It’s hard to put into words my thoughts on the nine days I spent in Canterbury, New Zealand. Never before have I had such a jam-packed travel schedule where I’ve been able to experience so much about a location in a short period of time. And if you hadn’t guessed it from my other blog posts — I loved it. Yes, it was so busy that sometimes I didn’t have a chance to think, but it was one of the best trips I’ve ever had.
My itinerary made me truly appreciate the diversity of Canterbury. It’s not just Christchurch and the Canterbury Plains. It’s much larger than that, stretching from the blue Pacific to the golden hills of the Mackenzie Basin. Everywhere you look there are mountains, some snowcapped, some that men dream about conquering. It’s such a scenic place that I took over 3600 photos in the span of nine days!
Canterbury offers such a wide array of experiences as well. The adventurous will find plenty to sate their daredevil appetites –perhaps with a rafting trip down the Waiau followed by a bungee jump above it. However, there’s plenty for those looking for a slightly calmer time as well — it’d be hard to pass on wine tasting in the Waipara followed by a relaxing soak in the hot pools at Hanmer Springs.
Speaking of diversity, I tried so many different foods while in Canterbury that my stomach must have thought it had died and gone to heaven. Mexican, French, Asian, steak, lamb, seafood, fudge…you name it, I probably ate it. It was all delicious, and I’m going to struggle trying to find any meal better than the duck a l’orange I had in Akaroa.
And who can forget the wildlife? In just over a week, I was lucky enough to see three sperm whales, a pod of 200 dusky dolphins, many swooping albatrosses (and some other sea birds too), some fighting eels, many small pods of very endangered Hector’s dolphins, baby New Zealand fur seals frolicking in rock pools, eighty little penguins having a happy hour in the middle of Flea Bay, and a sheep in a hi-vis vest. Had I stayed longer in Mount Cook, I might have been lucky enough to see a cheeky kea — although perhaps only seeing a stained glass version was a bit safer, given their destructive curiosity!
None of these experiences would have been the same — or in some cases, they wouldn’t have been possible at all — without the people of Canterbury. I met so many interesting, friendly, and helpful people along the way — both fellow travellers and locals. Maurice’s Maori Tour in Kaikoura was truly a standout in this respect, because I felt like I learned more about Maori culture and the local people in a few hours than I’d ever known before. Elsewhere in Canterbury, I got a chance to sit down and chat with hotel owners, tour guides, and restaurant chefs about anything and everything New Zealand (with the obligatory questions about my braced knee thrown in). I heard so many interesting stories and got some great tips to help me along as well. With so many people to chat to, I never felt alone.
Which place had the best combination of all of these things? Which was my absolute favourite? It’s such a hard choice…but if I had to pick one, and only one, I would choose Tekapo. It’s such a spectacularly scenic place, but to top it off, some of the experiences I had there were mind-boggling. I’d been admiring mountains on every leg of my trip, but on the Grand Traverse flight, I got to look down on them, watching as the snow blew off their peaks. And everywhere I went, I’d been gazing at the stars, loving how many I could see compared to home, but in Tekapo, I got to see them in a whole new way — from the observatory. In no way did I ever think that I would see Saturn — rings, moons, and all — while I was in NZ!
That said, every place I visited — Kaikoura, the Waipara, Hanmer Springs, Akaroa, Geraldine, Tekapo, and Mount Cook — had its own charm. I genuinely enjoyed visiting all of them, and I often found it very difficult to leave. If I ever got the chance, I would pay each and every place a return visit. I’d love to go back and do some of the things that couldn’t possibly fit into my very full itinerary, but I’d also be happy trying some of the same things again (especially dolphin swimming — hopefully I’d actually be able to get into the water if I went again!).
So, even though it all seems like a faraway dream — something that must have happened to another person, even though I have the pictures and writing to prove it was me — it was such a good dream. It reaffirmed how much I love New Zealand and proved to me that Canterbury should always have a starring place on a South Island itinerary.
I’d like to thank Wotif.com and Canterbury Tourism for all the hard work they put into planning my Canterbury Tiki Tour. They helped me with any questions I may have had along the way and were generally just awesome!