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Two Minds

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Christchurch II (5th June to 8th June)

Wednesday, 08th June, 2005

A 45% full Air New Zealand from Christchurch to Sydney, landing on 34L. Quickly through Customs and Immigration, and home. Being a farmer’s son, I know the impact of footrot (and other nasty diseases), so I’d cleaned the sheep poo from my shoes. Customs were happy and no xray or hand inspection necessary. I was expecting the full drug-sniffing dog treatment.

On Sydney soil for only 18 hours, and Avril and I are off. To Mexico via LAX.

Monday, 06th June, 2005

Out of the hotel at 8.30pm, Stamatia and I head towards Mount Hutt. A little secret in my life is that I’ve only been to “the snow” once – when I was less than 2 years old – and have never returned. Today is the day for me to be re-introduced.

Mount Hutt is the closest skiing/snowboarding mountain to Christchurch – about 2 hours drive from centre Christchurch to the car park at the peak: including time for the application of chains and to stop and take in the scenery of the Cantebury plan juxtaposed with the snow-capped mountains.

At the base of the mountain, I hire chains for the hire car – including installation this is NZ$20. Not a bad deal at all, since it takes two people crawling around the dirty wheel arches; mud, grease and tire black: installing chains to the tyres.

Picking up two Christchurch student snowboarders for company, Jack (from Shanghai) and Steelian (from Belgium) we drive up the winding, muddy and then snow capped roads with a sheer rise on one side, and fall to the other. Our lives are in my hands. Okeydoakey, lets go.

The disconcerting experience of having the wheel hard over in the exact direction of the sheer drop to certain page 1 headlines in Sydney, to point the car in a forwards direction is rather strange. Being my first experience with snow and chain driving is all the adrenaline rush I need. For today at least.

Snow. It starts of cold, and then it gets wet. Then its really cold. Now, I’ve cleaned refridgerator freezers in my time: from the big box ones to baby ones. Snow is this, just spread all around. As a committed winter person, I am in love. OK, so I’ve now experienced snow. Cool. Its bloody cold; time for coffee.

After watching the skiiers and snowboarders clash for the powdery runs, we decide the leave for windier climes.

One the trip down Mount Hutt there are two pieces of critical advice that pounded in my head. One over 20 years ago from my dad about “turning out of the curve of a slide” and more recently from Shanghai Jack (the snowboarder hitchhiker): don’t break and use a low gear. Both of these pieces of advice were instrumental in a safe trip down. Once sideways slide (saved) and many times ultimate control helped.

Chains off, and two hour drive back via Lyttelton to Sumner for a late lunch at the Rock Cafe. This is on the esplanade near what Sumner calls a beach. Two surfers brave the temperature, wind and rain.

We follow more sheer cliff-bound roads to Godley head. Scoped out yesterday, and after the rain and into the wind – Stamatia and I explore the site of a WWII battery that has clear views over Lyttleton harbour and Christchurch. All that is left now are sheep of mixed heritage (merinos, suffolks and a lancashire cross I think) protecting the harbour from terrorists.

Drive home (hotel) and rest.

Monday, 06th June, 2005

I have returned to Christchurch (refer Wellington and Christchurch (21st April and 22nd April)), New Zealand, for 4 days. Away from Sydney at Sunday at 6am, for a 40% full Qantas flight at 8:55am. The flight was so quick, I didn’t have time to listen to 2 hours of the 17 hours I can fit onto my new iPod Shuffle. Yes, I caved in at Duty Free and lumped down AU9 for 1Gb of backup device. This is about AU more than a Sandisk 1Gb SD card – so its not too bad for Apple-badged equipment. On the flight, only 5 seats out of 30 business class seats are taken.

Flying over the snow-capped peaks causes all the passengers to peek out at a unique piece of geography.

Through Christchurch Immmigration and Customs, I look sheepishly for the drug-sniffing dogs. Looking like a sheep when attempting to avoid professional coked-up canines is not a good move. Last time I came into NZ via Christchurch, I was assaulted in a “special way” in the crotch by a drug sniffing dog. This caused 30 minutes of extreme baggaging searching and ultimate frustration for the eager customs officer. This time, I exit cleanly.

Christchurch is conveniently situated around the local rugby fields, so its easy to find your way around. This trip, I’ve taken the plunge in a hirecar.

I think of Alan, the taxi driver I had in my last trip to Christchurch. I hope he has today off. Many of the locations of visit today and tomorrow are a result of my questions. Sumner, Mount Hutt.

Making my way out to the southern part of the Pacific, I take some quick photos and make my way to Taylor’s Mistake via Sumner. Spotting the Godley Point WWII battery, I make a note to visit tomorrow. Its back to Christchurch via the Lyttelton tunnel. Now that’s a tunnel!

I’ve noticed more in the south island that rubgy plays a close first as the official religion of state – just like AFL is the religion of Melbourne. One can just imagine what would happen if Rugby was outlawed in this country – it would fall apart.