Dolly Travels – Our Last Day in the South Island

Author: , October 1st, 2015

Dolly - Canterbury ChurchKia Ora,

It is now late at night. I am in my very comfortable hotel room in the heart of Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city. We had such a long day, I was certain I would sleep well. But, no. That was not to be. I was jolted out of a deep sleep by the sound of an emergency vehicle siren going past on the street below. I realized then, that we had not been in a big city since we left Auckland, which was nine days ago. How quickly my mind and body had adjusted to the quieter atmosphere of the smaller towns and the peacefulness of the great outdoors.

Early this morning, right after breakfast, we boarded our bus and left the west coast town of Greymouth. We had been blessed all week with sunny, pleasant weather. This morning, though, there were some clouds in the sky, and the air was quite chilly. With our excellent driver, Paul, we started going inland traveling a bit south and east, traversing the Southern Alps. We went over Arthur’s Pass, one of the highest mountain passes, driving on a steep, winding highway. Paul stopped the bus at a turnout, so that we could take pictures. The temperature outside was 34 degrees Fahrenheit, and a sharp, cold breeze blowing.

We each took a couple photos, and we’re more than ready to hop back on the bus. We went just a bit further up the road, and stopped again at a cafe, so we could all get a cup of coffee. Then Aaron, our tour guide, led us on a short walk to a small chapel, then to the Visitor’s Center The little church was very pretty, as the window behind the pulpit looked out at a grand waterfall. Unfortunately, my picture did not turn out well, as the sun was shining brightly on the waterfall.

This area has many different kinds of outdoor activities: hiking, mountain biking, white water sports (don’t think that tiny river below the highway is the only river here). There is river fishing, lake fishing, just about any kind of outdoor activity is available. This is very rugged country, so one has to be knowledgable and prepared for dealing with the elements. One poster in the Visitors’ Center was entitled, “How to Kill Yourself in Arthur’s Pass”.

Back on the bus again, we started our descent into the valley, leaving the Alps behind us.

This is prime country for Merino sheep, as they thrive best when they can graze on the mountains. We were told, later, when we visited the sheep station, that Merino sheep need a very different diet from the sheep that are raised in the valleys.

We visited a working sheep station, where the owner and his dog, Pete, gave us a demonstration of the herding qualities of the Border Collie. The shepherd actually use another dog, called a Huntawey (I don’t know how to spell that). The Huntawey barks, causing the sheep to group together in a herd. Then the Border Collie keeps them in a herd, and directs them towards the shepherd. We also got to see sheep shearing.

When we left this place, we continued on to Christchurch, on the east coast. Christchurch had been devastated by two earthquakes: the first, in September, 2010, but the second one, in February, 2011, caused the greatest destruction. For me, it was very sad to see the city as it is now. Rebuilding has been very difficult. So many buildings have been torn down; others waiting to be restored or demolished. We had stayed in Christchurch in 2005, and the vision I saw today made me very sad – a ruined cathedral.

We left the city, went towards the airport, and visited the Antarctic Center, which is right near the airport. I loved seeing the little blue penguins. That cheered me up. They are the tiniest penguins in the world. The ones we saw today have been rescued, having suffered injuries to their tiny feet or flippers, rehabilitated, but they would not survive in the wild again, so their permanent home is at the Antarctic Center.

After our visit there, we were taken to the airport; there we had to say goodbye to Paul, who had been our driver and companion for the past several days. We flew from Christchurch to Wellington, arriving a little after 8:00 p.m. As I said earlier, it had been a very long day, but with so many interesting stops and sights.

We will be here for the next few days, and then our fantastic New Zealand adventure will come to a close. I will fly back to the United States late Wednesday afternoon.

I will try to get another blog post written, after we have had the chance to visit Wellington.

I do trust you have enjoyed visiting this amazing country with me, and that you are planning your own OAT trip to New Zealand.

There is so much that I haven’t written about. I haven’t told you about the food, the cultural differences between our countries…I will try to write about those things, and more, after I get home.

