Our latest home exchange is in the town of Ashburton on the South Island of New Zealand. Ashburton is about an hour’s drive south of Christchurch. The house is very comfortable with very large grounds which include a grass tennis court and a magnificent garden which is in full bloom this springtime. Ashburton had a beautiful domain park with gardens as well as a very interesting museum and heritage centre and air museum. We even visited an automated dairy farm where the cows almost milk themselves – an amazing use of technology. The south island has moved away from crops into dairy over the last ten years with farmers having herds of around 3000 cows – dairy on a grand scale.
We have made trips south to the Scottish area of Dunedin where we visited the famous Speights brewery, as well as visiting many little towns on the road there and back. We particularly enjoyed the town of Oamaru, which had a lovely Victorian shopping area where not only were the shops Victorian, but the people dressed in Victorian costumes. We also visited the nearby boulders on the beach which are marble shaped.
Lake Tekapo was a day trip for us and the scenery was spectacular.
We attended friends' Oktoberfest party one weekend and also drove north to the hot springs at Hanmer Springs where we took to the waters.
Nearby Christchurch suffered a tremendous earthquake in 2011 and the city is still rebuilding its heart. Tens of thousands of people lost their homes and 185 lives were lost. Driving through the red zone (where many houses have been totally demolished) was an eerie experience. The spirit in the town remains one of optimism for the future.
We enjoyed attending the local Ashburton A and P show, particularly patting the alpacas, sampling the delicious home made fayre, and watching the children dance.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in the South Island and hope to return soon to visit the many scenic places we have yet to discover.