It took twenty-four hours and four plane rides to get from Michigan to Christchurch, New Zealand. We left on a Saturday and by the time we arrived, it was early afternoon on Monday. That Sunday was lost to us due the eighteen hour time difference between home and the other side of the planet. We had plans to visit Akaroa the following day, but for the time being we needed to stay awake and adjust to our new time zone.
We consulted our Airbnb host for some tips, and then hopped into our rental car and set out for Travis Wetland. This was on my list of places to visit because I knew it would have good potential for bird watching. This turned out to be true when right out of the car, we spotted our first Pūkeko. These interesting looking birds turned out to be quite common and we saw plenty of them during the easy, flat hike around the wetland.
Another favorite from this walk were the Cabbage Trees, which put me to mind of Joshua Trees.
After our walk, we visited Sumner, on of the suggestions from our Airbnb host, and walked along the shore. This was our first time seeing the Pacific Ocean!
As the daylight faded, we returned to downtown Christchurch in search of dinner. What we quickly learned, was that restaurants in New Zealand close much earlier than they do in the U.S. After searching and searching, we finally found an open restaurant that served pizza. After dinner, we turned in for a good night’s sleep.
The next morning, we woke up early and started our drive to the Akaroa area. We passed through a mountainous and arid landscape dotted with fluffy sheep. We were looking for the start of the Onawe Track, but we had read that the carpark there is small and often full, so we parked at the Duvachelle Hotel and walked along the bay to the trailhead. We went at low tide because the track is impassable otherwise, and we made sure to leave our snacks in the car as the Onawe Peninsula is a sacred Maori site where eating is not permitted. The walk along the bay yielded views of colorful boat houses, and various shorebirds.
Once we made it to the trailhead, we were rewarded with even more incredible views of the peninsula.
The hike ended up taking us a couple of hours since we didn’t start at the carpark. It was an easy walk, save for the late summer heat to which we were still acclimating. When we arrived back at our car we decided to go into Akaroa, a charming town with French influence, where we had lunch. Afterwards, we pressed on toward our next walk, the Ōtepātotu Track. This was another short walk that took us less than an hour, but once again had incredible views.
As we ascended to the top of the trail, we passed through a magical looking forest, filled with ferns and draped in hanging moss.
Having completed the Ōtepātotu Track, we returned to Christchurch, deciding to visit one more wetland before looking for dinner. We went to the Charleseworth Reserve near Sumner, and ended up getting quite a surprise when we came across a wild hedgehog. That’s right, hedgehogs were introduced to the wild in New Zealand, and have apparently made a nuisance of themselves ever since, throwing off the balance of the native ecosystem and generally behaving as any invasive species tends to do.
I’ll be honest. We poked the hedgehog a few times before continuing on our way. Once the sun was setting we again searched for dinner and met limited options. This time we found a restaurant that served Mexican food, and decided to check it out. It’s worth noting that this was a last minute decision, and it was Valentine’s day. This would not have worked in our favor in the U.S. but although New Zealand does recognize the holiday, it seems to involve significantly less fanfare there. This was a refreshing change of pace from Valentine’s Day back home, where I tell Vince I love him, and then we celebrate by actively avoiding all food-serving establishments until we’re sure the excitement has passed. In Christchurch, we got a table after a very short wait, and enjoyed our dinner which was delicious, and distinctly different from both American Mexican food and actual Mexican food. Afterwards, we returned to our Airbnb and prepared to check out the next morning. Our next stop: Bouldering at Castle Hill, and then on to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.