The Long Land of the White Crowd
Christchurch was... different. It felt sort of Adelaide-ish, mostly spread out and large-townish rather than small-cityish, but different. Adelaide, for example, doesn’t have Blondies Beautiful Nude Dancers, Stripping Tonight on the main drag, complete with flaming torches and big red neon MASSAGE sign, just in case you didn’t get the point. At 07:00.
Christchurch also seems to have more of a traffic-light fetish than Adelaide, but fewer of them are solid state.
The botanical gardens look excellent from outside, and I’ll try hard to spend some time etching chunks of them into a memory stick when I come back in a couple of Sundays.
Aaaanyway, I rang the bus company that I wanted to use to get down to Oamaru – they advertised a service leaving at 01:00, arriving in the morning, and I planned on using a local company for the leg to Dunedin in the evening... and got an answering service. I left a message for Roger and checked at the Information desk. “No longer in operation” said their system. Oh.
I took a Shuttle bus into town, had a long, rambling and interesting chat with the ex-Rhodesian driver, and fetched up at Base Backpackers overnight. Base reminded me in many ways of the Old Firestation Backpackers in Fremantle – built in Indian Restaurant, multi-storey, party going on out the back, can-do attitude – but they did find me a comfortable and quiet 4-spot dorm to snooze away the four hours until I had to be up and about to organise and catch an InterCity coach in the morning.
Christchurch’re big on cycle lanes, and I saw many more cyclists there than I would expect to see in Perth, or even Canberra.
The drive down to Oamaru was pleasant and mostly flat. There are big lumpy bits of terrain to the west for the whole trip, some of them wallaby-infested (not the same genius as released rabbits, evidently stupidity is a repeatable experiment).
Christchurch to Dunedin is a little shorter (50km?) than Perth to Geraldton or Albany. There is no “Perth to Esperance” equivalent, since none of their islands is that big. Coach travel is a tad more expensive, about NZD$50 versus about AUD$38 for the same distance at home.
One of the stops on the way down is Timaru, and around behind the terminal building we stopped at I found a little old double-ended diesel shunting loco going about its business.
With a Londoner sitting next to me, we discussed the differences in the three cultures. For example, the thingy which comes down across the road to stop you driving into a crossing train is called a boom, barrier or gate depending on where you’re from. In NZ, traffic is required to come to a full stop at each crossing without one. The crossing lights don’t have the “RAILWAY CROSSING” X on top of them, which is a bit disconcerting, but they often have a separate sign with the X on. Instead of a zebra sign to say “you’re about to kerb-rape a traffic island, drool factory” there’s a yellow square with two little arrows (many kiwis would say “wee arrows”) pointing down-left and down-right. And so on.
Kiwis are really into hedges, with farms (and even paddocks) typically separated by a 4-5m pine hedgerow. Every so often, someone does this with a stand of genuine trees, for a most impressive rectangular hedge about 8-9m tall (the shaping gets a bit iffy towards the top). The whole Cambridge Plains area is up to the eyeballs in sprinklers, great big rotaries, line sprinklers, round-in-circles lines (called “pivots”), and little sprinklers, mostly “knock” type. Mostly raising fodder for cows. The river water is all milky from “glacier flour” (very finely ground rock powder in suspension) and (big surprise) it’s –ing cold.