New Zealand

Photos and a blog from New Zealand trip, February 2012

Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers
Just a microshot of the tattered mess that the centre of Christchurch was in on our visit.
This really was the view from our hotel room!
South Island, West Coast
Driving on the South Island can be hard!
Sulpher City... bubble bubble in Rotoura
Shotover Jet, Queenstown
Baldwin Street, Dunedin is the steepest in the world. Oh yes it is!

  Flying into New Zealand after a stop-over in Los Angeles does, at least, mean that arriving in a sunny Auckland on a Tuesday morning one does not have the jet-lag that might have been the case, or could be coming in from the far-east.  However, we did leave LA on a Sunday evening and touched down in New Zealand on said Tuesday.  Someone owes me a day somewhere.   We had booked a car with Maui, a Kiwi based car Hire Company that my local travel agent had not heard of.  He should have, as I found their details in a brochure I picked up from his shop.   Reasoning on my booking with them rather than the more usual ones that are found in an Airport arrivals hall was that they not only allowed a hire car on the ferry between the North and South Islands (said others apparently do not – bugger all that taking the luggage on and off somewhere, somehow) but they also book a ticket for you.  Good stuff.   What they did not say on my paperwork though was where we would be picking the car up from at Auckland Airport, other than it was at the Airport.  Kind of.  No sign of anything from Maui in the Arrivals, but a quick ask at the help desk, where a man in a strong Scots accent tells me that they usually pick up outside.  Indeed a minibus is waiting outside and after a few minutes we are on our way.  Out into an industrial estate near the Airport where we are dropped at the depot, which also doubles up as the one for Britz, renowned for the popular camper van hire.  Suffice to say there would not be the room for all of these closer to the Airport in any case.   Our arrival at 8am is clearly just after they opened, and it is all planned out there – the customer enters their own details on a computer screen and then goes to a desk to have the keys handed over.   That would be great if their computer system wasn’t playing games!  Soon I’m sorted, well, in some ways as it transpires that our car is not ready.   The young lady has a very apologetic look on her face, not her fault, but clearly someone had not done their job.   So, we sit and wait, which is not too bad to chill after a 13 hour flight.   The air was very fresh for what is a summer’s morning too.   A late-20 something German speaking couple was shown to their car – seemed that they must be having a bigger one.  Despite being a strapping Germanic chap, he looked mighty confused when shown around the car.   Soon after, our car comes around the corner.  Oh.   A Dihatsu Siron.  I booked a group B.  Oh, it is a group B.  To be fair, it is bigger inside that it looks from the outside.  My fault for looking at the costs a bit too much perhaps, as this isn’t a car for a weekend in Edinburgh.  It is probably a wonderful little town car, but for the hills and mountains of the South Island we waited with baited breath.  Never the less, we are soon off.   The German couple were still there though.  The big guy was looking confused at the steering wheel.  Yes mate, it is on the right.   Maybe more research next time.

  Having washed the windscreen five times and not indicated once, we headed into Auckland.  As per the norm, we could not go to our accommodation until 2pm and so after discussion we decided to head into the city centre and cover that then.   In all fairness to New Zealand’s biggest city it does not really offer a lot for the tourist, as such.  It is very nice, and I’m sure plenty of officials would argue me but, I’m not the only one to think so.  At least two travel books I have read on New Zealand the writer has chosen to completely by-pass Auckland.   We were not doing that, and I had booked to stay here for two nights at least.  So, we headed for the city’s most notable landmark bar none, the Sky Tower which forms part of ‘Sky City’ and the easiest thing to do was head to the car park there.   A cost $5.50 for three hours; pretty fine we both thought.  However, clearly there was jet-lag playing into it here, as we later found that this was for the ‘Sky City’ members or something (the career gamblers that attend the Casino presumably) and the real price, after four hours, was $27.80.   Ouch.   That will be one less lunch for later in the trip then.    After a food court lunch of Noodles in the Westfield Mall close to the port area, which was a) cooked fresh and b) served on a china plate we went up the Sky Tower.  The views on the very sunny and clear day were as good as they can get, which is said to be 80km in each direction.   At 328 metres the tower is the tallest in the southern hemisphere.  The Aussies just had to beat the Kiwi’s and had the Eureka Tower built in Melbourne in 2006.  But, the Sky Tower is the tallest tower, whereas Eureka is a building.  Ok!   Still, it’s all good and has two viewing platforms, the total brave/silly jumping off the top attached to be a piece of rope, a restaurant and café, where we killed a bit more time with a pot of English Breakfast Tea.  

