Tues., Jan. 19th

We had 2 off-shore excursions today at Christchurch, our first stop on the South Island.  On the first one, we toured the downtown area.  Christchurch was built in around 1850 by the English.  They required settlers to be under 40 yrs. of age and members of the Anglican Church.  So, the city is considered “the most English city outside England.”  Since there were at least 2 volcanoes in the area yrs. ago, many of the bldgs. were built of lava rock.  It has a huge park (Hagley Park, about 400 acres) right in the middle of the city, with botanical gardens and a very nice museum (Canterbury Museum).  The museum has a great bird section, among others.
On our second excursion, our bus driver (I mean, “coach” driver)/tour guide was hilarious.  We thought it was hard to understand the average Kiwi (New Zealander); imagine a Kiwi with a Japanese accent!  He was harder to understand, but once you got the hang of his accent, it kept getting easier.  Also, he had quite a funny personality & was making lots of good jokes along the way.
He drove us to the International Antarctic Centre (Christchurch is supposedly “the gateway to the Antarctic”), which featured all kinds of interesting info. about Antarctica, global warming, etc.  The best part was a Little Blue Penguin (the world’s smallest penguin–about the size of my cat, Patchy) exhibit.  They were the cutest little things!!  I got lots of good pics.
After that we drove over to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve.  This had all kinds of animals, including Kiwis, which we were able to see close up, even though it was in the dark.  I could have leaned over & touched him/her, but I didn’t want to bother him/her.  (We weren’t even supposed to take photos of them because they are so easily frightened.)   Besides the Kiwis, the animals I liked best here included the Wallabys, the otters & the lemurs.  I’ll try to add a bunch of photos.
Now our ship is headed for Dunedin, a Scottish sheep-ranching area.  We have another big day planned for tomorrow!