Up at 7:45am to pick up our hire car. Needless to say, I was super keen to get a set of keys in my hand, there's nothing like the freedom of a road trip!
We'd booked an auto, for ease of mountain driving, but ended up with a manual, which really is neither here nor there. Anyway, out to the car park to load up our trusty little blue Corolla.
On the way out of the airport (which also has easy access, reasonably priced accommodation and full blown tourist attractions) there is a Countdown (Woolworths in Australia). Now of course the first thing to do on any road trip is stock up on water and snacks, therefore making the location of this particular grocery store extremely convenient. Gotta love the Kiwi's.
We then drove east through Christchurch, where we saw a lot of buildings that were damaged in the earthquake, to a place called Lyttelton. Here we made it just in time to catch the ferry across to Quail Island. The island has had many uses over the years from quarantine station, to leper colony and Antarctic expedition training facility. We spent a couple of hours wandering around, including a visit to Ivon Skelton's grave (the only person affected by leprosy to die on the island) and then scaled the summit for beautiful 360-degree views of Diamond Harbour and the surrounding mountains. It was a bit of a hard slog getting up the steep ascent in the heat but this is us we're talking about and it was the perfect way to begin our 'holiday'.
On the way up we saw a few birds, including a Yellowhammer, a European introduction but a lifer and therefore super exciting.
We dashed back to catch the 12:30pm return ferry, spotting a quail (an introduced California Quail as all the native ones were hunted to extinction) on the way which was appropriate considering our location, just making it back to the ferry in time to cruise back to the mainland.
We headed back into Christchurch to look for some lunch and spotted Denny's so that's where we went. Lil Sis got fish and chips and I got a mushroom cheeseburger, and of course we washed it all down with some L&P (World Famous in New Zealand)!!
Across town we checked into our motel and then headed for the Botanic Gardens, kind of obligatory when visiting The Garden City.
We spent a few hours wandering around admiring the beautiful plants and looking for birds. We managed to pick up 2 more lifers, Black-billed Gull (native) and Dunnock (introduced), which means I've already ticked off 3 in the top 10 on my target list, (but not my most wanted list which is another thing altogether).
The river runs right around the gardens with crystal clear water which allowed us to easily spot trout and even an eel.
We checked out the conservatory, full of succulents and jungle plants, the New Zealand Icon garden and the rose garden. It was here that we stumbled upon... wait for it... and it was under a hedge and everything... a hedgehog! Too cute! Now I know they are feral and a threat to native animals (they are introduced carnivorous rodent-like critters after all) but damn it was impossible not to get caught up in the adorableness. Lil Sis's mind was totally blown as she had no idea there were even hedgehogs in NZ and this was the first one she'd ever seen. It was tiny, maybe 10-12cm long, and snuffling about for worms with not a care about how many cameras were pointing at it.
We left the gardens at about 7:00pm and grabbed some dinner. Tomorrow we are off to Kaikoura, a place where wildlife abounds. Can't wait to see what epic sightings await us!