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Published: October 6th 2010
Our last stop in New Zealand was the very English city of Christchurch. It's been in the news recently due to a very large earthquake on the 4th September, and the campsite we stayed at was only a couple of kilometres from Avonside, one of the worst affected areas.
However, before we reached the camspite, we paid a visit to the International Antarctic Centre, which seemed a fitting way to draw to a close four weeks of freezing our collective knackers off! The museum had some exhibits based around the base camps on Antarctica, and there were a few interactive highlights that made the visit worthwhile. First off were the penguins, cute tiny little penguins which we managed to see at feeding time. They were all rescued from the wild for one reason or another and our favourite was Elvis, the blind one! We watched and listened as they were fed and swam around in the pool, and hopefully the majority will be well enough to be released back into the wild at some point. Next up, we experienced an arctic storm. Complacently and after the weather we had been subject to over the previous weeks, we thought this would
be no big deal as we pulled on the large, thick coats provided. We walked through into a big room which contained real snow and was cooled to a balmy -8 degrees. This is nothing we thought as the cold nipped at our fingers and noses. Unfortunately, we were correct, that was nothing.... the lights dimmed, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped to something like -24 degrees! It was freezing and we were glad when the simulated storm stopped and we could step out into the relative warmth of the Christchurch sunshine! The last highlight of the Antarctic Centre was the Hagglund ride. A Hagglund is an all terrain vehicle used on Antarctica, and it was more like a theme park ride than a drive around the car park! They took us up and down some very steep banks and down some even steeper hills, we were tossed around the back of the vehicle like rag dolls - great fun!
Obviously we hadn't been shaken enough by the ride, as we were subjected to three aftershocks measuring 4.0 or more on the Richter Scale that evening in our campervan. To be honest, they weren't that big or
violent, but its crazy to think that the earthquake was causing these shocks 3 weeks after it had happened! Mother nature is a powerful thing!
We spent a beautiful Sunday enjoying the sights of Christchurch city centre, where we saw such sights as a Kiwi in the wildlife centre (Much bigger than we thought), earthquake damaged buildings, a food and craft market, as well as taking a ride on the tram and a punt down the River Avon (see, I told you it was English!). What struck us more than anything was how quiet the city was. If this was this warm and sunny in London or Manchester, you wouldn't be able to move for people picnicing in the parks or enjoying the beer gardens, but here it was so tranquil and unrushed. We loved walking around in t-shirts enjoying the spring sunshine after such a cold and wet few weeks.
The rest of our time in Christchurch was spent packing and readying ourselves for our quick stop in Sydney and then our time in Asia. We did however take an hour away from the packing to take a rather morbid rubbernecking drive around Avonside to see the
earthquake damage and were surprised to see the extent of the damage; large cracks in the road and damaged buildings. Incredible that no one was killed.
Anyway, that brings to a close our time in New Zealand. We loved it here, the scenery, the people, the weather (ok well maybe not the last one!) We would like to come back here one day and see the country in the summer, the scenery would be just as spectacular but in a very different way.
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