In the evening we researched our options for dining and decided on Spice Paragon as being within easy reach. Also, it’s in the entertainment book (I’ve recently upgraded our membership to cover the whole of New Zealand), and this pretty much covers the cost of that.
The next day temperatures were forecast to reach over 30°, so we decided that visiting the International Antarctic Centre would be a good plan. Bound to be cooler there! We drove out towards the airport, and got there well before opening time of 9:00 (we’d been advised to get there early as they get crowded), so we stopped for a quick beverage in the café before heading in. They have all kinds of informative stuff about Antarctica, including the original expeditions and the current research stations there. They also have an Antarctic storm experience, where they give you overshoes and a thick coat to go into a snowy room. The temperature inside is -8°, but they then lower this further by introducing wind, and the windchill takes it down to -18°. At this point some of the less sturdy visitors left, but we, being hardy kiwis, stuck it out till the end. In shorts, natch.
Outside, my glasses immediately steamed up, so we waited for them to clear before heading outside for our next adventure, a ride in a Hagglund all-terrain vehicle, of the type used in Antarctica. They’ve built a little assault course out the back of the centre to simulate some of the conditions that you meet in the vehicle, then after a short safety briefing (“wear your seatbelt! Hang on to the straps! Press the buzzer in emergency!”) we were off. Our driver took us up and down steep inclines, cambers of 20°, and through snow and swamp. After ten minutes we disembarked, shaken and stirred.
The next stop was the little blue penguins feeding time. Little blues are endemic to New Zealand, and are the world’s smallest penguins. The ones they have at the centre are rescue penguins – they’ve been found injured, recovered under the aegis of DOC, and then transferred to the IAC where they can live out their lives in comfort. This is a life sentence – they’re not released into the wild once they’ve recovered, as many of them have missing or damaged limbs which would make them easy pickings for predators in the wild. On the upside, their life expectancy is greatly enhanced in captivity, as they rarely live more than 6-7 years in the wild, whereas the oldest at the IAC died recently at the grand old age of 25.
We’d pretty well done everything in the IAC so decided to head up the road to the Willowbank Reserve, a wildlife park with exotic and native species. We followed most of the prescribed path through the exotic animals, which included wallabies, possums, otters (we didn’t see any ☹), but ignored the farm animal section due to lack of interest. The final section was New Zealand natives; unfortunately most of these are in aviaries, and the kaka, kakariki and kea didn’t look particularly happy. Give me Zealandia any day! There was, however, a kiwi house containing four brown kiwi. Unfortunately no photos of these as it’s very dark inside, and naturally, no flash photography is allowed. You have to wait a few minutes to allow your eyes to get used to the gloom, but once you do, you can easily spot the kiwi rootling about and running around.
They also have tuatara, again in cages, and takahe, who were hiding themselves away. We stayed for a spot of lunch in their café, then decided to can our good intentions hatched earlier in the day of a planned walk to Washpen Falls. This was confirmed when we got to the car and the thermometer read 34° - not really weather for a two-hour hike! We headed back to the comfort of our airconditioned hotel room to watch the first ODI against India.
In the evening, we went out to Pescatore, Christchurch’s only two-hat restaurant for dinner. Neither of us wore a hat. Despite this, they let us in and we enjoyed some salmon and snapper cooked cheffy-style, followed by a chocolate cremeux and a curry icecream with pineapple and rice. Although we'd only ordered two courses, they were back and forth with little amuses-bouches and similar throughout the meal - a malt tea and stuffed flower before we began, a "pre-dessert", and petits fours afterwards, so we were well satisfied. It was only slightly marred by the utter dick at the next table who complained about everything. There's no pleasing some people. We left to watch India complete their demolition of the Black Caps in the first ODI.