  For our stay in Auckland I decided to look away from the city centre area, as I say, there really is not much there.  And anything that is, I covered on my previous trip here 12 years prior.  So we headed for the suburb of Takapuna, which is actually just across the water from the centre, but you have to go up the road and round the corner to get to it due to the way Auckland’s area sits around its harbour.  It is a lot like Sydney in that respect, and even has a harbour bridge, albeit not as grand and imposing as said example.   It does its job though and that is all that matters.  Our accommodation is the “boutique style” Takapuna Oaks Hotel.  Very nice it is too, an apart-hotel that has its own restaurant and bar.  The following day we visited Takapuna itself, a popular beach day-trip for many an Auckland resident.  There are plenty of bars and restaurants too.  The perfect place to unwind, and for us the weather is very agreeable too.

  From Auckland we headed south to the Waitomo Caves, one of the country’s leading tourist destinations.  The local Maori people had known about the caves for a long time, but in the 19th century when the British were starting to explore the ‘new’ country a lot more, the local chief took an English surveyor by the name of Fred Mace with him.  What he/they found was pretty impressive.  Within a few years it had become a hugely popular tourist destination, so much so that the government took it for themselves a few years later.  This was only changed in 1989 and now the land and associated business is 70% owned by the local Maori tribe.   What it consists of is a cave of stalactites and stalagmites, which lead into a large cavern known as the Cathedral.   Yes, you can get married here if you wish (or presumably have a large budget)  Even Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has had a concert in here.  This then leads into the highlight and what the caves are best known for and that is the glow worms.   For $40 we took the 45 minute tour down into the caves, which concluded in an impressive boat trip looking up at the glow worms, which really did look like a milky way of stars.   There are other tours of other caves close by which you can take as a package, but the glow worm cave is the main and most popular one.   There is a gift shop and café on site too. 

  From Waitomo we headed across country, literally, towards Rotoura and passed through lots of countryside and small towns, including one called Cambridge which actually looked as English as it sounds.   Then an area of dense forest before arriving in Rotoura, which hits you like a cricket bat as all of a sudden the scenery becomes huge retail outlets and distribution centres.  This was our base for the next few days, and has been dubbed for some time now as “Roto-Vegas” and there is some justification in this, with the Motel strip along Fenton Street (where we stayed) looking straight from LV.  Perhaps there are just a few too many though, even though Rotoura is New Zealand’s original “tourist town”, as I noted that a couple were closed down and on closer inspection to one it had been done so by receivers.  Even where we stayed, The Gwendoline Court, which was booked via was in the process of being taken over by a group that owned one Motel to the left and another to the right.   Still, with a nice spacious living area, the bedroom upstairs and a hot tub out at the back.

