Having watched the Disney film Below Eight (a great film to watch), we resisted the urge to thumb a lift down south, and decided to stick to the original plan of returning to Christchurch for our flight on to Sydney.
After our last paddling session in Queenstown with a fellow Brit called Rich whose hospitality was amazing and whose house had some of the most beautiful views you could imagine, we started the drive back to Christchurch where we'd soon be leaving wonderful New Zealand. One of the sights we stopped en route to see was the majestic Mount Cook, where Sir Edmund Hillary famously trained for the first successful ascent of Mount Everest. The sun was out and the blue colour of the lakes nearby was quite extraordinary. Coincidently while on one of the dirt tracks in the area, we saw Gemma (an Aussie from my kayak course) and her boyfriend who had just paddled the rather cold looking glacial Waipora. The night before we watched a beautiful sunset with the only pain being the insistent sandflies. We decided against climbing the mountain – its somewhat of a serious endeavour with a tragedy happening to an experienced mountain guide in the last month – however I could definitely see the appeal of reaching the summit of such a magnificent peak, maybe something to add to the to do list for next time…
Instead of pushing on to Christchurch that night, we stopped in Geraldine and continued on the next day. This enabled us to visit the Tin Shed which had a small collection of farm animals including a tiny piglet that reminded me of the one we'd seen at the farm in Taupo and I wondered how big he would've grown to – a sign of the length of time we'd spent in New Zealand. We made what was our third visit to a campsite in Christchurch, apart from this time it'd be us saying goodbye to NZ rather than to our visitors. We joined the many other people who were washing their vans ready for departure, and Kimi looked beautiful.
Sadly though the Christchurch Backpackers Car Market was not like the one in Auckland . When we brought Kimi, the staff had offered advice and been actively trying to sell the vehicles, while the market was renowned throughout Auckland as the place to buy a vehicle. None of these luxuries existed in Christchurch and we were to get rather too well acquainted with the building while waiting hopefully for buyers to turn up. We made posters and stuck them to the noticeboards in all the hostels we could find, but it was only Tuesday that 2 Swiss girls decided to buy Kimi. They paid a little less than we would have liked but they seemed like they would take care of her and love her as much as we did.
With Kimi off on her next Kiwi adventure, we were able to relax and enjoy the city, as we explored the musuem and climbed the Cathedral's spire. The YMCA we stayed at, was convienently located opposite the Arts Centre, and was a very good place to stay. The hostels were pretty full in town, in fact the YHA could only offer us a room on the day of a our flight – 6 days after when we were enquiring! The streets were definitely more full of hustle and bustle as the tourists had come for the sun, and there was a great summery atmosphere. Although we had spent more time trying to sell Kimi than we had anticipated, we were still able to see quite a few sights. Christchurch is a very pretty little city, and its size means that many attractions are within easy walking distance from each other.
Soon after we arrived in Christchurch, we heard the sad news that Sir Edmund Hillary had died. It was pretty striking how much respect he had from his fellow Kiwis. There was quite a lot in the media about how he was the epitome of New Zealandness, and this was clearly a source of pride to many.
With thoughts of travelling lighter in India and Nepal, we sent quite a lot of stuff home – including the laptop so apologies if we don't have so many photos up in the next couple of months – and left some of the camping stuff we'd accumulated with Kimi. It didn't take so long to pack, though my bag is certainly not as light as I would've liked, but at least the kayaks are well within the weight restrictions now! All too soon it was time for us to leave, but one thing's sure and thats we'll be back soon.