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New Zealand SI (Part 1): Antarctica Centre and Hot Air Balloon at Canterbury

Our 2016 Vacation: New Zealand South Island!!

Getting prepared for the trip, we've booked our rental car online and checked for discounted tickets for the activities! New Zealand time is 5 hours ahead of Singapore. We went in early November which was Spring time for New Zealand and the sun set at 9pm! It's long day time and it's good for us as we had more time for the activities!

Rental Car
The mode of transport for this trip was totally via rental car. In New Zealand, the cars are right hand drive, same as Singapore. One point to note is that the highway in New Zealand are mostly made up of single carriageway roads with one-lane each way.

Before we flew, we reserved a rental car from Jucy online. The cost of the rental for 9 days (i.e. from 6 Nov 12pm to 15 Nov 12pm) is S$400. The car we got was Nissan Tiida. This cost include the standard insurance which has an excess of S$2,000. GPS will require additional cost and we did not take the GPS as we intend to buy a NZ SIM card and use the data and our phone GPS to guide us on the road. We bought the Zero excess insurance, also known as 'stress-free cover', for an additional $153 for a piece of mind.

After driving on the road, we were happy that we bought the 'stress-free cover' as it was quite easy to cause 'injury' to the car body as there were small stones on many of the roads and we also met a few Kea which flew onto our car and used their beak to 'poke' the car.

Discounted tickets for various activities!
I found a website which offer discounted price for various activities in New Zealand! I've booked many of my activities through this website prior to my trip!

The start of our vacation! Yoohoo!

We took a direct SQ flight on 5 Nov 2016 to Christchurch. It was a 10 hours flight.

Upon arrival at Christchurch Airport, first thing we did was to buy a NZ SIM card. There were 2 booths located side by side at Christchurch airport, Vodaphone and Spark. After comparing the 2, we bought the tourist package from Spark, which cost NZD49 for 3GB data, 200 minutes NZ call time + 200 minutes International call time (check the website to see if your country is included). 200 NZ text + 100 International text. The staff at the booth helped us changed the SIM card on the spot and the NZ SIM card could be used immediately.

We followed the signs in the airport to the rental car shuttle pick up point. After getting the rental car, our first stop is Antarctica Centre which is just minutes away from Christchurch Airport. I bought the ticket of the Antarctica Centre from bookme website for just NZD29 per person (original price NZD59)! The catch for the discounted ticket is that there is specific timing to visit the Antarctica Centre. We bought the slot for 3pm.

Antarctica Centre 
38 Orchard Road, Christchurch Airport
Opening hours: 9am to 530pm
Free on site parking for visitors

At the entrance of Antarctica Centre, the staff actually helped to plan the sequence of the activities for us so that we were able to try all the activities within the 2 hours.

Activity 1: The Antarctic Storm
We had to slip on a rubber cover on our shoes and put on the jacket provided before entering the Antarctic Storm room. It was freezing cold in there. They simulated the strong winds and coldness of an antarctic storm which lasted for a few minutes.

I could not stand the wind and coldness of the Antarctic Storm and went to hide in the Igloo until the storm was over. lol.

Activity 2: Hagglund Ride
It was so fun! We were seated in the Hagglund which brought us through different terrains, slopes, into pools of water, over piles of wooden logs etc. Beware! You might bump into the stranger sitting next to you!

In the Hagglund

The Hagglund
Activity 3: Penguin Encounter
Penguin Feeding Show! Cute!

Activity 4: 4D Theater
We watched Ice Voyage. It was quite a nice show, not much of motion though. But the graphics were nice.

After the activities, we walked through the Antarctic Gallery to understand how is it like to live on Antarctica. People living in Antarctica will face 24 hours of sunlight during summer months and 24 hours of darkness during winter months.

Now I can say I have stepped on North and South pole
Instruments used in Antarctica

Finally, our visit of Antarctic Centre ended with a 17 minute show 'Beyond the Frozen Sunset'.

After visiting the Antarctica Centre, it's time for us to return to our accommodation for a rest. We stayed overnight at Rolleston - Warm Spring Rural Retreat + Breakfast which we booked through Airbnb. The hosts were very friendly and the room was clean and comfortable. It was in a quiet residential area and we could see stars in the night skies. Highly recommended!

Saw a double rainbow from our accommodation in Rolleston!

We woke up real early the next day at 430am for our Hot Air Balloon experience with Ballooningcanterbury. I bought the tickets for the hot air balloon through bookme website as well for NZD275 per person (original price NZD395)!

Ballooning Canterbury called us the day before at 7pm to confirm if the flight will proceed the next day and informed us of the meeting place and time.

Upon arrival at the meeting place, we boarded a bus and proceeded to a big grassland to set up the hot air balloon!

The set up was almost done and we climbed into the basket. The fire roared! And the hot air balloon slowly rises!

Soon, we saw beautiful views of Canterbury from the hot air balloon!

It was foggy that day, but it's still a beautiful sunrise.

This hot air balloon experience made me understand that a lot of knowledge is required in handling a hot air balloon. They need to feel the wind direction, decide when to lit the fire to let the hot air balloon fly higher. We were at the mercy of the wind direction, and at the same time there's this difficulty of finding a suitable spot to land. Mike, the owner of Ballooning Canterbury was very experienced and I felt safe in their hands. It was a wonderful morning flying in the hot air balloon, enjoying the scenery, the sunrise, the breeze. I love the feel.

After we landed, we all helped to keep the huge balloon. It was no mean feat.

YEAH! We did it finally! That calls for celebration! A little champagne, muffins and fruits to end the awesome hot air balloon experience!

We continued our journey to Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook next! Stay tune for part 2!


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