  Our first port of call in Rotoura was literally minutes after we arrived, as our pre-arranged lift to the Tamaki Maori village and a man called Darren was there waiting for us.  We were then taken around various other hotels and motels to fill one of two coaches up before heading out to the Tamaki village, where Darren whips the crowd up ready and a “chief” is chosen for what is called a cultural experience, concert and Hangi.   There are now several of these in and around the city, mainly within hotels, but this is the original one dating back over 20 years now.  Firstly the groups/s are welcomed by a Maori chief by the way of a “challenge” by a welcome house, and then lead into the village where parts of the traditional Maori culture is explained – and how to do the Haka.   Then the meal that has been cooking in a Hangi, an underground oven, is lifted from the ground and then the group is lead to another meeting house for a concert of singing and dancing before going into the eating house for the food – which consisted of Lamb, Chicken and Potatoes, all cooked underground, the associated vegetables and then for afters steamed ginger pudding, made to an old English recipe brought over by the missionaries according to Darren on the journey in.  Served with custard, it sadly seemed lost on the German tourists present, but believes me, this was very nice!  There was also Pavlova, a desert that the Australians and New Zealanders lay claim as their own.    A very good evening,  a fine insight to the Maori culture that is alive and well in the country and a must see on any New Zealand itinerary. 

  The reason for Rotoura being a tourist destination is not only the vast lake on which the city sits, but the further evidence is plain to see – and smell from the very minute you enter the city region.  As well as the reference to Las Vegas, it is also known as ‘Sulphur City’ and the air hangs with a distinct egg smell, as the area is the New Zealand’s top geothermal area and has spurting geysers, steaming hot springs and bubbling and exploding mud pools all over the area.   One of the largest concentrations of all of these is in Te Whakarewarewa which is a Maori cultural village which combines views of all, as well as showing how they utilised the land to its full and indeed still do.   We chose not to visit on this occasion, and instead wandered around Kuirau Park which enables a free look at the mud and steam, but I did visit back in 2000 and it is highly recommended.   

  For a potted history of Rotoura, and the Maori, the museum in the city within the government gardens in the impressive old Bath House is very much worth a visit.   Rotoura became famous in Victorian times as a tourist destination to visit the pink and white terraces, formed by volcanic silica deposits.  It was a very long trip to come and see them, by boat, and then another boat and then carriage so they must have been worth it!  However, that all changed in 1886 when Mount Tarawera, which stands tall above the city erupted.  The pink and white terraces were destroyed, as was a village called Te Wairoa and 150 lives were lost.  It changed the Rotoura area forever, and efforts to make the city an English-style spa town largely came to nothing over the next 20 years or so, but the Spa House did find a great use for recuperating soldiers after both world wars.  Today, and indeed recently, it has been turned into the museum which has many real artefacts from points in both Maori and British/European history in the area.  This includes a real human bone arm that was turned into a flute which is on display.  Ewww indeed, but it is hugely significant to the history of the local Maori, many of whom can genuinely trace their history to its being.

   The journey southeast from Rotoura firstly was to the mighty and impressive Huka Falls and then took us to Taupo, which sits on the lake of the same name, which is the largest in New Zealand.  It is the big hole that is almost in the middle of the North Island that you can see on any atlas.   From there on to Napier, via what is known as the Central Plateau, albeit a very high one.  It was one of those journeys where you do not know how high up you are until the corner is turned and a vast view opens up.  Napier was pretty peaceful on what was a sunny Sunday afternoon.  Back in 1931 it was alas anything but, as it and the whole area were all but raised in an earthquake.   After a shopping trip to Pak’N’Save – pack it high and sell it cheap in the Wal-Mart fashion we set off for our next stop, a remote farm stay cottage.  Willowford Farmstay is what you would describe as the middle of nowhere, where the cows and especially sheep outnumber the human’s big time.   Unfortunately the fickle New Zealand weather turned on us during our stay, and we were at one with the clouds settling in amongst us, as well as the nature.  But, never the less it was a nice relaxing time, away from everything.  No mobile phone coverage, certainly no Wi-Fi (!) but there was Freeview TV.   Owners Campbell and Suz Bremner have done a wonderful job renovating what was a dilapidated cottage into what it is today; there is pictorial proof in a wallet within the property.   Horse trekking is also offered there.

