This is the Knox Church in Christchurch. It was severely damaged in the February 2011 earthquake. Much of Christchurch is in a delicate state but the city and the people are slowly bouncing back. The photo was taken in January 2012 when I was in Christchurch so I’m not sure if it has been demolished or can be rebuilt.
The International Antarctic Centre is located opposite Christchurch airport and is designed to give “visitors of all ages with an interactive, fun and exciting experience on Antarctica”.
There are lots of displays showing what it’s like to live in Antarctica, from both animal and human perspectives. My favourite section was watching a 17 minute video Beyond the Frozen Sunset which showed the view from a small plane. The scenery is so beautful and because they strapped a camera to the underside of a helicopter they were able to capture the beauty. It really made us feel like we were there which is what they wanted us to feel.
The most challenging thing we did was go into the Snow and Ice Experience where we felt our first snow storm. We donned the heavy jackets and not-so-trendy boots before stepping into the room. Although my Dad didn’t want to join Mum and I because he grew up in northern England so has more than enough experience of snow storms. The temperature in the room is normally -5 celsius but every hour they simulate an ice storm where the temperature drops to -18 celsius. They also provide a commentary from the operations room to show what they say during the storm. They described the conditions as they worsened, then we saw a lightning and heard thunder then communication all but stopped due to the high winds (40 kms per hour) that were blowing around us. We couldn’t hear a thing. I don’t like cold weather but was happy to try it out for the 5 minute duration. It did nothing to endear me to cold weather though. I’d love to fly over Antarctica one day but it would never be warm enough for me to spend time on the continent.
We also saw some fairy penguins playing (and sleeping) in what was designed to be their natural environment. Penguins are so cute.
You could easily spend almost a whole day here. There is so much to do including a Hagglund Ride and a 4D movie. If you are looking for something to do in Christchurch, it’s a great day out. There’s also a cafe and souvenir shop.
Lyttleton is a port town on the Lyttleton Harbour on the outskirts of Christchurch. Until the earthquakes caused severe damage the town was a popular destination for cruise ships. Now passengers disembark further south at Akaroa. To get to Lyttleton most people drive through the tunnel through the Port Hills. The idea of doing that scared me and originally I wasn’t going to go down there but my parents were so I eventually changed my mind. Some people were temporarily trapped in the tunnel during the Feb 2011 earthquake and that scared me. We made it through without any problems though and came out just outside the town. There was a lot of damage everywhere. We drove through and out the other side, wondering how far we could go before the road to New Brighton was closed. We passed the site of the old timeball, debris still lying where it fell. We passed these concrete ‘walls’ where they have filled these gigantic cylinders with concrete to stop any further landslides and prevent more houses slipping.
We parked the car in a deserted street. Normally it would have been very busy. Walking the length of the street gave us a real insight into what it used to be like. It looks like it was a hub of the town. There was a display outside the library that showed before and after the quake photos of buildings in that street.
Wanting to support local businesses we looked for somewhere to buy something for lunch but there wasn’t much open. I found a pop up juice bar and bought a beautiful cup of juice. Further up the street we found some other pop up businesses in containers including The Porthole but that was closed. A Petanque Club has also been formed on one corner. Locals have taken advantage of cleared sites to launch new businesses. I hope they are able to move into more permanent venues soon.
A sign to help lift the spirits of locals.
Punting on the Avon River was high on Mum’s must do list while we were in Christchurch. We weren’t sure if they were open due to being so close to the red zone but although two of the other courses were closed, this one was open. Our punter, Tom, gave us a commentary as he punted a few hundred metres north through the Botanic Gardens.
A punt is a flat-bottomed boat that is propelled by a pole. You can see the boats in the photo above.
It was a lovely, warm day and so relaxing drifting along in the punt. It was idyllic. On one side of the river were the well-manicured Botanic Gardens. The city council is still paying for the upkeep of the gardens as they are a real showpiece of the city. However on the other side of the river is Hagley Park which were a little more, shall we say, unkempt. They are still beautiful though, with lots of trees and bulb displays in spring but the lawns aren’t mowed as often. The Council obviously has a lot more to spend its money on these days.
One of the bridges we punted under used to be a flat bridge but the earthquake caused a lift in the centre of the bridge. the strangest thing is that the lift is perfectly centred. We thought the bridge had been built that way.
After leaving Cashel Mall we walked across to Hereford then Oxford Sts to try to see some of the damage within the red zone. From Oxford St you can see through to the cathedral and some of the damage. They were in the process of dismantling it with no definitive idea of its future. I hope they can keep at least part of the building and build a new cathedral and incorporate part of the old one.
