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Back to Civilization!

Southlands-SnipI’m sitting in a little coffee shop in Christchurch, across the street from the eponymous Cathedral. At 300 thousand souls, Christchurch is by far the largest city on South Island, and it’s quite a contrast from the tiny towns and rural backpacker’s hostels we’ve been living in. You can even get wireless internet here, so I can update the ol’ blog.

In the past week or so, our friendly RAV4, Lurch, has taken us from the east coast to the west coast through Haas Pass, up the west coast, and back to the east coast again through Arthur’s Pass. Driving NZ is really an amazing experience. You can drive across it east-to-west in a few hours, albeit through steep, winding mountain passes that abruptly switch from two-lane roads to single-lane bridges and abutments just as the roads get “interesting”. As bad for the karma as it is, I’m really glad we’re in an SUV — Janelle had booked a mid-size, but they were out, so she got an upgrade, and man, were we lucky.

The places we’ve been driving the past several days — the Southlands and west coast — have actually felt quite remote. Endlessly stunning, highly variable terrain, occasionally dotted with tiny hamlets — usually a gas station, cafe, hotel and hostel, and not much more. There are only a very few towns with populations of over a thousand.

It’s hard to put into words how spectacularly gorgeous NZ is. Pictures can’t really do it justice, but I’m trying. I just posted a couple of new photosets, but I’m still a few days behind. Ack! Too many pictures, not enough internet.