Earthquake City

Trip Start Jun 30, 2011
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12
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Trip End Ongoing


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Where I stayed

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Our stay in Christchurch was more or less just an overnight thing. The day prior to our departure we had heard that snow was expected overnight. In the morning, we were treated to snow atop of the mountains, but nothing on the ground. Was a very chilly morning though. We got the bus from Queenstown, and it was a very scenic drive. Generally the roads seemed fairly quiet - traffic was light and speeds were moderate. Driving seems relatively easy between cities in New Zealand. There was no commentary on this bus ride, but we used the on-board WiFi to try and work out what we were witnessing outside the bus. 

The first place we passed was Kawarau Gorge and the place where the first ever bungee jump (Kawarau bridge) was performed. Unfortunately, we passed it way too early to catch any bungee jumps happening, but were treated to views of cliffs and more rugged hillsides. The road was again quite windy, but Parminder did not feel as nauseous as the trip to Milford Sound. We then went onto Omarama, which is known as gliding capital, which we could attest to from seeing a number of gliders and sailplanes.

We managed to get great views of Lake Pukaki, a glacial lake, famous for it's beautiful blue colour, where Mount Cook sits in the background. It is the largest of the alpine lakes around the Mackenzie Basin. People say the blues and greens of New Zealand cannot be matched anywhere else in the world; the blue of Lake Pukaki is a testament to this. It has been described as a milky turquoise - Truly stunning. The colour of the lake is said to be a result of finely ground rock in the glacial melted waters.

Further along the journey, we made a stop at Lake Tekapo, another lake that runs along the Mackenzie basin. Tekapo is a Maori name and is made up of two words - Teka, meaning sleeping mat, and Po, meaning night. Our stop wasn't going to be long though; it gave us just the perfect opportunity to take some pics, while also allowing the drivers from Queenstown and Christchurch to swap over. 

Tekapo lake was not dissimilar to Pukaki; again a cluster of New Zealand's highest peaks sat in the distance - these were part of the Southern Alps (as was Mount Cook). These Alps help protect the lake from rough coastal weather and preserve it's beauty. Golden tussock grass led up to the lake, and even the surrounding air seemed extra fresh. The panoramic views, like almost everywhere on the South Island, were absolutely breathtaking. We were starting to take it all for granted though now. 

On arrival to Christchurch, we saw the devastation the earthquakes had caused. This most British of all New Zealand cities had been pretty much destroyed by the natural disasters it had experienced. The Anglican Christchurch Cathedral was essentially just a post earthquake shell. The rest of cathedral square was in a similar state. We were alarmed to discover they were still experiencing a couple of aftershocks every day (later discovered the number was closer to twenty), and that another big one was expected, hence the reason for no concerted recovery.

They had actually been exposed to over 8000 (Yes, eight thousand, not a typo...) earthquakes in the last year. Insurance companies were not paying out, and apparently thousands were without electricity or fresh water, and are residing in structurally unsafe houses. There was a shortage of jobs, and people were trying to move out of the city. Much of the land was also unsafe, as it was suffering from some kind of quicksand phenomenon (liquefaction?). We really felt for the people of Christchurch. It was like they were living in third world conditions in a developed country. 

We also passed Hagley Park, which did not look too much worse for wear. Locals told us how many trees had had to be felled, as a result of the earthquake though, and that marquees in the park had been used as emergency shelters. There was a fanzone for the Rugby World Cup in the park; but as no matches were being played on that day, it was not overly busy. There were just re-runs of previous matches being shown on the screens. The park was huge; and catered for many sports including football (soccer to them...), rugby, netball and golf.

Luckily for us, the Airport Motel had not suffered any structural damage, and was actually quite pleasant. It was more or less like a studio apartment, and we even had cooking facilities. We only really used the microwave and kettle though. After watching a movie (Date Night) we hit the sack, as flight to Sydney was in the early morning.


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