In the spring of 2016, Henderson Productions took an extended do-it-yourself driving tour of New Zealand.   We’re excerpting portions of our trip in this blog.    Both a book and plan-it-yourself itinerary are available for sale in our Shop on

Arrivals in Christchurg, NZ were quite painless and we not only had to scan the bags for contraband but met a sniffer dog who picked up the scent of an apple having been IN Rick’s bag yesterday,    Lovely black lab,    His handler searched the bag, asked if there had been any food in it, told us she was trained to notice fruits and sent us on our way.

It took longer than we would have liked to get our car but were joined on that part of the day by Mark – a Kiwi expat to Paris who had sold his travel agency business and used the money for 2 money pit ideas.     He was on his way FROM Paris where he has opened a museum devoted to languages because “there wasn’t one” which has now been floundering and a “huge financial drain”.   He was on his way TO a town north of Christchurch to sort out why his newly purchased second-hand DC 3 wasn’t working and what it would take to get it back up and running.

So, he was using a discount rental car agency (he was impressed our tour agency knew about them) and full of excellent tips and ideas about our itinerary.   His only remaining home is his “lodge” in Te Anau which he much prefers to the “touristy Queenstown” as it drives him crazy to see operators take people on a 12-hour trip to Milford Sound and back when it’s much nicer to stay in Te Anau.    Turns out his “lodge” is not just his own but also a place where one can come for a meal and/or book a room.    He was impressed we were at the City Center Novotel, made some suggestions regarding our planned trip over Arthurs Pass and the rest of the south island.   Said he’d always had great luck on the Otago Peninsula where the yellow-eyed penguins and the albatross center are located and thought it absolutely a perfect addition to a South Island drive about. 

Mark gave us some tips for a good supermarket – including one where you can measure out your own nuts and trail mixes called New World Market.     So, on our way into town, having navigated multiple roundabouts from the left, we were parked and shopping for dinner and munchies.     Had a lovely chat with a gent who told me the boysenberry jam of x brand was absolutely the best and suggested I purchase the large size as it’s on sale this week, perused the wonderful looking fruits and made some local apple choices, got our nuts bagged, and sampled both beers and wines before choosing a south island six pack to sort out.   The prepared foods/deli section was like a mini-Wegman’s with wonderful beef meat pies and a couple options to be warmed.   We purchased those which will have to wait until we find a microwave which we do not have in this hotel.   Never mind.  

We realized as we were pulling up to the hotel around 5 PM that we had limited light left, dumped all our bags and went for a walk around the devastating central city of Christchurch.    The damage from the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 really can’t be underestimated.   How very, very sad to see either big construction projects in progress, dingy/empty lots or crumbled messes waiting to be brought down.   The cathedral, originally built from 1870s to 1904, was clearly their pride and joy with only half still standing.

And yet, everywhere was a riot of color.  The tourist info indicates that local artists refused to let the City die and began beautifying the recovery with street art of all sorts.    Then the Earthquake Recovery Commission jumped on the bandwagon and made intentional recruitment of short-term art a priority – murals on dilapidated building rubble, fencing art, movable art galleries, a literal cardboard cathedral for the congregation until the original can be repaired and reinhabited, etc.    Within a five-block radius, you can see the huge number of facilities and businesses which have been sidelined but also the rebirth in progress.   Bless the people of Christchurch for taking the time to beautify while forging a completely new definition of what they want their City to look like.

What’s your experience in New Zealand?   We’d love to hear your

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