Someone hung this angel from the crane. It was a poignant touch.
This is the one of the walls of the Bridge of Remembrance. The bridge was closed off and we didn’t know why. It was only when we walked down to the river that we saw the major cracks in the bridge walls.
All buildings had to be inspected to assess what level of damage had been sustained. These markings mean something to the assessors but not to the general public.
On our first day of touring together Mum, Dad and I drove around looking at the Red Zone. The red zone is the cordoned area of the CBD that suffered the most damage and covered nearly all of the CBD after the February 2011 quake. The Restart Mall is a part of Cashel Mall, a well-known pedestrian shopping mall that was damaged.
The restart mall is made up of imported shipping containers that have been colourfully decorated and fitted out as banks, cafes and retail shops. It is a great way of getting people back into the city.
We spent the last few hours driving back to Christchurch. Paul told us that if we arrived back with enough time to spare we would drive up to the Cashmere Hills to a lookout over Christchurch. Most of us were apprehensive about going back to there because of the quakes we’d felt first time. Some people were only staying in town for one night but I was staying for two nights. We drove up and through the hills, passing some severely-damaged homes. Once we reached the lookout we were holding on to the rail and it started shaking slightly. Most of us didn’t take any notice until one person said it was a small earthquake.
The views from the lookout though were fantastic. We could see to the city to the north and the west to the airport and the mountains beyond.
The remains of a building damaged in the earthquake just before Christmas 2011.
The Sign of the Takehoe, a beautiful reception building in the Cashmere Hills that was damaged in the quakes. It was closed pending evaluation of damage. I’ve recently googled it and believe it will reopen. I’m so glad to find out it wasn’t going to be demolished.
From the hills we returned to the Christchurch CBD and our accommodation. It was so hard to believe that we were back already but we had all had such a fantastic time, seen so much and taken so many photos over the past 7 nights. Unfortunately there was no formal farewell dinner that night. My parents were flying in from Melbourne and we were hiring a car and spending the next 11 days driving around the top of the South Island before catching the ferry to the Wellington.
Some of the other passengers were flying home, others were continuing on to the North Island with the tour. Carol, Brad, Bec, my parents and I had dinner in the Tudor restaurant and I ate the same main meal I’d eaten on the first two nights at this restaurant. It was still just as delicious.
That night was spent in a motel around the corner in Bealey Avenue which originally was part of the Red Zone.
January 3, 2012
This was the first real day of our tour. It began with our first wake up call and buffet breakfast. It was a novelty to have bacon, eggs and fruit, cereal and any number of juices to choose from.
After breakfast I went back to my room, collected my case and met the others at the bus. We were being dropped off at the Christchurch station for our tranzalpine train trip to Greymouth on the west coast with Tranzscenic. This was the first of our optional extra tours. We had the choice of going all the way to Greymouth or getting off the train at Arthurs Pass and completing the rest of the journey by coach. I was going the whole way. It was one of the things I’d really been looking forward to.
After leaving Christchurch station we travelled through quite flat, brown land before rising slowly into the mountains. The mountains became a lot greener too. We had a quick 10 minute stop at Springfield where we could buy souvenirs but that was really crowded so I didn’t buy anything. Apparently the stop is well known for it’s muffins but I wasn’t interested in them. Back on the train, the scenery changed once again. It was my first taste of how tall the mountains are in NZ. Many of them rise hundreds of metres straight up from the ground. Our group had most of a carriage to ourselves. Many stayed inside and tried to take photos through the window but the reflection was ruining them so I decided to go to the open carriage. I had to walk through three carriages to get there which was quite an obstacle course. However once I got there I realised I had done the right thing. It was very windy so we had to hang on tight and take our photos. It was great to feel the wind rushing through our hair and watch the mountains whizzing past. Our next stop was at Arthur’s Pass.
Arthur’s Pass is a small village in Arthur’s Pass National Park and is a very popular base for exploring the park. It is 740m above sea level and surrounded by beech forest. There is a ranger’s station, visitor centre and some accommodation but not much else in the village. It’s also the place where people who aren’t travelling the whole distance to Greymouth disembark and continue by coach, which is what a lot of people on my coach tour did. That meant the rest of us had a lot more room to spread out. After they left I bought some morning tea from the food carriage and settled back in my seat to take some photos and update my travel diary. As we left Arthurs Pass we entered the Otira tunnel, an 8.5km tunnel that took us through the mountain. It was spooky going through such a long tunnel but we were through to the other side in a matter of minutes.
