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Full Circle

Day 148: Kaikoura to Christchurch

Michael Palin - Full CircleThere is a big vintage car rally in Christchurch this weekend and 1500 cars have been given a week to drive there on a choice of twenty-eight different routes. There are so few cars generally on the roads of the South Island that it is all too easy to slip into a time warp as 1930 Chevrolets with running boards and leather cases strapped to the back overtake me and Ford Prefects and chunky Austin Twelves appear out of side roads. By lunchtime the signs show over a hundred kilometres still to go, so I cut my losses, pack the bike in the bus and enjoy my first sight of the wide rolling grassland of the Canterbury Plains in comfort.

Ostrich farms, racecourses (there are more of them in this country of three and a half million than in the whole of England), fat healthy cows and a wonderful collection of town and village names - Parnassus, Belfast, Styx - lead us into Christchurch, third city of New Zealand.

It looks as English as its name suggests, but the reality is more complex. The English-sounding public schools like St Bede's and Christ's College are certainly there, but their intake is increasingly Asian. Our hotel may be called the Park Royal, but most of its rooms are taken by Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese tour groups. There are as many sushi bars in Christchurch as there are tea rooms.

I've been asleep an hour when the phone rings. It's the Sun newspaper. A very apologetic lady wants to talk to me about my wife. I don't want to talk to her about my wife. As I put the phone down I wonder if I should check the cupboards for photographers.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 148
  • Country/sea: New Zealand
  • Place: Christchurch
  • Book page no: 205

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