South Island - Christchurch, Banks Peninsula, Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook


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Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Christchurch
August 6th 2011
Published: August 6th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

It's been over two weeks since we landed in Christchurch and it's probably been the quickest two weeks of the whole trip so far! It's probably because we have been so busy. Before I start on New Zealand blogs I'll tell you a funny fact about the country that a kiwi told me in Oz. There are 4 million people in New Zealand and 40 million sheep!! I thought they were joking but there are sooooo many sheep!

Prepare to see many many scenery pictures, the landscape here is out of this world and the pictures don't really do it justice! It's incredible and we are seeing the country the best way you can - by campervan!

We landed in Christchurch in the middle of the night so just got a taxi to our hostel. The taxi driver was really friendly and obviously our first conversation with him was about the devastating earthquake that hit Christchurch last February. We were really shocked to find out that the whole city centre was still closed to the public! To be honest we didn't think it was as bad as it was. On the news it only focused on the cathedral damage and we just thought that certain areas would be cordoned off. Even in the middle of the night you could see the damage some houses had suffered, piles of rubble, pot holes in the road the taxi avoided. It really hit home to us how scary it was to the people of Christchurch. The taxi driver also told us to be careful of aftershocks.

We found our beds and quickly went to sleep but at half 5 that morning I woke up to the walls shaking, and the bed shaking, I realised it was quite a big aftershock! I looked over at Andy but he was fast asleep. When we got up that morning everyone was talking about it and it was measured at 5.1 on the rhicter scale so quite a big one! Andy said he woke up to the small aftershocks after that big one. We went out to explore what we could of the city and have a look at the buildings. We walked around the whole red zone of the city that was fenced off in shock, it was unbelievable the amount of work that needed to be done and speaking to some people they told us it would take between 10-20 years before the city is rebuilt. There was mess everywhere, the roads were just covered in holes. Houses had been ripped in half, office blocks destroyed. We came across one demolition company and lots of people standing around with cameras, we watched as they pulled part of this destroyed office block down - it created this cloud of dust and we were suddenly all running to get away from it! As we walked away we saw the press running down the road, a bloke in a suit and and a cameraman, I told him he'd missed all the action and then we saw him presenting the news on it later that night!

Another Kiwi also told us that all the churches in the city had been old and stone and all of them had come down in earthquake, there no more churched in Christchurch. It was really sad to hear that. They also told us that when they studied geography at school, they were taught that the fault lines lay in a different place and no one knew of the huge one going through the city until it struck. Insurance comapanies were being awkward about paying people money for there houses and you can't take out any type of insurance if you live in the city. It's just crazy. Another really sad thing was the amount of people that died in the quake - we walked passed this one house and there were all flowers outside on the fences asking to remember the people that once lived in that house. It was so sad.

Apart from wondering around there was absolutely nothing to do in the city and we just wasted the weekend away watching films until the Monday we could pick up the campervan! We couldn't believe when it started snowing on the Sunday night and by the Monday morning there was about 5 inches on the ground! This is when we found out that it only snows in Christchurch once every 3 years and they had not had that much snow since 1993. We all moan that England falls to pieces in the bad weather but Christchurch was worse!

We got an airport shuttle to the Jucy rentals that morning - it's only 6km from where we were but it took the driver an hour and a half to get there! We were so excited to get the camper and I can't go into the whole story of what happened otherwise I'd be all day but it took 4 and a half hours to get the campervan because Jucy had messed up. We didn't have the best start and thought we'd be able to freedom camp in places until Jucy told us no freedom camping in Canterbury. Great! So then we found out what type of charges these power parks were charging - they charge on per person (cheeky) and it seems to be an average of $30 a night for the both of us.

It took a few days to get comfortable in the van and once we knew where everything was we settled in. It's not much to look at on the outside and it's not the prettiest of the Jucy crew but we love it now. It's complete freedom! We have two long sofas either side and a long table in the middle, it folds away and into a double bed at night which is really comfy. We have a DVD player attached to the wall which is really good! We have a heated towel rain, two hobs, electric heater, sink, toaster and all the things we need to cook. We also have a toilet and a shower! As for the weather temps as you can see from our photos - the weather is glorious! It's a bit cold, you need jumpers but the sun is so warm! At night it's warmer than I thought it would be. It's a bit chilly on your face in the morning, but we have hot water bottles, and an electric heater so we have been quite toasty!

