Three days left on the South Island and still a long way to the ferry in Picton. So we filled up the car in Twizel and got ready to put some miles on our tires. On the way back to the east coast we stopped in Pleasant Point and visited a family that we had met on the Able Tasman Track for coffee and a chat.
From there we went to Banks Peninsula right off the coast of Christchurch. After an uneventful night at the picturesque Halfmoon Cottage we went for an even less eventful morning stroll in Akaroa (which is supposed to be a French heritage village – good thing this was written in the Lonely Planet because it sure didn’t feel like it in reality). Neither Akaroa nor the Banks Peninsula in itself were overly interesting on a cloudy day (particularly not when you’re just coming from Mount Cook) and we quickly turned towards Christchurch.
Our visit to Christchurch did feel a bit surreal! In February 2011 a magnitude 6.3 earthquake and several aftershocks struck Christchurch, severely damaging New Zealand’s second largest city that had already been shaken by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake five months earlier. 185 people lost their life in that devastating event, many CBD buildings collapsed or were damaged beyond repair and whole suburbs turned uninhabitable. What happened since then was an unprecedented construction boom turning today’s Christchurch into a mix of new constructions, fenced of ruins and deserted neighbourhoods marked for final demolition. The ruin of the Christchurch Cathedral is the most prominent reminder of the catastrophe while the Re:START container shopping centre demonstrates the strong determination of the people to rebuilt ‘their’ Christchurch. Unfortunately we did not have more time to explore the city and continued our drive north after a short lunch break and a depressing tour through one of the uninhabited neighbourhoods that will be ultimately turned into a park after all the damaged buildings are demolished.
We finished our day in Kaikoura in a pretty appalling backpacker lodge called Fishtank Hostel, where the toilet flush of the communal bathrooms sounded as if it was drilled straight through our room. Needless to say that this didn’t particularly help us to enjoy Kaikoura and since we already had our fair share of dolphin sightings and dolphin swimming in the Catlins we left early the next morning for our last day on the South Island.
Just north of Kaikoura we suddenly spotted a pod of Dusky Dolphins in the ocean and Bea was snapping happily away with her camera 🙂
On the way through South Marlborough we were intrigued by the pink ponds next to the road and the bright white mounds in the distance and soon found ourselves at the gates of Dominion Salt Ltd in Lake Grassmere. Unfortunately there were no public tours or salt sales available there.
Picton presented us with a perfectly sunny last afternoon on the South Island and we enjoyed a beautiful dinner at the harbour front with our first ever taste of Abalone … sooooo tasty 🙂