The scenery changed dramtatically once we reached the other side of the tunnel. Whereas it had been cloudy but sunny on the eastern side, on the western side it was dark, misty and very gloomy. It was like being in a different country. I’ve never seen such a dramatic change before. I didn’t go back to the open carriage. I got some very interesting pictures which really showed what it was like.
After the four hour journey we reached Greymouth. The coach was waiting to collect us to drive us to Hokitika where we were going to have lunch. I was disappointed we didn’t spend any time in Greymouth. Mum and Dad had been there years before and went to a few places I would have loved to have visisted. Hokitika is only 40kms away so we were there in around 30 mins.
January 2nd, 2012
Today was a free day for me as I had arrived a full day before the tour was to start. After being continually woke by earth tremors during the night I decided not to bother trying to sleep when the 5.5 quake happened. That’s when I found out that it made the London news. I put the Sky news on and they were talking about it. You know it’s big when it makes the news on the other side of the world.
After breakfast I asked for directions to Hagley Park. My Mum had told me it was a must see. It was further away than I thought which explained why the receptionist looked at me strangely. It wasn’t that far though. I love to get out and walk so it was perfect. It was probably 1-1.5km away. I didn’t really know what there was to do or see so I stuck to the streets beside the park. Despite being the middle of summer it was beautiful and green unlike some of the surrounding countryside. I turned down a street and was greeted by the sight of fencing that told me I’d reached the red zone. That’s when I realised how close I was to the Christchurch CBD. I took quite a few photos along the way before realising I was getting a little lost. I wished the receptionist and given me a map of the area. I would have been more confident and kept walking. I also realised I didn’t have my purse or any id and credit cards. I got worried and hoped there were no earthquakes because if anything happned I would only have my hotel key as id. It’s weird some of the things we think of isn’t it?
I made my way back to the hotel and spent the afternoon watching tv apart from walking down to Merivale Mall but most of the shops were closed. I didn’t know they have a national holiday on January 2nd. I got some lunch from McCafe and headed back to the hotel. Spent a boring but relaxing afternoon watching tv.
At 6pm I went to the bar to meet my fellow travellers on the coach tour. We enjoyed a welcome drink, meeting each other and dinner. Another tremor hit while we were having dinner which really shook the restaurant. You soon get used to them though and we just continued chatting while eating.
On January 1st 2012 I travelled to Christchurch to begin a 3 week holiday. The first 9 days were spent touring most of the South Island on an AAT Kings coach tour. It was the first time I’d been on one of these tours by myself so was very nervous. I was also nervous going to Christchurch where the earthquakes had recently started up again. It had been fairly quiet between July and early December 2011.
After the tour my parents were joining me and we were going to hire a car and tour around the top of the South Island and bottom of the North Island.
I hate the whole act of packing. I’m always so nervous that I’ve forgotten something even though I can normally buy what I do forget. My flight was around 9am which meant I had to leave home at 6.15am to drop my car off at the parking place and go to the airport. Once I was at the airport I could finally relax.
The flight with Air New Zealand was relaxing and uneventful. Just the way I like it. Once I arrived I went straight to the Vodafone booth to buy a prepaid mobile phone to use while in NZ. It was there that I met Carol and her teenage children Bec and Brad. We realised we were doing the same tour, staying in the same hotel and have remained friends since. The coach company arranged for us to be taken to our hotel, the Heartland Cotswold Hotel. It turned out to be a really nice tudor-style hotel. I had a ‘room’ with a loungeroom, bedroom and the largest bathroom I’ve seen. Whereas Carol, Bec and Brad had 3 single beds in one room. It was strange how the hotel allocated the rooms. I loved it though.
After unpacking I went for a walk down the road but was unnerved by the amount of earthquake-damaged houses. I didn’t realise that we were only about 1 km away from the CBD and only one block away was where the red zone originally started (the red zone is the earthquake-damaged CBD. Gradually the zone has been reduced so it now covers quite a small area of Christchurch). I decided to turn back and have a rest in the hotel. At dinner time I walked to the Tudors restaurant which was onsite. I ate what was probably the most beautiful meal of the whole trip.
After dinner I watched tv. At around 10.10pm I felt my first earth tremor in NZ. At first I thought it was a bit of fun and rang Mum back in Melbourne to tell her. Unfortunately it was only the first of five I would feel that night culiminating in a biggish one that made the news in London.