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Published: June 23rd 2017
Geo: -43.806, 172.967
As we glided in to anchor in Akaroa, I saw a school of small, darkish dolphins (possibly Hector's dolphins - endemic only to NZ) lazily swimming about alongside the ship. Akaroa means "long narrow harbour" and you can clearly see from a Google map that it resides in the centre of an extinct volcanic cone. Akaroa was adopted as the cruise ship harbour due to the port of Littleton (also a result of an extinct volcano), Christchurch's harbour port, being damaged and remaining out of commission since the earthquakes. Christchurch is 84km to the north.
Akaroa is a sleepy little seaside town of 500 people that swells to 5,000 in summer. There are many "bach's" in Akaroa, bachelor pads. It was established in 1830's by the French and retains some of that heritage in French restaurants and bakeries. The village has had quite an adjustment since the earthquakes with up to 3 cruise ships being at anchor and generating some 100 tour coaches running through the very small town.
After our coach climbed slowly out of the volcanic cone we traveled through a small town called Little River, where we viewed a very unique concept in accommodations (SiloStay) and
saw a rail trail that joined Christchurch with Little River. Our route passed along Lake Forsyth and Lake Ellesmere, the 5the largest lake in NZ, which is actually a shallow lagoon and out across the Cantebury plain (largest flat lands in the southern hemisphere) through Darfield, which was the epicentre of the first 7.2 earthquake on Sep. 4, 2010 at 4:30am. There were no deaths resulting from this quake, however there was significant damage, including a road we traveled along, which moved in opposing directions.
The second earthquake struck at 12:30 pm on Feb. 22, 2011 and it devastated Christchurch and killed 168 people. The disaster was the 3rd largest, in terms of economic impact, behind the San Fran quake and Katrina - 7,000 people lost their homes. On the 15th, while we traveled the Tasman Sea, I attended a lecture presented by Dan Ostler and learned that there were over 20,000 earthquakes last year, 100 to 150 of note per year and one of magnitude 7+ every 10 yrs! I also learned that the satellites determined that land movement across the Darfield fault occurred away/down in order of 100-150m and towards/up of 5-10m.
Our destination was Woodstock Station, a 10,000
acre property, owned by the Turner family, located on the northern bank of the Waimakariri River Gorge and farming approximately 4,000 head of cattle. The Station is home to the inventor of the jet boat, Sir William (Bill) Hamilton in 1950's.
We lunched in the Lodge, traveled the alpine trails above the river and Tranzalpine railway in a 4x4 and jetted back down the river to the gorge bridge.
It was an eventful day with the air conditioning in the bus only reaching the front third of the bus, one of the guides draining the water (left tap on) to wash his 4x4 leaving no water for the toilets, our jet boat running aground and one of the guests stopping the bus multiple times on the return trip due to heat exhaustion.
Regardless is was a brilliant day!
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