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.
This is one of the most famous little churches in New Zealand. Mainly because of it’s location and the view from the window behind the altar. We stopped here for morning tea then drove to the church. We had a little bit of time to wander around.
Mt Cook is New Zealand’s tallest mountain at 3,754 metres high. There are actually 23 mountains that are over 3,000 tall and are all on the South Island.
We had stayed in a small town called Omarama (population approx 230) which is the base a lot of fly-fishing and hang gliding due to the favourable winds. There are quite a few gliding clubs in the area that has head gliding championships in 1995. I could see some hang gliders in the distance from my room.
On day 9 we left to begin our journey back to Christchurch and the end of our tour. First stop was a stop to view Mt Cook from quite a distance. It was very magical and enchanting. The lake itself we were beside was such a gorgeous shade of blue/green and as we looked up to the horizon, we could see reflections of low mountains in the lake. The further we looked up to the horizon we could see Mt Cook. From our distance it didn’t look very tall but later when we drove closer we were able to appreciate its height. There was some low cloud which covered the snow-capped peaks but as the cloud moved aside it revealed the mountains.
We were only allowed 20 mins in Oamaru. We were never sure why we stopped here but it was good to be able to walk around. It looks like a nice town and reminded me of Ballarat in Victoria. It’s quite a famous town, having been the home to many famous locals such as Janet Frame (author) and current NZ rugby captain, Richie McCaw. There’s a huge billboard showing that this is his home town. I had no idea when walking around that we were only a few hundred metres from the ocean. I loved the buildings though. They are built from the local limestone known as Oamaru Stone.
Before we left Dunedin we drove to the world’s steepest street. I think we were all surprised that this street was in New Zealand. I thought the steepest street was in San Francisco. One of our group, Fernando, took it as a challenge when Clarke asked us not to attempt to walk/run up to the top. We were told that many had attempted it but none had completed the return journey in the 15 mins we were going to be there.
Fernando and a couple of his mates attempted it but Fernando was the only one who completed it. Although I don’t remember how long it took, he completed it well within the 15 mins we were there. It took its toll on him though. He didn’t feel very well for the next few hours. We were so pleased to be able to say we knew him.
Larnach Castle is New Zealand’s only castle but in reality it’s a large mansion. It is, however, a very beautiful historic house built in the mid 1800’s that has been lovingly renovated by the Barker family since the 1960’s after it fell into disrepair.
The castle was built by an Australian banker who moved to Dunedin and became wealthy by trading as a merchant. He wanted to build a magnificent home and sourced the finest materials from Europe.
We were given a guided tour who is obviously very passionate about the castle. She has been running tours for years but still loves it as much as the first tour she gave. She took us through most rooms in the castle, giving us the history and telling us ghost stories. We were in one of the smaller reception rooms and I felt like I was swaying a little bit. It felt weird until the guide started telling the story of the ghost who creates an energy and often makes people sway. OMG I’d just felt my first ghost. After that we were allowed to walk around the castle ourselves, venturing up to the room. The stairs to the roof were so narrow only one person can use them at a time. We had to yell out to make sure no one was coming down before we could go up. The view was absolutely magnificent. You can see all over Dunedin.
We were given one hour to look inside the castle and the gardens. I spent 15 mins looking at the rooms we hadn’t looked at with the tour guide then spent the rest of the time looking at the gorgeous gardens.