Sunday, 22 July 2012

Week 10 - Surreal Christchurch, the company of strangers, and sleeping on a farm!

Wow! (this might take a while, so get a cup of tea - and a biscuit - and read on...). I used this word so many times in the past 60 hours, that I felt it was the best way to describe an incredible weekend in the South Island of New Zealand! I am loving life in the Wellington, beautiful capital of New Zealand, but the traveler in me saw a cheap flight deal and could not resist the chance to head south to Christchurch and the small town of Ashburton... and the wonderful Lake Tekapo! 

So I took my first day's holiday from work on Friday, and got on board a Jetstar flight (Jetstar is a cheap airline operating in this area, and are allegedly known for delays, flight changes and general messiness... so I had been told). I have to say that they were excellent and well worth the $168 (£85) return trip. I arrived in Christchurch found the bus stop at the airport where I met Garret (or Gareth) - his strong Dublin accent made it hard to quite understand his name. Garret (as we'll call him) was one of those people who could talk to anyone, and never stop. He had told me about his travels through Asia, and his Philippino girlfriend teaching English in Thailand. He joined me as we found my hostel, though it was full, so we found a place for him around the corner. We then ventured into the city, but not before we stopped off at the 'Pegasus Inn' for a burger and the world's best 'chip butty' - see below! 

chip butty @ Pegasus Inn, Christchurch

 After eating well, we headed to look around this beautiful city that was devastated by the Earthquake in February 2011. It was a Friday evening, but the city was quiet, and the area known at the RED ZONE (Central Business District) has been shut off. Garret stared talking to some random people who talked about their experience of the quake, and they explained that the force of the quake, almost pushed up through buildings, causing damage to the foundations of many buildings, as much as shaking them. So some building are being cleared to be brought down due to foundation damage. The lady we talked to, said that after the main event, she and her work colleagues were allowed back into their work place to retrieve computers, personal possessions etc... and have not been back in the building since. The city had an eerie feel, like it was semi-deserted, and the central zone looked like something out of a movie - totally empty...  

Worker taking a break! 
Red Zone Christchurch
Red Zone Christchurch
Red Zone Christchurch

Church Damage
The lady then pointed us to one of the few central streets that was open, and showed us one of the ways they city was trying to rebuild itself. These photos show how 'temporary containers' have been used to replace the shops that were no longer safe...

Temporary Banks!
Temporary Shops

As for the rest of the city, it still remained very picturesque, and the parks and many of the houses looked pretty, and in tact. The Sunset near the Botanical gardens was pretty special, as you can see below. 
Christchurch sunset..
Me and Garret had decided to try and find a place to have a drink though this turned out to be more difficult than you might think. We had been tipped off that we needed to head outside the city centre, and after 20 minutes, we found a 'local' pub that looked more like a Carvary - full of families and older folk eating... not quite what we were looking for. We finally found a place that looked like a bar... and after some beer/ crushed pear cider (classy I know!) we got chatting to some locals, who gave us some more quake stories. We eventually ended up in a make-shift bar (made out of a bus) with some lights and stools around it, before heading off to bed. My room in the hostel was shared with three late arriving older Argentinian women, who helped me to practice my Spanish, and a young guy, who clearly didn't know dorm room etiquette, as he hit his 'snooze' button 3 times (in a bloody dorm room!) on Saturday morning.
On to Ashburton! - a small town one hour drive from Christchurch. I was heading that way to meet someone I had recently met only online, - a girl called Hsinlu, who lived and worked in the town. She had suggested visiting a lake a 2 hr drive away - Lake Tepako! After a 07:45 bus and a full English breakfast, I found my hostel for the night, but not quite what I expected. The owner, Howard, (originally from Zimbabwe) admitted that he had overbooked, and there wasn't enough room for everyone, he said he'd sort something out so off I wondered for a little look around.. not much to see, apart from some gardens... see below! 

As Hsinlu arrived to pick me up from the hostel, the owner explained he had arranged for me to stay with a relative of his on the outskirts of town' so he'd drive us there so we knew where to go later! The "outskirts" turned out to be a farm owned by his relatives, and with a very friendly dog, and some lively chickens! Here's some farm views, including views from my bedroom window this morning! 

My room at the farm! 
So on to the main event... (finally I hear you say!) We drove 2 hours+ to the beautiful Lake Tekapo, had fish & chips, walked around and, up to a stunning view point. Words can not adequately describe it, so pictures will do a far better job!
Fish & Chips at the lake....
Up above Lake Takapo
Lake Takepo
Yoga @ Lake Tekapo 
Lake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo & the Southern Alps
The Southern Alps...
 This is a place where you can see the 'Southern Lights' and stars so clearly! Unfortunately the clouds did not allow us to see much, so after a drink and half of a rugby match on TV, we headed back to my farm dwellings, but not before the following sunset!
Lake Tekapo Sunset
Lake Tekapo Sunset
P.s..... ok I know it's a long post, but I did make a promise to an Australian mate of mine, in a phone conversation tonight, that I'd mention them! So hey you Aussie.. this is what you're missing out on!  

Regards from New Zealand! 

1 comment:

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