So I shall say goodnight for now, and try to get some sleep. I can only hope another siren doesn’t go by and wake me again. I shall try to adjust to city life again,


By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels | Canterbury Gay Travel Resources

Revisiting Christchurch Two Years After the Earthquakes

Author: , February 26th, 2013

Re:Start Container Mall - ChristchurchChristchurch, New Zealand suffered a pair of devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. Now Elissa Richard over at Sherman’s Travel revisits the city to witness its rebirth:

Christchurch’s core is in the process of being slowly, and almost entirely, dismantled. Already partly leveled, the city’s cordoned-off center (dubbed the “red zone”) is filled with irreparably damaged buildings readying for systematic demolition. Some two-thirds of the city’s heritage buildings will ultimately be lost, and the city is in the throes of (literally) picking up the pieces. But look only at the dismal surface, and you’ll miss the subtly rising phoenix – a city revving to rebuild from the rubble, a movement led by impassioned locals oozing such resilient spirit that you can’t help but join in on the cheering squad for this little city. After all, how could you not get behind a place that’s created its own “Ministry of Awesome,” developed by residents eager to ignite creative new projects throughout the city?

Elissa points out one of the unorthodox successes:

The most successful manifestation has come in the form of the Re:Start container mall, which has helped revitalize the city’s central business district with colorful shipping containers repurposed as temporary retail units for both emerging and displaced local businesses – the result has been a funky alfresco district of 50-plus shops, cafes, and eateries that have become a symbol of Christchurch’s renaissance.

Read more at Sherman’s Travel.

read more about the quakes here and here.

Click here for gay travel resources in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Christchurch Earthquake Update From a Local Innkeeper

Author: , March 2nd, 2011

Our friend Bruce at Christchurch Gay Stay gives us an update on the situation in Christchurch, New Zealand, and what you can do to help:

Many thanks from me to you all who sent messages wondering how we in Christchurch are.

I got power back today so am able to reply to many messages from all over the world – it’s humbling that so many heart-felt messages arrived.

I have little water pressure and feeble sewer at the moment but am living in my undamaged house . So hard to believe a house could take that much shaking . I just stood upstairs and waited to be consumed by my own house , but it stopped as quick as it began and I realised I was alive.

Poor christchurch, so devastated . But one day at a time we will get up and running. I aim to be back in business soon. I have not contacted all the Christchurch B&Bers but I know that “At the Beach” Raewyn & Beth’s house is munted and they are living in the campervan that was available on our site for rent, so that is not available at the moment .

I think most of the other christchurch hosts are accepting guests so please encourage your guests to book with them, or email them to see if they are accepting guests

If there was anything to smile about, every time I left my house I had to present my credentials to the hot army boys at the end of the street. One night my neighbours and I had a BBQ of our thawing meat in the freezers and we took bowls of ice cream down to those clad in battle fatigues. Such little pleasures to give us a lift!

The weirdest thing happened today . The Civi Defence people have to inspect every house before removing the cordon to the inner city – of the six flats in my block I am the only resident.

I have keys to several of the flats. I was attempting to wash in a bucket after removing wet carpets at work and heard a loud banging – the CD people were breaking in to my neighbours before knocking on doors. I let fly with choice language and said why?

They said if no one home they have to break in and check all rooms. I said I have keys.

So they broke down the doors to two of the flats even though I said all residents were safe and living elsewhere . I don’t understand that . Then while I fumed they walked through my house looking for dead bodies, opened cupboards and declared my house free of any dead people.

But to break into houses without knocking on doors first… But it is a state of emergency and I had a quick “rough red” to get over myself.

What is clear is that we have to be thankful for: water, friends, neighbours, flush toilets and pipes that whisk it away , building standards, power that comes on with a flick of a switch, and LOVE shown through txts, emails , phone calls, and knocks on the door.

So many people have offered a respite holiday and sitting in a deck chair with a gin in Hokitika, Keri Keri, Koromiko, Poller View, Nelson, Thames, Dunedin, Waiheke, Greymouth, Boston and Melbourne sounds idyllic and I thank you very much but I just want to hunker down here and love my house.

Enough , as I have power I will delight in doing the vacuuming , tidying up broken treasures.

If you’d like top help, just go to:

to make a donation!

Christchurch Recovering After 7.1 Earthquake

Author: , September 27th, 2010

Christchurch Earthquake“Did the earth move for you?” became the most popular joke in Christchurch . It moved for us all. It shook, rocked and rolled us as we clung to the nearest man or door frame if you hadn’t got lucky that night.

It was 4.35am on 4th September 2010. I had two guests from Auckland at my B&B, Christchurch Gaystay . While Christchurch is close to the faultline, earthquakes are unlikely in Auckland on the North Island.

