As we left Franz Josef we were aware that our time in New Zealand was drawing to a close, but there were still many sights and experiences waiting for us. We finally got our train ride over the mountains to Christchurch.

Braided River

The Waimakariri river wanders over a wide bed.

The train had an open observation car where passengers could hang out for picture taking. I made occasional treks there when it looked like we were approaching some interesting landscapes.

There appeared to be two levels of service on the train. Our car had reserved seats with tables and included tea. Some cars just had regular train seats. There was also a club car serving refreshments.

One feature you seldom see on US trains anymore was a baggage car for checked luggage.


New Zealand didn't have many native grasses prior to European settlement and the native ones were not sufficiently nutritious for European stock. Settlers brought in foreign grasses to plant on the land that they cleared for their new farms. Some of the grasses have become invasive.

Chas told us that recently farmers have been bringing in fescue, which shows to me that they haven't yet learned about the dangers of introducing foreign plants. I warned him that it won't be long before they will have fescue eradication programs ... and they won't work.

Earthquake damage

In Christchruch we asked about which downtown buildings were affected by the 2010/2011 quakes, the answer was "all of them." This is the view from our hotel room window.

All of the vacant lots had been buildings. The building on the far right was still boarded up. The Anglican cathedral, just seen on the far left, was still in ruins and may never be rebuilt. At least one of the high-rises shown in the picture looks OK from the outside but is scheduled for demolition because it is not safe. I'm not sure of the status of others.

Moon over Lyttleton

One afternoon we spent time with friends from Lexington who were also visiting New Zealand and had supper overlooking the harbor in Lyttleton.

On the way back to Christchurch we stopped to view this gibbous moon over the hillside.

It was a beautiful end to a lovely day.

Akaroa Light

The following day we visited the harbor in Akaroa.

The first order of business was to take a harbor cruise to check out birds and marine mammals as well as the scenery.

This lighthouse used to be out on the point, but it was replaced by an automated lighthouse and moved to this location basically for decoration.

Hector's Dolphin

We were eager to see all kinds of marine life, but a major goal was the Hector's Dolphin.

Fur seal

We also saw several fur seals including this one who wasn't thrilled about having his siesta interrupted.

Akaroa Overlook

An overlook of the harbor from the crest of the ancient volcano rim.

Airport Haka

Only in New Zealand.

As we were moving through the airport in Auckland on our way home, we overheard more than one ceremonial Maori greeting, but this was the most impressive.

The young people were meeting the trio with their backs to us. Their haka lasted quite a while and was performed by both men and women. The chanting was quite loud.

Acknowledgment haka

After they were done, the two men being greeted reciprocated with a haka of their own. It lasted quite a while too and was, if anything, even more demonstrative.

The chant must have been formal because the young woman in black seemed to be quietly repeating it.

Its Great to Be Home

Once both recitations had completed there was much embracing and a few tears.

What a homecoming! We didn't find anything like it at Dulles.

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