Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cycling New Zealand 2014 Day 2 : Christchurch to Tekapo

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Cycling New Zealand 2014 Day 2: Christchurch To Tekapo
Christchurch & Tekapo, New Zealand : 16th November 2014
Small Group Ride - Road Trip from Christchurch to Tekapo

Hmm? Looking at the above photo, the question that would probably pop into mind is "Have we traded in our bicycles for snowmobiles - and not just any snowmobile but those heavy duty ones used for exploration. Have Siew Yung decided to do join Lara Croft of the Tomb Raider video-games and become a snowy explorer?
Well that comes close, read on to find out.

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9:30am - After a decent breakfast at Leon's place we headed out cycling around the Riccarton neighbourhood. It's pleasant to cycle along major towns in NZ as along most main roads are dedicated cycling lanes.

In fact on many roads, there are two reserved lanes on each side of the roads. The outermost lane are for car-parking while the second one is for cycling; so there is no worries of cars parking onto the cycling lanes.
No.... Yong Sin is not breaking any law above by cycling out of the cycling lane; he is weaving out as in front is a road closure where (for road upgrading) where only bicycles and pedestrians are allowed to pass.
Talking about the law, in NZ by law one have to wear a helmet when cycling - NO HELMET NO RIDE is strictly enforced here.
So.... a friendly Pfffffft! to you my friend Jerping! (Jerping is a Malaysian friend who advocates that people be given a choice to ride without a helmet).

The first thing we did was to cycle over to the nearby Riccarton Mall to get some SIM cards for our mobile phones. From the Vodafone outlet there we got the NZ Travel SIM pack, a worthwhile buy at NZD49-00 as it provided 2GB of data, 120 minutes of talk time (including calls back to listed home countries. Lucky us, Malaysia was listed as one of the home countries), and 200 text messages.
Of course while there, the ladies could not help but do some window shopping; this would end up useful as it gave us a feel of pricing of stuff in NZ.

Our first real destination in New Zealand - the Antarctic Research Centre situated just at the perimeter of Christchurch Airport.
We parked our bicycles at racks provided slightly away from the main entrance. Right at the entrance were this snow cruisers, vehicles used by explorers to ... er ..... explore the Antarctic. Visitors get to ride in these for a short loop around the centre.
These vehicles do not travel fast and the Antarctic is a large continent at 14,000,000 square kilometres (by comparison Europe's size is slightly more than ten million sq. km.). So one can imagine the effort and time needed to explore every nook and cranny of the Antarctic. And to make matters worst, it's cold, very cold there!

Entry for adults & children is at NZD59 & 59 respectively. The centre is divided into several sections as shown in the map above.

Here's a photo of Captain Robert Scott from the Scott Base Section. He and his men perished on a return trip of exploring the Antarctic; the harsh environment there is not easy to handle.

Penguins waddling along at the Little Blue Penguins section; there is a large pool in which the penguins can swim. Visitors can view them swimming underwater through glass viewing panels from another room.
These penguins were cute, but I was more impressed with the many more penguins on show at the Osaka's Kayukan Aquarium.

The highlight for me was the Antarctic Storm Room.
Before entering, we had to don thick jackets and rubber boots over our shoes (these were provided by the centre). When we entered, the room was bright and the temperature was at -8 degrees. It was cold and dry but still bearable.
Then the room darkened and fans started to blow, simulating a storm. The wind speed was not that high, at only 24kph, but it was enough to create a wind chill temperature of -17 degrees Centigrade.
Brrrrr...... don't forget your gloves or else risk ending up with frost-bitten fingers!
Now I know the cold, harsh conditions that those explorers faced.

Lunch was at the centre's cafeteria. I made the mistake of ordering fish and chips, it came looking very dry without any vegetables and the waitress was reluctant to let me have more than two mini-saucers of mayonnaise sauce to ease this dry meal down my throat.

I could only ogle with envy at my buddies' creamy lasagne topped with wonderful looking bacon. Sigh!

4:00pm - We cycled over to Jucy Rentals outlet at Christchurch Airport to pick up a Toyota Estima Rental. We had picked Jucy as their rates was the most reasonable.
A TIP here on car rentals; distances between towns in NZ could be far, to share out driving responsibilities register as many drivers with the rental company as possible. Also, get the premium insurance that covers all parties - this will avoid any headaches in case of accidents.

We drove over to the Kosco Asian Supermarket to buy some food stuff (rice, vermicelli, onions, garlic, meat, veggies, etc. To avoid the high cost of eating out in NZ we will be cooking ourselves as much as possible. Our cooking will be made easier with the sauce pastes that we brought over from Malaysia.
That done, we started our 250km drive to Tekapo.

7:45pm - Enroute we stopped at one of the Robbie's outlet at Ashburton for dinner. The roast beef that we had was nothing to shout about, but what caught my eyes were this pair of suspenders hanging on the wall. It was one worn by NZ renown rugby player Colin Meads who donated it to the outlet after dining here..... er..... I hoped they did wash it before putting it up for display.
But this did put a thought to my head, I am now wondering whether my underwear will soon become a collectors' item. Any takers? Do feel free to contact me!

10:15pm - We arrived at the Tailor Made Tekapo Backpackers where we will be staying for two nights.
I looked up at the clear skies, it was full of stars! This is great, as we will be visiting the Mt. John Observatory tomorrow night.
I could not help signing in the AhPek Biker onto their visitors' board. Heh! heh!


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