Suddenly our beds started shaking violently.

There was crashing and banging as vases and wine on shelves fell to the ground. We lept out of bed and clung to door frames which are supposed to be the strongest part of a house. We were all naked but the power had gone off and we could not see each other . “My willy is being swung by the earthquake” yelled Mike so he grabbed his Calvins to contain the pendulum .

“Please!” I yelled to anyone who might turn off the shaking. I expected any minute for my house to fall like a pack of cards. 30, 45, 60 seconds? Who knows? It stopped and the house seemed to sway back on an even keel, as if the storm at sea at suddenly stopped.

In the dark I found my way downstairs and the door to the lounge would not open, but it was impeded only by a broken bottle of wine. “A cheap red”, I sighed. Red wine making its way across the tiles towards the wool carpet. So I grabbed my massage towells and threw them over glass and alcohol and began the clean up. As the boys upstairs still clung to each other or a door frame I cleaned up then found some broken family heirloom Doulton plates in pieces.

The electricity was dead so we used gas to boil water and have a cup of coffee. A bicycle light was the only light we had till I lit the candle sticks. I found a transistor radio so we sat over it like the family in Woody Allen’s Radio Days, listening to the news. It emerged that 80 buildings in town were destroyed.

Thousands of chimneys had crashed down on to house rooves. New faultlines snaked across the countryside , not respecting anything in their paths, breaking apart houses and gardens, opening great cracks in the land. Grey mud began bubbling to the surface, liquefaction, a new word to us, the cause of this. Water pipes and sewer pipes broke and their contents flowed in to the street and rivers . We are proud of the cleanliness of our rivers and streams and now they were flowing a muddy brown, contaminated.

The news kept coming. Houses split in two, verandas dropped to the side walks, restaurant walls fell on to the street. Historic buildings, earthquake proofed years ago had parapets and spires at strange angles . People stepped out of their front doors and into 5 feet of water where their path was a minute ago. They hugged each other and cried at the loss of their beloved home.

We sat at home as dawn arrived, wondering what to do. Eight hours later we had electricity again. some had never lost power, some still do not have it several days later .

We began to feel a warmth for each other, that we had survived. Miraculously the news told us that no one had died. Building standards had proved to be important. Haiti’s earthquake was the same magnitude.

We had to get out of the house so walked around the area and found great cracks in roadways, mud and sewerage bubbling up. I went to a friend’s house and found him shovelling mud, so joined him in barrowing it to the roadway. His house had cracks inside and out and his back door would not open.

It was the weekend so no one went to work as we cleaned up our houses, wondering when the next after-shock would scare us. Power and water came back on so we could watch the TV images of our town, images people around the world had seen before we had.

Things are returning to normal, the central business district was closed for a couple of days as the safety of buildings was assessed. But many people are not allowed to return to homes, some are sleeping in school halls until temporary accommodation can be found. 2000 houses are uninhabitable. The city has 330,000 residents.

Aftershocks occurred for some days, including several at 5.4 magnitude.

Texts, phone calls and emails arrived from around the world, former guests inquiring about me and my house.

Bulldozers are knocking over the remains of old buildings, mainly old brick buildings, built 100-150 years ago without a thought for an earthquake. Meetings are being held trying to set architectural standards for the rebuilding of shops and houses.

The last major earthquake in NZ occurred in 1931 in Napier on the North Island of NZ. 256 people died and the central city had just 4 buildings standing . As it was rebuilt in the art deco era many of the buildings are a tourist attraction these days, and there is an annual Art Deco Festival. So, out of the ashes grew a city with a different emphasis and character. We hope the same happens here. 80% of the business district is undamaged so not affected to the extent of the Napier earthquake. TV loves to present the extremes, so it looks worse to viewers than it actually is.

Spring is here and daffodils, magnolias and rododendruns are defying the eathquake and brightening us up

You can see pics of the affects of the quake by googling Christchurch Earthquake.

My business Christchurch Gaystay is still open for business. . I hope people will still come to Christchurch and New Zealand. My B&B caters for gay and lesbian travellers . It is 10 minutes walk from downtown . It costs $60 for a single traveller. That includes breakfast and broadband. $95 is the rate for a couple.

Napier accommodation can be found on There are 85 gay owned B&Bs on that site around New Zealand