Christchurch met us with overcast skies and a bit of a drizzle. The temperature was a comfortable 10°C, and most people meeting us at the Operation Deep Freeze, the NSF Office of Polar Programs part of the Christchurch airfield, were noticeably shivering. The OPP folks were as nice and helpful as ever, and we have been provided every bit of assistance we might have wished for. In short order we were finished at the airplane and retired to the hotel, the Commodore this time, where nice rooms and a cold tasty Speights Gold sealed the success of the day.
Christchurch is still under the shade of the earthquakes. Even during our stay there was another “small” quake of some 5 magnitude, and the downtown area is still fenced off and inaccessible. Most tourist oriented places are closed, some forever, and there is no immediately evident places where a visitor could go to browse. The Antarctic Center was open and is still a great attraction, and I would recommend it to everyone who happens to be in Christchurch. Even as pricey as it is (at $65 NZ for an adult), it is worth visiting at least once. I visited it in 2009 when we went for the first time, and the thing I liked the most was the penguins. I could spend hours watching these cute, neat creatures.
I had to visit Willowbank again. This place was as peaceful and quiet as always, and I spent several hours visiting with the wallabies and kiwis. The wallabies in particular were friendlier than ever, coming right up to you where you can touch their soft, fuzzy necks and ears. They particularly liked the few green leaves that I could reach for them, which were too high off the ground for them to reach themselves.
The otters were out playing. There were three of them in their pond area, and they were playing and running around. For some reason, all three stick together, and making chirping noises, they would all of a sudden decide to run left. Then, instantly, they would all drop down and lay in the grass for a minute, just to get up and run, waddling, through the grass. I think they are the silliest otters ever, although all otters are great fun to watch.
In a few short days it was the time for us to head North again. We are leaving this wonderful land for the last time on this project. Who knows when, or if, will we be coming back. Thank you New Zealand for the wonderful time we had here!