Birdlings Flat & Ōnawe Peninsula

The last couple of weeks have been really busy and seem to have flown by. Adam got a job with a local detailing company and has been hard at work learning the ropes and putting in the hours. Recently we seem to have spent our weeks working and our weekends recovering and attempting to keep the house clean so there hasn’t been a great deal to blog about.

The morning sunrises have been absolutely amazing though and although this photo doesn’t really do them justice they are definitely worth a mention!

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Last weekend there was a light festival at the Botanic Gardens in the city centre. We headed down there on Friday evening to see the show and were amazed by the crowds. For somewhere that always seems so peaceful, the city was crammed to bursting.

We enjoyed the food stalls and watched some music and dance performances but decided we couldn’t be bothered with the 2 hours queues to see the lights and headed home early. Over 136,000 people visited the event during the weekend and there’s now talk of the lights being displayed year round so maybe we’ll get to see them after all.

I took a lovely day off on Friday and spent time chilling out with my kitties (one of whom is definitely getting fat!) treating myself to a manicure and eating Japanese food.

This weekend we decided to get out exploring again and set our sights on Akaroa which is a little town on the Banks Peninsula, south of Christchurch.

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We headed out this morning but unfortunately didn’t quite make it as there were so many other interesting places to see along the way. We saw a sign for a place called Birdlings Flat which I’d recently read about in the local paper so we detoured off and went to visit.

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The beach at Birdlings is beautiful and has a sort of lonely, romantic, standing-on-the-edge-of-the-world feeling about it. This is probably to be expected considering there’s nothing ahead of you apart from a huge expanse of Pacific, and eventually, Antarctica. The sea here is considered too dangerous for swimming but the area is definitely worth a visit.

As usual, there was plenty of room and very few other people around save a few fishermen and the odd beachcomber. The beach is made of stones and is said to be a good place to hunt for gem stones. In fact, there’s a local fossil and gemstone museum nearby but we didn’t visit today.

After half an hour of poking around amongst the stones and breathing in the fresh, salty air we decided to continue on our way to Akaroa. We headed in on highway 75 but got distracted along the way by the site of the ‘Hilltop Tavern’ which promised wood-fired pizzas. We pulled over and after discovering they made gluten-free pizzas (I’m allergic) we ordered and spent some time soaking in the spectacular views below us.

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The hilltop is definitely worth a visit if you’re travelling this way. The food is hearty and reasonably priced. The views are awesome, the staff friendly and they do indeed have a wood-fired pizza oven.

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After our meal we headed to the car and were distracted by the rather interesting spit of land jutting out to sea. We saw that it was called the Ōnawe Peninsula and decided to investigate.

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We travelled down through Barry’s Bay and then along a gravel road until we reached the start of the Ōnawe Peninsula. The scenery along the way was stunning…

At the start of the peninsula you have the option to walk along the pebble beach to the right (if the tide is out) or to hike up this path:

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We opted to hike up this highly accessible looking path but wouldn’t recommend it as the path along the top is narrow and the recent rain we’ve had made it incredibly slippy today. We had a few hairy moments where we nearly tumbled into the sea and I fell over more than once. Still, the views were good!

After the initially difficult path, the next stage is really easy to access with a short stretch of rocky beach followed by wide open, grassy paths. The rock walls here are an amazing orange colour and there were many different birds and butterflies to admire along the way.

After reaching the final outcrop of stones we headed back and decided to save our Akaroa visit for another day.

 

Castle Hill

It was fairly dismal weather last weekend but we decided to jump in the car and drive out west to see the famous Castle Hill rock formations. It’s roughly an hour’s drive from Christchurch but it took us a little longer as we kept stopping to take in the beautiful scenery.

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Castle Hill is a large collection of huge limestone boulders scattered across the hillsides. It attracts climbers and hikers from all over the world and it’s not hard to see why.

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Even on a cloudy, winter’s day, it’s a stunning place to visit and as soon as our rock shoes arrive we’ll be grabbing a crash mat and heading back out there to enjoy it properly.

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If the scenery looks a little familiar it’s probably because this area was used to film parts of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe movie.

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This is a really lovely place to visit and I’m looking forward to bouldering there in the warmer months.

In other news, we finally managed to ditch the rental cars and buy a car of our own this week. We’re now the proud owners of this lovely lady who we’ve named ‘Mr Kaplan’ – and if this makes no sense to you then I can thoroughly recommend watching The Blacklist!

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I also noticed this week that there is a new cafe opening in Christchurch – a cat cafe!

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We had one of these in Den Haag and I loved it so I can’t wait to go try this one out soon.

Wherever you are in the world, have a lovely week ahead!

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New Zealand Air Force Museum

Last Sunday turned out rainy and cold so we decided to visit the Air Force Museum which is located on the outskirts of Christchurch.

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This museum is completely free of charge which is brilliant considering the high quality range of exhibitions on offer.

As expected, there were lots of aeroplanes to view, many of them having been fully restored and some still going through the process. In addition to this, there were a few cockpits to be sat in and even a flight simulator game to enjoy.

