The South Island 
or at least one corner of it. We had a week touring from Christchurch to Kaikoura to Blenheim and Picton, and then back down via Hanmer Springs. In Christchurch we stayed the night with a really nice lady who has a collection of objects from her travels. Several collections. Jade by the front door, silver spoons round the corner, Chinese bowls on one cupboard, glass ornaments on another. And more around the house. She also had a bowl full of carved eggs made from different types of rock. Rachael promised to try and identify them.

Kaikoura has some interesting geology. It's got a layer of white limestone on top of old sandstone, with several other layers as well. Rachael was in her element, telling us about the layering and erosion, and she was following her geological maps as we drove along. We set off for a walk around the peninsula, narrowly avoiding an aggressive calf and getting back just before dark. But we spotted our first few seals.

Not far north, we spotted more seals. Thousands of them. There's a major breeding colony there, and you can see all the brown stains where they've been lying.

At Blenheim, the weather was closing in a bit, but we went to the air museum there, and also a restaurant which had a vintage plane in the garden. A big plane. Had a day trip to Picton to see one of the migrant ships, and one of the oldest on display in the world. The rain was clear enough to get out to an old Maori site.

It rained on the way back. Lots. But it made the journey more interesting, avoiding the mud and rocks in the road and admiring the waterfalls. Lots. And the seals obviously enjoyed it immensely, having been left alone for the day.

Hanmer Springs is a bit expensive, and it was now about 4C. If you're after some decent hot pools, try Waikite south of Rotorua, where the entire family can bathe and eat for the price of one in Hanmer!

But perhaps our best day was back in Christchurch. We spent a while at the Antarctica Centre. It's a real live research establishment with plenty for visitors. They have some of the tracked vehicles that they use, which could cross a metre gap without feeling a bump, and climb 45 degree slopes. Plus the inevitable penguin sanctuary and lots of other exhibits. Including the room which is kept at minus 8C, and has big fans to simulate a "summer" storm. I had my British coat on and enjoyed it immensely. Not sure how people cope in summer - they only supply coats and snow shoes!

After that, we'd run out of time to see the earthquake exhibit. But we drove into town, and right into the sound and light show that the city had put on for the Maori new year. It was rather awesome, with multicoloured light shows all over the park. We got to see the cathedral, which now looks in much better shape although still covered in boards and scaffolding.

After a decent meal, we came back home. Rachael spent an hour or so carefully examining the rock eggs and identifying as many as she could. Our host was most pleased.

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