From the heat of a tropical island, we traveled to Christchurch, New Zealand. There it was the beginning of winter. It wasn’t below freezing though, but it was chilly.

We got our Jucy car rental and our GPS, and entered our destination. We were staying at a rental house in Akaroa, a small coastal town away from Christchurch. We started driving and the sun started setting. Before too long it was very dark. Then the road started to rise and twist, and fall again. And suddenly we were in the mountains. We didn’t know that we had to drive through the mountains to get to our rental house. Then as we rose higher, it started to hail and snow. This was very nerve wracking, since we had never driven here before, weren’t sure where we were, and there were very few settlements along the road we were driving. We kept on following the GPS and she did eventually get us to the little village of Akaroa. We drove on through and up a mountainside a couple more kilometers, until we finally arrived at the house. We read our instructions – just walk down the steps by the mailbox to the house. We were in the pitch black, with what seemed like a drop off to the side of us, and we were to walk down the steps. Thankfully they left us flashlights so we could see the steps. We went down slowly, getting colder all the time, and made it to a gate. We opened the gate and continued down the steps. I had been too slow, so Josh was in front now, and he slipped on the step and slid down to the bottom of the steps. Thankfully he was almost at the bottom. The step didn’t have as much luck as Josh, since he snapped it. We made it to the bottom. We went inside our cottage.

It was cold inside. Nobody had central heating like in America. Everywhere we go there are only the small heaters or fans. There was one in the kitchen, and I tried to turn it on to warm. It started going, but not warm enough for me. I was still freezing. There was another interesting thing about our little rental house. There was a bathtub and sink in one room, the next one over had a shower, and then a door to outside, and outside a third room with a toilet. Yay for freezing while peeing!

The house and the whole community are really more of a summertime retreat area. Not as busy in the winter time. Most of the shops in town were even closed for winter.

I cried the first night. And maybe the second night too. I hated being so freezing cold. Finally I figured out how to adjust the heater to POWERFUL, and suddenly it started working a lot better at heating the house. I think the batteries in the remote died after that though, because we couldn’t shut it off later.

Akaroa is a very beautiful and picturesque village on the edge of an ocean inlet. It was settled by the French, and so the names of all the roads are French, and the population is descended from the French. I think they passed on some of their French cooking skills because Josh and I had some very delicious breakfasts in town at Bully Hayes.

We checked out the Akaroa History Museum. It was fine. Nothing to write about, except that it was something to do in Akaroa. We were going to go on a boat tour to see the blue penguins who live nearby, but the weather didn’t cooperate, unfortunately.

New Zealand is beautiful. It’s not just the beauty that you see and immediately say, oh! beautiful! like a rose. It’s a rugged, naked, rough beauty. A wild kind of natural world that grows on you the more you see it until it becomes a part of you. I loved it. At first I didn’t, but as I warmed up physically, I also warmed up to the gorgeous rugged peaks, and mountains turned to sheep pastures, the scenic shorelines and the towering pine trees. I would have been interested to see what it looked like before it was Europeanized. It’s so difficult to imagine the native forests now.

There are a lot of sheep in New Zealand. I would say that there are exponentially more sheep than people in the country. I loved seeing the sheep that were ranging on the sides of the mountains. That was very cool. We saw them everywhere though, in the mountains, the plains, all over. I saw a shirt (BAA BAA BAA, BAR BAR BAR – that about sums up New Zealand), I would disagree, but there were a lot of sheep.

Josh and I knew that we were going to have to drive to either Christchurch or somewhere else to find anything to do. We had ill considered our location, unfortunately. Probably that was why it was so affordable, being so far away from everything else.

We spent one day driving north to Hanmer Springs. At Hanmer Springs was a lovely spa area filled with 13 different hot spring pools. They ranged in temperature, but all were nice and warm. Josh and I bought a pass and also a steam room time as well. It was so wonderful and relaxing. When we got out of the pool to go to the next pool though, it was painful, since the ground was frozen (there was snow on the ground). Yikes. The pools were great. I was so relaxed. I would love to have a hot springs in my back yard. Or neighborhood.

We had some lunch and walked around town a little bit, and then went back to the Springs again before heading home. This time it was much more difficult to switch pools. It was so much colder as the sun set. And, awfully, our towels had been wet earlier, and now were frozen. Lovely. We survived though, and still enjoyed our time thoroughly. Just the getting our part hurt.

We spent several of our days in Christchurch. We visited the Air Force Museum. An elderly gentleman was running a little test on the Flight Simulator that they have installed, and let us try it out and give our opinions of it. I really enjoyed it, since you sat in a real airplane cockpit, with real gear. They were trying to figure out how much people would pay to go in it.

The rest of that museum was nice as well. And it was free, which makes it even more impressive since I’ve paid for much less informative and interesting museums in my travels thus far.

We also visited the Art Museum, which was fine. They had a small collection of art, it only took us about 2 hours to see everything (Josh would have seen it all in 1/2 an hour, the way he walks through art museums).

We visited the Southern Encounters Aquarium and Kiwi House. We went so we could see the kiwis. They are very shy and nocturnal, so they only allow a small number of people in to see them at a time. We saw them hopping around and eating. They were actually very funny animals.

The last museum we went to was the Canterbury Museum, which was a very large museum. It was worth visiting. They had a lot of various exhibits, from science to history. Inside we found the crazy bird that was in UP… it looks like a Moa, although the bird in the movie was more colorful.

On Sunday we drove into Christchurch and visited Majestic Church. It was a good service. The church was probably 200-300 people, and the worship and sermon were good.

We hung out in Christchurch again that day. It was raining again, so we walked around a mall and went to see The Proposal. We both enjoyed it a lot, very funny and good. How does Julia Roberts look the same as she did 15 year ago?

Josh and I moved from our house in Akaroa to another town right beside the New Zealand Alps called Methven. We spent two days before we left skiing on Mt. Hutt. This was a very unique skiing slope. It is on the mountain, but when I say mountain I mean it. There were no trees, only the slopes, leading to drop offs of hundreds of feet. The views were incredible, and I had a lot of fun.

We also went to one more movie, Transformers 2. It was good if you like action, with great visual effects and mediocre dialogue. That’s what makes a movie phenomenal, is with all three… like Wolverine for example. Transformers could have been better… just like it could have been better the first time too.