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We're here at a little crossroads called Kimbell, just outside Fairlie. We'd intended to stay at Tekapo tonight, but all the reasonably priced rooms there were full. Still, not too bad since Tekapo is only about 20km away.
The day began nicely, with Michelle climbing into my bed... We got up and went down to the YMCA cafe for fresh milk and coffee for Michelle. We ate cereal in the room from cups with some of the seven plastic spoons we got from the cafe.
The we trekked over to YHA to rebook the Franz Josef Glacier accommodation (successfully) and then book Greymouth and Nelson. The woman was glad to see the back of us!
We packed and checkd out of the YMCA, dumped our bags in the most packed luggage storage room. Then we hit the phone and used up all the $10 phone card and some of another booking places for tonight, in Twizel, Queenstown, and Wellington. We came in well under accommodation budget, despite a relatively luxurious last night in a Wellington motel. Also booked the Milford Sound cruise.
We wandered out and into town for some sightseeing. Checked out the Christchurch Cathedral, which was absolutely stunning and amazing inside. Michelle coffeed in the visitors' centre while I climbed up the 133 steps to the steeple lookouts. Very steep and claustrophobic winding staircase, bottom half stone, changing to metal halfway up. The rain prevented the good views from being excellent.
View from Christchurch Cathedral spire
Went back down and collected Michelle. We went to the hire car place to see if our car was ready. They were a bit behind in the dropoffs so we had to wait a bit until it arrived from the airport. We got a blue Ford Futura with fancy power everything!
We drove back to YMCA to get our bags - then sat in the car eating bread and cheese for lunch. Drove off in what we thought was the direction of Ashburton (and ultimately Fairlie). About 10 ks on we figured we must have been on the wrong road, since all the signs said Akaroa, which is east of Christchurch, not southwest! We picked some other streets to turn down and drove randomly until we decided we were really lost, then stopped at a BP station for directions. The guy pointed on a map saying, "You must have missed this turnoff here." We didn't reveal that we hadn't actually been anywhere near that turnoff!
Anyway, we managed to find our way back to the main south highway and drove steadily through miles of farming country. I never actually expected to see all 60 million sheep in NZ, but we darned near came close today. They were everywhere!
We passed Ashburton and Geraldine, then pulled into The Farm Barn not far from Fairlie to check out some woollen things and utilise the "facilities".
We hit Fairlie and took a left turn at random when the road ran out with no obvious indication of where out motel was (Mount Cook Road). We stopped as the tourist info place for directions and promptly discovered that we'd turned exactly the wrong way and that, contrary to popular opinion and belief, the road that headed towards Mount Cook actually was Mount Cook Road. Amazing...
The motel found about 6-7 km out the other side of Fairlie, we checked in - well, as much checking in as we could in a country so laid back that the woman in charge here just said to us, "oh no, you can fix all that up tomorrow." She never asked for ID beyond "we called to book a room this morning."
Bags unloaded, we drove back towards Fairlie for some sightseeing. We figured we'd stop at the same tourist info place for details of the scenic drive mentioned in the Lonely Planet book. On the way we stopped off at the Historic Woolshed. A sign at the entrance said $2.50 entry, pay at the shop on the way out. Well, we would have if the shop had had anyone there to take the money! There wasn't a person in sight in the whole place. Maybe not so surprising considering the smell in the woolshed proper! Pee-ew! But there was a whole gift shop, with woollen jumpers and other things just sitting there, completely unattended. These Kiwis are either really laid-back or non-existent! So we saw the shed for $0 - worth the price but I don't think it would have been worth $2.50.
Eventually we got to the tourist info spot and the woman there informed us that the scenic drive would be useless in the present rain and low cloud. Oh well. We headed back to the motel for a peaceful evening, stopping on the way to see the Fairlie Museum. $2 entry via a scary automatic turnstile gate that buzzed and clanked and scraped Michelle's heel as it chased her through. The place was full of old and older farm machinery of all descriptions, as well as old typewriters, telephone exchange boards, and kitchen and household utensils and tools. Pretty neat. The only thing was that there was again not a person in sight anywhere. We wandered the whole place and left again without seeing any sign of anyone even on the property. Weird.
We came back to the motel and had some toast, then made pasta and sauce for dinner. Michelle accidentally dumped over half the pasta packet in the pot, so I had a substantial feed.
Relax, bed, and off to Mount Cook tomorrow!
Accommodation: Mount Dobson Motel, Fairlie: $55.
Food and drink: $7.50.
Christchurch Cathedral: $4.
Fairlie Museum: $4.
Car hire: $701.
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