The first place we went to was the Banks Peninsula. Banks Peninsula and its hills were formed by two volcanic eruptions some 30,000 years ago. Small harbours radiate out from the peninsula's centre giving it a cogwheel shape. It was first sighted by Captain Cook in 1770 and named after Sir Joseph Banks, the naturalist. Akaroa, the town in which we stayed means Long Harbour in Maori and is the site of the country's first French settlement. It still had a very French falie about it, french style houses, cafes and restuarants. The harbour is famous because it is home to the world's smallest and rarest dolphin - the Hector's dolphin. We tried to spot some from the lighthouse but couldn't see any.

The Banks Peninsula had an amazing tourist road called the Summit Road. It was very icy up there on the winding mountains, but the roads were gritted quite well and Andy's a good driver so it was quite safe and the views were beautiful!

Our next destination was to Lake Tekapo, we took a few days to get there stopping in many of the small towns along the way. Lake Tekapo took our breaths away - it was sooo blue! It was the most beautiful colour I'd ever seen! Lake Tekapo is the second-largest of three roughly parallel lakes running north–south along the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin in the South Island of New Zealand (the others are Lake Pukaki and Lake Ohau). It covers an area of 83 square kilometres (32 sq mi), and is at an altitude of 700 metres (2,300 ft) above sea level. The blazing blue turqoise colour is due to 'rock flour' (sediment) in the water. This so-called flour was created when the lakes basin was gouged out by a stony bottomed glacier moving across the land's surface, with the rock on rock action grinding out fine particles that ended up being suspended in the glacial melt water. This sediment gives the water its milky quality and reflects the sunlight beaming down, hence the brilliant colour.

On the shores of the lake is the Church of the Good Shepherd, built of stone and oak in 1935, as a memorial to pioneers of the Mackenzie country. Inside the tiny church was an awe-inspiring view of the lake and mountains from the altar window. It was the best view I'd ever seen from a church. There was also someone having their wedding photos taken, I couldn't help but take a picture of them with the church in the background. It seemed like a magical place to get married but the bride looked - I could see she was wearing black tights under her dress!!

We also went up to the Mount John observatory which after a careful drive up offered a spectacular 360 degree view of the lakes surrounding it including Tekapo. It was one of the nicest views I'd ever seen - the weather was perfect! We had a lovely choc milkshake in the cafe up there whilst taking in the views.

Next we carried on to the Mount Cook National Park! The weather took a turn for the worse - typical I was driving! The rain was hammering it down and the wind was up to 85kmph! I could feel it on the steering wheel so we stopped half way to the park and hoped for better weather the next day. Our luck paid out and the sun was out shining the next morning so we carried on to the mountain. The views were again amazing! We could see the peak of Mount Cook and followed the road to the Mount Cook village. Aoraki / Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand, reaching 3,754 metres (12,316 ft). It lies in the Southern Alps, the mountain range which runs the length of the South Island.

We found out that the campsite up there was closed due to the heavy snow fall they'd had - 2 feet in some places! They said we could stay at the public shelter car park for the night which suited us fine. We went on our first big walk to Kier Point - it was meant to be an hour there and back but took us three and a half because it was so hard to walk in the snow up to our knees. It was great fun though - the sun was so warm I even got snowburn! Hehe! The walk took us to a glacier lake that was just stunning and we sat there for a while drinking peppermint tea out of our thermos flasks! Oh yes we are prepared!

It was a fantastic first week!!

Thanks for reading the first part of NZ - many more to come! Miss you all!

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6th August 2011

wowowow
cool blog little dude. Great pics the jumping ones maybe need to be a bit closer. New Zealand looks amazing. Great info sad about earthquake where are the pics of ur camp a van ur fans r disappointed. Miss u. We have been clearing stuff out for ur room. Take care. Xxxxx
9th September 2011

Amazing Photos
Been reading your blog as we are planning a trip round Oz & NZ next year so I'm getting ideas. The scenery in NZ looks amazing, can't wait to see it for ourselves!

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