  There journey from the farm stay to Wellington was quite a long drive, and much of it in rain.  Hawkes Bay is one of the main wine producing regions of the country, and that showed by the many different vineyards that we drove by.  Those fields that were not covered in grapes growing had (lots!) of sheep or cows in.   Around four hours later we reached Wellington.  It is New Zealand’s capital city, despite only being the third largest in the country.  It was chosen though as its position at the south of the North Island means that it is in the centre of the country, or as near as.  Our base for the night, the James Cook Grand Chancellor was right in the centre of the city, or as near as too.   There is actually quite a bit to see and do in Wellington, and yet we were only there for 15 hours and suffice to say half of that was in bed.   Still, it was possible to go down in a lift from the hotel foyer to the street below (the city is by in large carved out of the hills) right to where the Cable Car starts off, which then goes up to the Botanic Gardens which overlook the city.  It is actually more of a tram than a cable car, and reminded us very much of the Peak Tram on Hong Kong Island.   It was originally built and run by steam to link the city centre with the then newly built suburbs at the turn of the 20th century.  It still carries commuters today, as we found and saw.  The view from where it ends was very impressive, looking across the harbour on which the city sits and across to the far outer suburbs.   The Carter Observatory also sits on the hill, which reopened to star grazers in 2010 after a long time closed.

  The ferry ride from Wellington across to the South Island is one of two halves.  The first is across largely open sea and then the second is through the very spectacular Queen Charlotte Sound (even on what was for us a very grey morning) to the small town of Picton, where the ferry docks.  Once disembarked, we followed the GPS rather than the road signs to our destination of Nelson and this turned out to be the scenic route.  Very scenic too, amid Arthur and Martha doing the same in their various campervans of shapes and sizes.   We drove through the small town of Havelock which not only appeared to have two boats per house in the harbour, but also claims to be the Muscle Capital of the world.  That is the seafood kind by the way – there is not some beefcake pulling a big truck up the main street.   Nelson is actually a large a vibrant city, on the northern end of the South Island.   Our accommodation is the Collingwood Manor Bed and Breakfast in an old converted Victorian house.   Very nice it is too.  Much like Wellington, time is tight and we are not actually spending a lot of time here – but one could, very easily have a week’s holiday here and do something – most likely of the adrenalin pumping kind, different every day.  Many do indeed do just this.   Out evening look for food finds that Nelson is a vibrant town with an array of resturants , pubs and cafes which are all very busy, especially considering it was mid-week.   We ate in Café Affair, again it was buzzing, and their speciality is/was a stone grill, where you order your own meat and then cook it yourself, to your liking, at your table.  Interesting, and I had a Lamb Kebab which was needless to say cooked to my liking.

  Summer had returned for our next journey along the road, the fabled west coast of the South Island.  Traditionally all along it, it is one of the wettest parts of the country, all of Australasia in fact but for us the sun well and truly had its hat on.  Quite a lengthy drive to our next stop of Hokitika, one of those that looks quicker on a map, not accounting for the up and down nature of the roads.   We stopped in Greymouth, the biggest town in the region for lunch, quite a sleepy place but it did look very impressive from the small lookout that is signposted on the road out of town.   Hokitika is not far along the road, and we stayed in the Shining Star beach front chalets.  Very nice they are too, with the sound of waves crashing all around.  It is also a camping ground, with hook-up for the many motorhomes on this route etc.  There is also a small animal farm with a couple of goats, lamas and a very pot-bellied pig.   The town itself was once famous for gold, now less famous for Jade and whilst it is a nice little spot right by the beach, it is not unfair to say that the place has seen better days – long gone are the gold rush days, which once saw the port as the second busiest in New Zealand, and the decaying old buildings that are still standing are testinomy to that.   Still, nice to watch the sun go down to the sea.

