The alarm going off at 4.30am was a uncomfortably early start. It was wet and southern-hemisphere-countryside-dark. Twinage had promised excitement at an early start but It had obviously waned overnight.
However, getting on yet another flight (first time we have ever got out the car at departures and been sat on the plane in 25minutes!) we were all buzzing with anticipation again. An hour into the flight and Ella shouted out “snow! theres snow! snow! real, live snow!” and flying over the mountains to the north of Christchurch gave a huge flash of excitement.
We landed and set off through the airport carpark to the Antarctica Centre. Christchurch is the base for the the US, Italy and of course NZ to their centres on Antarctica and they have put together a really fantastic visitor centre there. To keep us all really engaged (despite tiredness and being 7) for a whole day shows it was a good place!
We watched little penguins being fed (yes the penguins we should have seen a squillion of at Phillip Island but only saw about 4) and to Ellas total delight (even more than the sight of snow) we met the keeper in the corridor with a penguin in her arms so we met one literally face to face! At this place they take in all injured and maimed penguins and nurture them back to health.
They have created a polar storm simulation room which of course we also spent a great deal (a little bit toooooooo much maybe) of time in. Its normal temperature is -8. Quite chilly…good job they lend you a coat. There is ice and and igloo and some fake snow but the twins managed to get enough to toboggan down a hill and get totally covered! But the feature is that every hour they crank up the wind and lower the temp to make it feel like a (quite mild) polar storm. The temperature drops to -18. Brrrrrrr……now that is COLD!
As well as all this, there are the very infomative exhibitions (guess who spent time in these….? ) and a 4D cinema showing a film of a polar trip, complete with water splashes in your face and bumping seats with the waves, and a very fine cafe, there is the wonderful haagland vehicle. This is the all terrain, amphibious people carrier they use on Antarctica and at the centre they do trips round an adventure course including up hills, through 3m of water and across a foot wide crevice. Guess who managed to wangle 4 trips on this?
We left there and took refuge in our accomodation on the non earthquake, train station side of town. Taxi driver was scathing but we thought it fabulous…spotlessly clean and everything you needed for a quiet night in!
This was our 11th bed in as many weeks. We went to bed again excited about our next adventure to start the next morning!