Saturday, January 30, 2010

Preparing for New Zealand

In just 12 days we will be winging our way to New Zealand for a long-planned and anticipated holiday down under. After our plans to buy a farm in South Africa fell apart (owing to some clear-eyed reflection on the crime situation in the country, as well as the political instability) we looked at the map and decided that NZ could be a good alternative place to plunk down some cash and buy a house. J2 got busy looking at NZ-based real estate agencies and before long came up with a long list of around 30 properties that fit our needs--priced within our budget, located in interesting areas, and suitable to function as a bed and breakfast or inn. We booked our tickets to leave Beijing on Feb 11, on the non-stop Air New Zealand flight to Auckland and from there on a quick hop to Christchurch on the South Island. After looking around a bit, we decided that we prefer the South Island to the North Island, since it has fewer people (population is less than 1 million on the entire island) and much more beautiful scenery.

We're leaving our itinerary fairly vague, only making plans for the first few days we're in the country. We'll stay overnight in Christchurch the first night and then the next morning we'll drive north along the east coast to the town of Kaikoura, which from the photos looks like the NZ version of Ocean City or some other beach resort. Kaikoura means "Feast of Crayfish" in Maori, and is well known as a place for great shellfish, including South Pacific crayfish, which look to me more like a lobster. We'll have to give them a try! In Kaikoura, we have booked tickets to go on a morning outing with Dolphin Encounter. They take you out on their boat offshore a ways, and there you put on wet suits and snorkel gear and go swimming with dolphins. (Fortunately we found that we brought with us to Beijing our snorkel gear and the underwater housing for my old Canon PowerShot S30 digital camera, so we should have photos to share.) From Kaikoura we have no specific plans, other than to wind up in Oamaru, also on the east coast, but this time 3 hours south of Christchurch, in time for its Food & Wine Festival. And then we're free again until it's time to return to Beijing on Feb 27.

Stay tuned for updates on the trip, and on what we find house-wise there!