It is six days since my son and I began our long journey to Christchurch, New Zealand, on the other side of the planet to our home. It was a LONG journey and even though I splashed out on Business Class we were pretty messed up by the time we landed 30 hours after leaving Manchester. However, the jet lag has gone and we are very much enjoying our stay here.
The driver that picked us up from Christchurch airport was an interesting fellow. He is a 7th Dan black belt in TaeKwon Do, which is mighty impressive. Not only does he drive people to and from the airport, he teaches martial arts and is also a preacher of some sort (his bible sat beside him in the car). He lamented that he doesn’t get much work teaching Taekwon Do because the people here are so friendly and law abiding that they don’t need to learn about fighting.
Christchurch is undergoing some huge rebuilding work after the massively damaging earthquakes of a few years ago. The parts of the town that are built are lovely, but it seems that half of the place is a building site. Our hotel is the tallest building in Christchurch and it needed repair work after the quakes but it stood up pretty well, whereas much of the surrounding area has that “ground zero” appearance. I have enjoyed wandering around the town centre, or “downtown” as they say here. The roads are small and quiet, there is a quaint tram carrying tourists on city tours, and there are many good places to shop, eat and have coffee. I am impressed by the number of sushi restaurants. Walruses love sushi. One small gripe; the internet at our hotel is pants, so I’m going to struggle to upload images.
The Botanical Gardens here are beautiful. The River Avon flows alongside – yes, there is a River Avon in Christchurch, just like back in the UK – and there is punting on the river as well as paddling in canoes. Some of the trees here are staggeringly large and many are populated by some very loud crickets. I saw honey bees foraging on some herbs and noticed how light they were in colour compared to my bees. They are very yellow, so no doubt contain a lot of ligustica DNA.
Yesterday we walked up Mount Cavendish to the Christchurch Gondola Station and took the easy way back down in a gondola (cable car). The views all the way along that walk and especially from the summit are truly stunning. The weather was clear and fine so we got a sun tan as well as some fresh air and exercise. I have arranged for us to do something called the Lord of the Rings Edoras Tour on Thursday which, by all accounts, involves experiencing some of the most spectacular scenery on this island. I don’t actually particularly like the Lord of the Rings but my wife loves it so I shall take photographs so that she can see some of the locations and backdrops where the movies were made. Sadly she was unable to accompany me here due to work and study commitments.
Of course, the real point of being here in New Zealand is to interview beekeepers. I have appointments lined up to meet Peter Bray of Airborne Honey and Rae Butler of Bee Smart Breeding, so that should be fun. Beekeeping is big business here, and it isn’t all about Manuka, although obviously the rapidly rising price of that product is driving fierce competition for apiary sites near to the Manuka plants. I shall find out all about it soon. I think the varroa mite has arrived here but I’m not sure how widespread it is yet. Alas, it’s bound to spread and become as much of a problem to Kiwi bee keepers as it is to us back home. Rae Butler is breeding bees with the Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH) trait so I look forward to discussing that with her.
So there you have it; a pleasant combination of work and play in a welcoming land of great beauty. If it wasn’t for the occasional devastating earthquake this place would indeed be paradise.