I arrived in New Zealand at Auckland, their largest city at 1.2 million people. There are only slightly more than 4 million people in the whole country (as opposed to 40+ million sheep).
I have a dear friend, Rose, who lives here and she was kind enough to put me up and show me around a bit. One of the first places she took me was Mt. Eden, which is an extinct (hopefully) volcano in the city.
Actually Auckland is in the middle of many volcanic cones, some extinct and some still active but currently dormant, like Rangitoto out in the bay.
I knew there were many sheep in New Zealand, but I did not expect to find them in a city park that apparently doubles as a farm.
And more sheep, here in Cromwell Park, which surrounds One Tree Hill (made famous by the U2 song of the same name). I could lie and tell you this majestic tree is the “One Tree”, but all that remains of the one tree is a sad stump. A tree sacred to the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, was cut down in 1852 by the British and replaced with a Monterey Pine. In 2000, Maori activists cut the tree down and the status is still in limbo.
We spent a night out in the country outside of Auckland visiting another friend Clare.
It’s almost winter here, so there was a crispness in the air. It really felt like fall, strange in June.
Clare’s place was beautiful, with lots of land, 4 cows, even a small winery.
But the next day it was off to the airport to fly to Christchurch, where I was going to start my drive around the South Island, ending in Dunedin further south (remember south down here is like north for the rest of us – so south is colder and north is warmer).
I only had late afternoon to take a peek at the city, so Christchurch Cathedral was a natural place to start.
With a name like Christchurch one would expect to find some churches, but I never expected a generic church. At least it wasn’t painted yellow.
Of course there is more to Christchurch than churches, they also like their games.
And oversized chess seems to be popular down here too. Maybe it’s a British thing since Christchurch is very British.
They have a very grand botanical gardens in the heart of town.
It felt even more like fall down here.
Although it’s the largest city in the South Island (350,000), Christchurch had a very small town feel about it, in a British kind of way.
Not to be outdone, this enthusiastic group of Catholic girls showed off their school colors.
All in all a pleasant place, even the guitars have a softer edge.
But now it’s time to hit the open road and see what the South Island is really famous for – the great outdoors. You can see the mountains in the distance, that’s where I am going!