairpins and the recommended speeds got lower and lower as the sky grew darker. And then, as soon as it began, the twisting was gone and I was on the coast. When I opened my window I could just hear, over the windscreen wipers and the rain, the roar of the ocean smashing into the loose black rocks that litter the coastline near the Kaikoura peninsula. And as I watched and listened to the waves foaming along the coastline, that silly grin from Christchurch crept back onto my face. I’m in New Zealand!