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Away from the larger show areas which housed the aeroplanes, there were a few other museum exhibitions which were fascinating to look at and read about. Many aspects were interactive or contained short video presentations, activities or games.

My favourite exhibition was the one called ‘Captured’ which followed the journey of prisoners of war held in Europe.

 

They also have visiting presentations and I’m looking forward to going back to explore the Anne Frank exhibition when it arrives from Amsterdam later this month.

 

After visiting the Air Force Museum, we went round the corner to Wigram Base, an historic building built in 1938 as an Air Force Base. It is now used as a venue for various events and has a rather nice bar which was perfect for a post-museum drink!

Taylors Mistake Hike

Despite being the middle of winter, today’s weather would rival any summer day, so we decided to make the most of the 20 degree heat and head out for a coastal hike.

We drove out to a place known as Taylors Mistake which is a small bay in the south-east of Christchurch. It was apparently named some 200 years ago after a ship’s captain (Mr Taylor) accidentally mistook it for Lyttelton Harbour.

The coastal walk leading up from the bay is beautifully scenic.

The hike leads out to the breathtaking Godley Head which was a coastal defence site during the second world war. The gun emplacements and military buildings are still in place and were very interesting to explore.

The circular route is an easy hike and took us about three hours to complete. A perfect hike on a gorgeous day!

More Exploring

We’ve now been living in Christchurch, New Zealand for approximately three weeks and are quickly falling in love with the place. The range of shops and food is excellent, we see the snow-capped alps in the distance on a daily basis and we can explore the lovely Port Hills really easily at the weekends as they’re so close.

Last weekend we hiked the Valley Track. This is a pretty track, running alongside a small stream, interspersed with little waterfalls along the way.

At the top we saw an attractive looking outcrop that looked perfect for a picnic so decided to hike up that as well. It was a place called Witch Hill Reserve and the views were stunning!

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On the way down we took a route known as the Farm Track which is a shared pathway for both walkers and bikers. It is another, lovely, grass-covered path which had wonderful views of Christchurch city in the distance.

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Tomorrow we plan to explore the far eastern section of the hills starting at a spot called Taylors Mistake.

In other news, my lovely kitty-cats are settling into their new home really well and are back to their old tricks already. Esme refuses to drink from her water bowl and will only drink from the tap whilst Bella has been enjoying sleeping with her teddy bear and watching TV.

As soon as they’re a little more settled we’ll be letting them out to explore the great outdoors!

One Week to Go!

Only one week left until we move to Christchurch, New Zealand!

This week has been the most stressful so far. The packers came today, which means we’ve spent the entire week washing and cleaning every item we own – and we had seriously underestimated how much time that would take. Climbing ropes, hiking bags, shoes, trekking poles, tools, yoga mats, mattress covers, BBQs, every single bolt and screw from the bikes; you name it – we’ve washed it!

 

In addition to that, every piece of untreated wood had to be painted before shipment so one evening was spent treating the posts that build up the bed. Adam was up until 3am this morning finishing it all off but the guys have been and it’s a huge relief to have it all sorted and gone.

Thankfully, it’s been half-term holiday week for me so I’ve been able to take daily breaks from all the cleaning to meet friends for final milkshakes, sunny picnics and pedicure treatments! Adam finished work yesterday and was treated to the mandatory, cheesy goodbye speech from his colleagues.

 

Our apartment is now looking very empty so we just need to sell our remaining items and give everything one last clean before we hand the keys back. Next week is our very last one so we’ll be saying goodbye to the kitties and sending them off on their own little flying adventure on Tuesday. I’m going to miss them so much whilst they’re in quarantine and can’t wait to have them back, safe and sound, with me in New Zealand.

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Four more days of work left for me next week. Adam’s turn to spend a week cleaning!

Two Weeks to Go!

Only two weeks to go until we move to Christchurch, New Zealand now!

At the weekend, we had our last visit to my favourite cat cafe in The Hague and my friend, Susan, was lucky enough to have a feline companion join her throughout lunch!

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We were also lucky to have a three day weekend but it was very much required as we had so many items to list on the freight inventory and so much to clean and sort out. I never realised how much climbing equipment we actually had until I was tasked with cleaning every speck of climbing dust off! These are just some of the piles we’ve been working our way through:

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Thankfully, the inventory is now complete, the test suitcase pack is done and the majority of our sports equipment is cleaned and ready to ship. To celebrate, we took a short break at a local food festival and enjoyed Indian, American and German dishes.

We finished off with a wonderful ice cream cookie – definitely the best thing I’ve ever eaten!

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On the housing front, everything is looking good. We’ve recently reached an agreement to rent this lovely property and can’t wait to move in.

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My wonderful colleagues and friends threw an excellent farewell borrel with an All Blacks theme yesterday. I was forced into an All Blacks shirt (I despise dressing up) and then decorated with a sheep and Māori jewellery for the event. I was treated to a touching (and rather comical) presentation from my friends and they had also created a video of messages from the children I work with. It was great fun, the food was super and I have lots of wonderful gifts to remember my time here!

My crazy cat friend and her husband also made this exquisite cat cake for the event:

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I’ve been well and truly spoiled and am feeling very grateful for the friends I’ve made here in Holland.