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Published: March 25th 2014
Friday 21st March - checked out of our wonderful luxurious Hermitage Hotel and drove to the end of Hooker Valley where the Mt Cook glacier walk started. A lot of low cloud when we set off so none of the mountains visible at all however we hadn't gone far before the clouds started lifting and we were catching glimpses of the snowy mountain tops and before long there was Mt Cook directly above us in all her glory. It took about 1.5 hours of gentle climbing and crossing 3 swing bridges over a torrent of melt water to reach the bottom of the glacier. An amazing sight of huge chunks of ice breaking off and floating in melt water. It was now pretty warm so after we'd had something to eat and drink we started on our way back. On the way up we had heard what sounded like the rumble of thunder but had guessed this may have been avalanches and when this happened again on our way back you could see a huge cloud of snow falling - a real reality check. Back in the van and now working our way towards Christchurch. We stopped for a free camp
overnight in an Air just outside a lovely little town called Geraldine.
Saturday 22nd - As we passed through the town we stopped for a quick look round, very agricultural and quirky. They have got the world's biggest jersey knitted by one guy who also has made a full size copy of the Bayeaux Tapestry. Next on to Ashburton to get some cash from the ATM and have a coffee. MnM - we think this was Tom's veterinary stamping ground?? Continued to Christchurch where we found the I-Site to book up for the 'Rebuild Tour' tomorrow - the devastation was very obvious with roads closed and notices saying no access to the Red Zone - quite chilling. Our stop for the night was a DOC site, Woody Gulley, about 1hr out of Christchurch centre at the foot of Mt Thomas. As always a great little site.
Sunday 23rd - A very cold night with a bit of overnight frost. Our Rebuild Tour was booked for 11.30 so set off in good time. Our tour guide was Denise, who was Christchurch born & bred, who gave a very moving and heartfelt commentary. Wayne our driver said each tour is
slightly different as roads which are open one day may be shut the next. You cannot help but have tears in your eyes as the devastation is so all encompassing and there are still buildings which had appeared OK but are now showing signs of cracks and faults and will have to be demolished. Valiant efforts are being made to try and save buildings and historical facades and shipping containers are being stacked up to try and shore up buildings with straw bales wedged in between.
Amazing efforts are being made to return to some sort of normality and one of the projects is the 'Restart Mall' which is a shopping mall where more shipping containers have been transformed into very smart shops. Another significant impact has been the input of the youth. A lecturer had opened a facebook page asking students for help - by the end of the day he had 300 volunteers by the end of the week 8,000. Also there is something called Gap Fillers and this is where youngsters had set up projects in the gaps left between standing buildings. On our tour in an area where buildings had been demolished there was standing
a single fridge which was full of books and was operating as a book loan - incredible. There are so many stories - for example the NY Fire Brigade had sent some girders from 9/11 as a monument. There is a huge amount to be done and the present estimate is 48 billion dollars. We understand now why Gytha's daughter, Jane, said to us don't let this be your last memory before you leave NZ - move on to something positive.
We took our leave of Christchurch and started to make our way to Akaroa. Just before reaching the town we were looking for somewhere to stop and saw a sign which said campervans can stay overnight at the Tiphook Inn - went in to see how much to stay and we're told - No charge so long as you pop in for a drink and a chat!! Which we duly did, bar was full of locals but (probably luckily) it was closing at 7.00pm otherwise it could have been a late night! A great Kiwi pub full of great Kiwi characters including the landlady Kath.
Monday 24th - woke to a glorious day so onwards to the
town of Akoroa. We took the summit road and decided to take the gravel road down to Pigeon Bay - what a magical place - wonderful inlet, just a few properties and a tiny historical church which is still used for regular services. We saw a sign for the Pigeon Bay Walkway which followed the bay round so put on walking boots, lunch in rucksack and off we went. En route we went down to the shore and did some searching for Paua Shells which we were hoping to find for Molly & Ellie - success, must now try and get them home in one piece! This was a real matchbox day, the weather, the scenery, the beach combing - it couldn't be better. Our stop for the night (our last one in the campervan) was at a Top 10 site so we could catch up with all the washing etc.
Tuesday 25th - Packing up day, in a howling gale and pouring rain. Drove to Christchurch where we are staying in The George Hotel for the night, returned the campervan to Maui and an early night as we are being picked up by airport shuttle at 5.00 am
tomorrow for 7.30 flight to Sydney.
We have had a wonderful time in NZ and love this country even more this time and we will be very sorry to go but know we've got lots to look forward to in Australia. Certainly with the dollar being so strong at the moment things were more expensive for us therefore more tramps and less adrenalin trips! But this did suit us as we felt we've got to know the country even better.
Well better have that bath and an early night ready for the early flight so a fond farewell from NZ and you will next hear from us in Australia.
Lyn & Tony xx
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