For a purely pictorial view you can look at the pictures organised for the photo album part of our website

We popped off to New Zealand (NZ) for a month over Christmas to see Andy and Phil. Of course it helps that it was summer in NZ.

The taxi to the train to the tube to the plane to LAX to AKL to CHC to Andy and Phil's left on 2003-12-12. We got back home 2004-01-08. The times in this article are New Zealand Daylight Time. I left the digital camera set to Co-ordinated Universal Time (UTC) so you may notice some odd dates / times on the images.

This is a rough guide of where we went

There's plenty of fun things to do like Paragliding and Bungy

The flight was with Air New Zealand. We went from Heathrow (LHR) to Christchurch (CHC) via Los Angeles (LAX) and Auckland (AKL). I should mention that going business class really helped make the flight bearable. It's quite a long way. We had short stop in LAX where we were in a "holding pen" - we still had to complete the immigration process (visa waiver).

We spent the first day (2003-12-15) in NZ staying awake to get us into synch with local daylight. We had a pleasant wander around Christchurch looking at things like the botanic gardens and the new art gallery. I was quite taken with Michel Tuffery's Povi Christkeke. After a pleasant meal with Andy and Phil we went off to bed for a nice kip.

The next day (2003-12-16) we went out to Christchurch again and up the Gondola. It was OK, but not very exciting. There was a young chap who was going to cycle down from the top, but Carey didn't seem keen.

We picked up the hire car from Kiwicars in the evening. They are not a big international chain, but they do have a resonable number of offices. They were quite accommodating towards us with our unusual schedule. I would say that they were OK, but not for the faint of heart.

At 04:00 on 2003-12-17 we phoned Up, Up and Away to see if the hot air ballooning was running. Luckily it was, so we tootled off to a car park in Merivale, Christchurch. Then we were taken by bus to a field for lift-off. They use the customers to help setup the balloon (no previous experience required). People seemed to like this. The journey was very pleasant and the only minor wind we noticed was a flutter in a loose bit of towel when we switched wind streams. It was so easy to do that there was a ninety year old lady with two broken arms aboard. Landing was fairly gentle too - you're packed into the balloon quite tightly so you cushion each other. Unfortunately we landed four fields away from a road so there was a bit of an adventure getting the balloon and customers back onto the tarmac. After that we had a pleasant chat about the flight and some champagne. Our pilot told the throng about some of the history of the flights and what the champagne is for.

The rest of the day was spent driving down to Dunedin. We saw the police in action so we decided to take the 100km/h speed limit seriously. En-route we passed the Moeraki Boulders. They seem quite popular, but the only thing I can really say is that the beach was fairly pleasant and quiet when we were there. I guess I'm getting blase about these things as I get older.

We spent two nights at Harbour Lights and I'd have to say that it set my expectations for hospitality to quite a high level. I should also mention that it felt at times as though we were in Sctoland.

We were lucky enough to see the penguins when we went out on a tour with Penguin Place. After chatting with Dan I was worried that my camera wouldn't be up to the job. As you can see from my photos it was just fine. You get very close to the penguins as you're inside a hide. This photo Penguin calling out was taken with 5x optical zoom (about 170mm on an SLR).

Also on 2003-12-18 we went to see the Royal Albatrosses. As with most of the tourism in New Zealand this appears to be handled sensitively. We also had a wander round the Armstrong Disappearing Gun which I quite liked (I'm sure it wasn't Carey's cup of tea). I got into an animated conversation with some New Zealanders about their current lack of military might. The general approach seems to be that they try not to annoy anyone and hope they'll be left alone. What a refreshing approach.

On 2003-12-19 we began our journey to Te Anau. Little did we know that it would take quite so long to get there. We'd decided to give Invercargill a wide berth based on what people told us. We opted to have a gentle drive around the Caitlins

More later - it's bedtime now