Sunday, March 30, 2008

March 11, 2008 - Le Bons Bay, Banks Peninsula

We spent last night in Christchurch, which embraces its English heritage just as strongly as Dunedin does its Scottish roots, with unfortunately much less interesting results. The most entertaining thing I can say about the place is that we spent the night in jail. Seriously. Well, kind of. The backpackers we stayed at used to be the local jail. The new owners have taken the incarceration theme and run with it. The toilet seats in the ladies room were lucite, with barbed wire embedded in them. Some of the rooms still had inmate art on the walls - really beautiful stuff actually.
Since we couldn't find anything in Christchurch to entertain us, we lit out for the Banks Peninsula, which turned out to be incredibly stunning. It seems that during the Age of Exploration, the French managed to claim some of the most beautiful places on earth for themselves, and the Banks Peninsula of New Zealand's South Island is no exception. It is the only New Zealand region that was settled by the French, before the English declared their ownership of the territory via the Treaty of Waitangi, is the Banks Peninsula. True to form, it is one of the prettiest little spots we've come across in this country. It is the first place we've seen on the South Island that we would want to spend some time cruising on our boat. Today were also able to exchange our jeans for shorts for the first time in weeks - so maybe that colored our perceptions of the place a bit.

In places like this, we inevitably find ourselves wondering if the local livestock realize how incredible their surrounds are.

Traffic jam on the Banks Peninsula

On the way out to the Banks Peninsula we stopped at the Ohinetahi Garden in Governors Bay. Sten stayed in the car and tried to troubleshoot a problem with our cigarette lighter, which has stopped working, leaving us unable to charge the computer or cell phone. Meanwhile, I wandered around taking hundreds of photos of the most beautiful garden I've ever seen. Like most formal gardens, it is actually a series of garden rooms. Here are a few shots (double click on them to see more detail) that give a sense of strong architectural framework the place, which was designed by two architects and an artist.

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