Day 1

Date: 01.11.2003
Start Location:

Christchurch, NZ

End Location:

Rakaia River Mouth

S: 43° 54.179' E: 172° 11.663'

Distance Driven 253km

Time: 03:45
Location: Christchurch,NZ
Name: Breakfast

I awoke this morning at about 3:45 to make some calls back to the States (Hi Carol! and a business call). The cell phone was working flawlessly, but unfortunately, right now my computer isn't speaking to it over Bluetooth, so the plan of using GPRS as the primary method of communication for the computer is unlikely to be the case. Unfortunate, because the GPRS coverage has been great along the major roads.

After spending much too much time working on getting this working, I have given up and moved down to the lobby of the hotel in order to use the internet access there to clean out some email that I can't do from the phone (without the computer) and check on the location of the nearest Starbucks for coffee and potential internet access.

Time: 09:30
Location: Christchurch, NZ
Name: Departure

After a couple of leisurely strolls around the central city of Christchurch and a quick bite and sip at Starbucks, it was time to head out to pick up our vehicle. The pick-up point was at the airport, which also happens to be the location of the key jumping off point for people heading to Antarctica. As such, there is an exhibit there (probably not worth the NZ$20 that you pay for it).

We picked up our Ford 2+1 camper van at the Pacific Horizons facility and received the requisite training in basic operation, maintenance, and driving on the wrong side of the road and were all set to head out on our adventure.

But first, a little shopping and some lunch. Pulling out of the facility, we headed the wrong way on a roundabout (quickly remedied) and then proceeded to a small mall where we acquired lunch at a reasonable hole in the wall and then proceeded to go to the supermarket.

Note to self: no grape jelly, Crest, Pepsi (although it has been sighted in some places), tortilla chips, pecans.

With our small booty of nuts, fruit, peanut butter, black currant jam, and miscellaneous sundries we headed on our way down NZ 1 towards Banks Peninsula and points undetermined.

Time: Afternoon
Location: Banks Peninsula
Name: The long and winding roads

Our first jaunt is along NZ 1 towards Banks Peninsula, which sticks out into the Pacific ocean just south of Christchurch. The Peninsula isn't necessarilly known for anything, but contains Akaroa Harbor and a series of small bays and a wonderful drive allong the the crest of the adjacent hills called Summit Drive.

Our trek found us winding south of Christchurch on NZ73, connecting to NZ75 and onto the peninsula, passing the enormous Lake Ellesmere (which is separated from the Pacific by a narrow stretch of land called Kaitorete Spit.

The road then wound through Little River and found its way to Akaroa. As Mike's first left hand driving experience (in a standard, no less), it was quite an achievement for him to make it through the windy, hilly roads along this track. Little did we know that the road back would be much more narrow and interesting.

From Akaroa, we took the Summit Road, which winds along the tops of the range surrounding the bay and rejoins NZ75 near Little River. The road is marked with a center line, however little or no care was taken in determining where that line should be placed, so it was common to nearly run off of the road just trying to keep the vehicle "in the lane." Fortunately for all concerned, the road is sparsely travelled and thus we ran into little opposing traffic.

Another fun part about the Summit Road is that it demonstrates the carefree attitude of the folks in the highway department. There are no guardrails. This despite locations with hundreds of feet of vertical drop.

Anyone want venison for dinner?

Time: Evening
Location: Dunsandel
Name: My kingdom for a restaurant

Around about seven or 8 pm, we were interested in food. However, along NZ1 (one of the main highways in New Zealand), we seemed to be in the one stretch that had no food. Every little town we passed had a convenience mart, but seemingly none with any kind of real restaurant.

Finally, approaching Dunsandel (about 22 km from our intended resting place for the night), we sighted a bar on the side of the road. All things considered, I wouldn't have expected the quality of food we had that night, and we got to watch much of the Scotland v. Fiji match in the World Rugby Championships.

Time: 20:00
Location: Mouth of the Rakaia River
Name: Sunset on the Pacific

Our first night in the camper van found us at the mouth of the Rakaia River. We had driven about 250km since hiring the van and Mike had become accustomed to driving on the wrong side of the road.

Our evening camping spot was a small patch of gravel near the mouth. Upon arrival, we headed down to the ocean to see if we could get a good view of the sunset over the Pacific and were hansomely rewarded. Camera in hand, we spent about half an hour watching the sun go down and listening to the waves.