  It was a very early start the next morning as we had to get to Fox Glacier, two hours down the road for a pre-booked Helicopter flight across the Glaciers of Fox and Franz Josef.   It was a bright morning, but there was low cloud hanging over the middle of the mountains.  When we arrived at Fox Glacier township, having driven through some wonderful scenery on a near deserted road, it transpired that the said low middle cloud could present us with a problem.   After waiting for half an hour thankfully this proved not to be the case and we were taken by mini bus about 500 metres down the road to the Heli port.   It was to be us and an Indian couple heading up to the skies, along with the pilot, Tim.   The view of the native rain forest was stunning enough soon after take off and that was before we even got to the ice.  Both Glaciers are the closest to any ocean anywhere in the world, and unlike others too, both are advancing.   We both noted a hut placed on what looked like the edge of a cliff, which we were later told by Tim is a hikers hut.   Once up at the top, and way above “the weather” we were permitted to get out of the Helicopter and to walk around on the snow field for 10 minutes or so.  The Indian couple, and others up there from other flights had never seen snow.  We had of course, but not quite like this – and in the middle of summer, and with that in mind it was actually surprising how warm it was up there, near Mount Cook, which is one of the highest mountains in the world.    It took five minutes and 15 seconds to come back down, I filmed it all on the camcorder.   An expensive half an hour yes, but one that we will hold in the memory bank for a long time.

   It was then back on the road, and a lot of it for one of the longest trips that one can do in New Zealand, and yet the majority of travellers do – and that is to Queenstown.   Amid the motorhomes with retired couples inside, the road varied from flat and easy to a twisty rollercoaster ride.  We had a brief stop for lunch at the small town of Haast, as indeed were many others and then after another couple of hours on the road, on what was now a very warm day, we stopped at the very agreeable looking town of Wanaka.   Being an hour from Queenstown, it has sort of become a “Queenstown Lite” – situated around a lake.   Queenstown itself is the resort town in New Zealand, with skiing in the winter months as well as adrenalin fuelled fun and then the latter, in the sunshine (mainly) in the summer.  Many, especially from Australia with direct flights literally only come here on a trip to the country and that is it, but you really could spend a week in Queenstown, easily.  All sorts of things can be done here, all to the spectacular back drop of the Remarkables Mountain range.  Someone, I can’t remember who to be honest, was quoted to say that a lot of these things – bungy jumping, zorbing and the like were ‘invented’ in New Zealand because there is/was nothing to do.  Surely that can be said about anything, anywhere though.  Someone decided to kick a pig’s bladder in England once and Football was born…… and a chap in Rugby once decided to pick up and run with the Football in said town once and thus that was born.   The Kiwi’s certainly owe him one !   Our accommodation was the Earnslaw Lodge, to the edge of the town centre and we had a wonderful view overlooking Lake Wakitipu and a remarkable view of The Remarkables.   Dinner was pre-booked at the Skyline tower, via the Gondola going up with a view way, way above the town.   The place was much busier than I envisaged, not really a romantic evening to the backdrop – more of a clone of an all-inclusive resort where the whole place arrives for dinner at once.   I think they try to stagger the sittings, but this didn’t appear to happen with the weight of the people present (no pun intended).  The food was very nice though, and there was lots of it.

  New Zealand is the home of jet boating, it was invented by a farmer here, but it was in Queenstown that it was turned into some adrenalin fuelled fun.  We had pre-booked a run on the Shotover Jet and whilst you can be picked up from the town centre and bussed out to the starting point, we drove the 6km out to where it is situated.   It was a thrilling hour of power, charging up the Canyon, very close to the rocks, doing 360 degree spins and getting just a little bit wet, although wet coats and life jackets are obligatory and supplied.   Suffice to say you get the before and during photos and seeing as cameras and the like are not permitted (you must hold on to the bar, which is actually centrally heated) there is also webcam coverage throughout.   They then present all the photos and this to you as a package afterwards.  You can also just have a photo for $18 but for $59 the whole lot is a good memento of something that one would hardly be doing every day.   Thankfully the rain that was forecast held off for us during this, and then during lunchtime when we had a nice wander around the town.  There is just about every kind of eating hole you can think of in Queenstown from Korean to KFC.  Because they are all competing with each other too, most offered cheap lunch deals which did very nicely.  

