Category Archives: Christchurch

Leaving New Zealand

Artwork at The George, Christchurch.

Our last day in New Zealand was spent running errands and packing. We wanted to mail my snow gear home since it took up so much room in my suitcase. This way, I had room for the souvenirs and presents I had bought, and I wasn’t lugging around the extra weight. Our concierge found us a box to pack everything in, and then wrapped it in tape for us. If you are ever looking for a nice place to stay in Christchurch, I can’t recommend The George highly enough. The staff are the best, the art is inspiring, and they even gave us George, a sweet little bear to take with us on our travels.

The courtyard on the way to the Library at The George. This display is made of plates that survived the earthquake, out of sets that were destroyed.

We popped out to the post office. and had an early lunch at a café – you know the food is good when a place is packed even though there are plenty of eateries close by. Then we went back to the George for a nap. We had to get up at 3AM.

Dinner was at The George’s restaurant. I had the duck and I still have daydreams about that duck.

George – now in Australia – sitting with Esme, the Fashionista bear.

In the wee hours of the morning, we set off to the airport. We were so early, the QANTAS lounge wasn’t yet open. So we set up on the seat next to the door. There were robots in a glass room! Alas, it was closed and wouldn’t be open until well after we had flown out. (And it was for children, but that’s never stopped me before.) When the lounge did open, we had breakfast. (Then we were given meals on both flights back to Brisbane, New Zealand-to-Sydney, and Sydney-to-Brisbane.)

Every minute or so, it would shift into a new pose. Those anime eyes!
The second robot, ready to play soccer.

We left just as the sky was brightening. My last glimpse of New Zealand were snow-topped mountains just starting to glow in the pre-dawn light. I found the trip home tiresome, as I was both tired and still feeling ill. And I was already missing New Zealand.

Once home, I went straight to bed. And I spent nearly two weeks there, with antibiotics. I had developed secondary infections in my ears and throat. So it was my throat that was causing all the coughing, not my lungs, which was a surprise. During my convalescence, both mail parcels got home safely.

Over the next few posts, I’ll add in details about the trip and what I’ve done with some of our souvenirs.

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Filed under Adventures, Art, Christchurch, New Zealand, Personal experience, The George

The Antarctic Experience, Christchurch

Getting close to penguins

The Antarctic Experience is run by the Australian Antarctic Science team – and it is right next to the airport, so we were able to see how long it would take us to get the airport on the day we were due to fly out AT 6AM and we needed to be at the international airport three hours early. Driving through Christchurch, you can see where it gets its name, with so many pretty churches. All the blossom trees were flowering and the daffodils blooming, the city was wearing her best clothes for us.

First experience was the 4D theatre. You got to feel icy waves slapping your face!

Then we went and investigated the storm room, mimicking the arctic temperature and full of ice. We did not go in; I thought that I would die from asthma and my cold combined with frigid conditions. One bloke went in wearing shorts – they supplied coats and boots but not leggings. I thought that bloke would end up as a block … an iceblock. They also had the huskies in there playing for a bit – one adult female and two not-quite-adult male pups. Later on, we ran into the handler and the pups outside and I got to cuddle all three. The handler showed me how they were shedding, and gave me a handful of one of the pup’s fur. He took it off me, bit by bit, with a cheeky grin, until we were in a cloud of his fur. Such lovely animals!

The dignity of the adult female husky.
Feeding time at the penguin enclosure.

We watched the penguin feeding and then we went for the penguin experience. Which meant we were first allowed into the enclosure, and then taken downstairs (backstage) to the penguin research centre. So, we sat in the compound and watched the penguins go through their post-prandial grooming and general gossip session.

In the research centre, we were introduced to the star of the day, a little female penguin called Suki. The animals look bluish, but under that top layer of feathers they have dense white down. Most of their penguins are too old or disabled to breed and their eggs are infertile. However, because of the limited space in the centre, they removed all eggs and replace them fakes. A penguin bred in captivity can’t be returned to the wild by New Zealand law; it’s too cruel as they will most likely starve to death. They also need the spare spaces in the centre for any ill or injured penguins that require vet care.

The Nice/Naughty board kept by the research centre.

They had many stories about how they had received their birds. My favourite story is about the little female found in a cow paddock quite a distance from the sea. They discovered she didn’t know how to swim! Nor did she groom herself enough to remain buoyant. another female penguin took her under her wing (yes, a pun!) and taught the poor sweetie how to be a penguin. The little one still needs swimming therapy, provided by the keepers and scientists.

The disabled birds have had toes bitten off by sharks, legs lost to fishing wire, dog attack, wing paralysis from unknown causes, being underweight, blindness, and just suffering from extended old age. Their oldest inmate – now passed – was a lassie called Toto, who lived to be 25 years old, which is twice the age of a wild penguin would achieve ordinarily. Penguins lose fertility at eight to ten years of age, so this makes sense ecologically – Mother nature isn’t always kind.

My favourite part of the display is the Nice/Naughty board, that keeps track of the behaviour of the flock. This isn’t as silly as it sounds, as penguins are social creatures and the scientists want to keep track of the social dynamics. Science doesn’t have to be stuffy all the time.

Suki

This was our last planned outing of the trip. The next day, we were getting ready to fly out to Sydney, and then back to Brisbane. I found it hard to believe the trip was nearly over…

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Filed under Adventures, Antarctic Experience, Christchurch, New Zealand, Penguins, Personal experience