  Queenstown, or the area on which the town now sits was first settled by a Scottish farmer in the mid-19th century, and then a few more followed until gold was discovered and then the government purchased his land (along with compensation, surely he became a wealthy man?) and a town quickly grew.  It then shrank when the gold dried up, but progressively it became a tourist destination all centred around the lake and continues to grow, as the town is now far bigger, and more even vibrant than I remember it on my last visit in 2000.   However, all around Queenstown remains very quiet.  15 minutes in one direction is another ex-gold rush town of Arrowtown and 45 minutes in the other, also situated on Lake Wakitipu is Glenorchy.   We visited both in the same day.  Arrowtown has almost been preserved as it was from back in its heyday, almost looking like a working museum (as is the case in Ballerat, Australia) but is actually all part of the town.  Amid the gift and souvenier shops, and some expensive clothes ones too, is a Museum of the history of the gold rush in the area.  To the other side of the town is what is now a conservation area and that is the Chinese settlement.  Not much is left of what was once “their” part of town, but what is there is documented and is actually very interesting, as the Chinese immigrants of the time played a huge part in the gold rush but for many it ended up ending badly.   Glenorchy is literally straight from the brochures, a real picture postcard town, especially when the sun was shining as it was for us.  Much of the area was used in the filming for “Lord of the Rings”, and it is easy to see why.  It is a very peaceful little town surrounded by towering mountains and the journey from Queenstown to there is majestic too, running alongside the lake.

  The next leg of our trip, took us north initially and then south-east through the region known as Otago which is very much fruit growing country.  If you have purchased New Zealand apples from Sainsbury’s before (and I’ll wager you have, even without realising) then they would have been grown here.  There are a couple of pretty little towns too.  Including one, Clyde that has been dammed whilst Alexandra looked very smart, with sprinklers making the brown grass green on what was a pretty warm day.   It does get pretty cold in this region in the winter months though.   We came to Dunedin at lunchtime.  Dunedin is Scots Gaelic for Edinburgh, as this was founded very much as a new Scotland in the south Pacific and as if to prove the point there is a statue of Robert Burns proudly in the city centre.   Our first port of call was Baldwin Street.  Why?  Well, it is just an ordinary suburban street on the map, but it is actually in the Guinness Book of Records as the steepest in the world.   Steep it is indeed, but easily walkable.  Coming down was actually harder on the legs.  After doing this, and getting a signed certificate to prove it we checked into our accommodation – The Commadore to the northern edge of the city and then wandered into the city centre.  Dunedin is famous for a few things.  The steepest street actually isn’t one of them, but being home to the University of Otago is, which is one of the country’s top Uni’s and it quickly became clear to us walking around that this was a) not only the case but b) it was what we know as “freshers” week with a lot of young faced students out to get, well, shit faced.  They were everywhere buying beer and the like, hanging outside student houses (which were, alas, very close to where we were staying) and in some cases sat on the roof!   Tickets were being handed out for cheap beer and seven pizzas, all part of the initiation into student life.   They’ll learn.  Hopefully literally.   Dunedin is also a place to see Penguins take to the score and spot Albatross’ but time did not allow us for these.

   It was only a one night stay in Dunedin, but we did have time for one last, if slightly tacky thing to do before we set off on the road and that was a tour of the Cadbury Chocolate factory that is situated in the city.  Dubbed Cadbury World it combines a history of how it came into being in New Zealand, as well as chocolate itself.   Cadbury took over an existing well established home chocolate brand well over half a century ago now and whilst a lot of what is made here would be recognisable to the British choc fans, there is also lots that is not too.  Like “Marbles” which are much in the same vein as Smarties and/or M & M’s.  We saw them being rumbled to a shiny finish too. Our enthusiastic tour guide Matt took us around the place and because we were the first tour of the day there were only six of us, so ended up with some extra free chocolate too.   All very interesting really, and we got to keep the hats that we had to wear.    From Dunedin it was the four and a half hour drive to Christchurch with a couple of stops in Omerau and Timaru on the way.  The latter is actually a very pretty seaside town, but, as we found with so many other places in New Zealand, so very quiet, despite it being in the middle of the day.  We arrived in a rainy Christchurch right in the midst of rush hour.  Like almost all large towns and cities in both New Zealand and Australia the outer suburbs start way out from the centre, as much as 10 miles.  So it was a bit of a long last bit to our accommodation, our last on the tour, Arthurs Court motel – in the midst of many motels, but all full.  It is a very nice motel too, with very friendly owners.  We had arrived at a very sombre time for Christchurch though with it being the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake that caused death and destruction.    After a very nice Thai meal we decided to walk to the city centre.  Or what was the city centre, or as close as it is possible now to go.  On walking en-route we both noticed gaps in the rows of buildings, presumably were houses had stood until a year ago.  But now there is nothing, and yet the property next door looked fine.   Others though were just empty.  We walked past a small Church, which looked to be damaged beyond repair.  When we got to what would have been the thorough-fair into the centre though, it was just a line of temporary fencing.  Looking up, neither of us were prepared for what we saw next really.  The whole CBD was there, just dark.  Very earie and dark – the buildings, offices, hotels just empty and dark, it almost looked as if there had been nuclear war.  Amid these towers would have once been the view of the majestic Cathedral that had stood proud almost since the city came into being in the 19th century, but as well documented that crumbled in the quake.   Walking back to the motel, with several prostitutes highly visible alongside the road at this time, before 10pm it was hard to reflect.   I have such great memories of my time in Christchurch in 2000 when I stayed right in the city centre and loved it so much.  It will of course be re-built, but that is a little way off yet – many of those large empty and ghostly buildings have got to be pulled down brick by brick first of all.   We vowed to have another look the next day, in the daylight, to comprehend further.

  Comprehending it further was even more shocking.  The ghostly quiet was replaced by the noise of diggers, cranes, workmen and the like.  The CBD is not known as that any more, it is the “red zone” which, by watching the TV news has shrunk considerably over the past couple of months.   We were right there in Christchurch on February 22, the first anniversary of the quake which struck at 12.51.  And as if to spookily mark that, the clock tower to the edge of the city centre, which is/was badly damaged still displays that time…….   There was a memorial service for the dignitaries early in the morning, followed by a civic ceremony to mark the 12.51pm point.   There was a massive crowd there, as we became part of the throng of it heading to Hagley Park at one point which we were looking around.  We did not attend though, we felt it was not our place to be there.   The names of the 182 that died on the day were read out, and also it is to be remembered that 6,000 were injured in one form or another.   But, it is also to be remembered that it was the fourth largest earthquake ever, anywhere and the fact that whilst the buildings did not collapse but were badly damaged is testimony to them.      It will be re-built, but could take a different shape from the city that grew up as an Anglican settlement, funded by the Anglican Church.   Many of the Churches they built in and around the city, including the impressive landmark Cathedral have been, or will be demolished.  It will take five years for the city to be “back to normal” I would think.   There is signs of a fine attempt at normality though, with an area now covered in what is dubbed “re-Start Mall” where an area of (presumably) flattened buildings have had steel craters converted into shops put on them, all linked around one of the cities flagship department stores, Ballytines which has re-opened having been re-built accordingly.   It is a start, but with only a few steps away a row of shops being demolished, it is also a reminder that the road ahead is long – and with many displaced people and familes having lost their homes all around the city, not only in the February quake but the one in September 2010, which was large in itself, the road ahead is long and finishing our New Zealand journey in Christchurch was a sobering end, but never the less a nice one as the green parks and gardens that surround the city are all still there and looked lovely in the late summer and on the glorious day in which we left, looked wonderful.


South Island, New Zealand