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Published: January 14th 2011
Hello from Christchurch! The city was hit by a 7.2 earthquake in September and is therefore often referred to as the “City that Rocks!” There are still quite a few damaged buildings in the city and many fenced off areas that can make traveling through down town a bit of a pain. Every day since the big quake there have been hundreds of micro quakes, some even strong enough to feel (I’ve been here for a week and a half and I’ve felt 2) though nothing dangerous.
My plan was to drive down here directly from Blenheim, but the 300km journey proved to be too great for Helga to manage. Because the transmission will not go into top gear, the water temperature sometimes gets a little hot, especially when there is no opportunity to stop and the “highway” goes through some very mountainous terrain. I had to coast at every downhill I got to just to allow the temperature to drop a few precious millimetres. There were a few touch and go points where I was looking at the temperature gauge (which was somewhere between almost in the red to topped out in the red) almost as much as I was looking at the road.
As soon as I got to a town I bought a bottle of motor oil and filled every spare water, PowerAde, and pop bottle I had at a public washroom. After having taking 30 minutes to let the radiator cool off nowhere near close enough to safely open the radiator cap, I added as much water as it would take and topped the bottles off again. I got to about 100km of Christchurch when I had to stop off at the side of the road again to allow the radiator to cool. I finished a book that I got for Christmas and was about to start up again when a highway patrol officer stopped by. He said that I was the fourth overheated car he’d seen that day and after I explained my vehicle’s particular problem, that I should stick to the left side of the road and keep it down to 50kmph.
The next town that I arrived in was a tiny excuse for a settlement called Waipara which consisted of a café, campsite, and pub. I went to the pub to get cash from the eftpos (Electronic Funds Transfer Point of Sales ) and discovered that about 90%!o(MISSING)f the population was there (about 40 people). There was a kids table piled high with Lego and puzzles and the bar was covered in newspapers, the person sitting to my left was the local mailman and the person next to him was the fire chief (possibly the entire fire department?) both still in uniform. Everyone knew one another and I stuck out like a sore thumb, I was asked several times if I were an American and no matter how many times I explained that Vancouver was in Canada, some still thought that I was from the US and therefore knew everything about Florida/California/any other state that came into their minds. I was able to extricate myself from the pub with the $15 required for the campsite and got my tent set up. The campsite was supposed to be famous for the fact that it had 3 train cars converted into shared rooms, but they were all occupied by people on holiday from Christchurch, therefore I tented it.
I got up early in the hoped to do a hike on a nearby mountain named Mount Cass simply to say that I did and get some pictures for my brother, but when I arrived there the trail was closed. I hopped the fence and made it to the entrance and information board planning on walking anyway, but a sign next to the map said that any loose dogs would be shot, and I wasn’t exactly eager to piss off some farmer with an itchy trigger finger. I did grab a couple of the brochures and I’ll send them back when I mail some of my other stuff home.
I eventually made it to Christchurch driving on the shoulder with the hazard lights on at 50kmph, though I made a lot of “friends” on the highway doing it. I parked the car in front of the hostel (the Rucksacker Backpackers) and poor Helga has sat there ever since.
My arrival was on the 31st of December and there was supposed to be some sort of celebration so I took a stroll through the town to get some information. I found a great looking tattoo studio called Otautahi in my exploration and it just so happened to be open. I spoke with one of the artists expecting to have to wait something like a week before I could actually get a spot to get some work done, but to my surprise he said he could do it only an hour later! I went to the McGrossness (sorry dad) down the street to partake in the free internet (which cannot be used to check my e-mail or upload pictures, the cheap buggers) and who spots me but Bettina (one of the German girls from Blenheim who I had Christmas dinner with). Her and her friend were killing time in the “eatery” until some of the others from Blenheim were ready for the New Years Eve party in Cathedral Square. I told them about the imminent tattooing and they wanted to come along to see the magic.
The tattoo took about an hour and I told the artist about my interests, values, aspirations, and family and he worked that all into the design. The shape is of a silver fern (a New Zealand symbol) on my right shoulder blade and style is called Kirituhi, which is similar to the Maori moko but is done in a way that is acceptable for a non-Maori to wear. Like my first tattoo, it didn’t hurt enough to make me go crying to mommy, but you can feel it and it is a little sore at first. I’m taking it easy until it has healed enough so that I don’t damage the design.
I met up with the others in Cathedral Square where the other were waiting, there was a concert with a few performers and fireworks. They said the turn out was something close to 15,000 people and which wasn’t hard to believe because when you looked around there was just a sea of people. We were just lucky we got there early (something like 9PM) so it was possible to find one another and get a decent spot. After midnight and the fireworks, we decided to go out to a bar and a couple of clubs before returning to our respective hostels.
There are a lot of fun people in my hostel, there are many Germans as per norm and we sometimes go out to the beach or around the town. I find that my food preparation is almost a form of entertainment for some people as my dinners are usually very “creative” since I’m trying to use up the majority of my remaining food (since I won’t have the car to haul it anymore). I’ve found a real winner was a can of tomato soup, mixed with about 2.5-3 cups of rice with boiled carrots and a couple of eggs. My standard for the past few days has been soups of all kinds because I’m trying to use up the rest of my bread (I baked a few loaves to get rid of the flour ) and it’s a pretty efficient way to get full using a whole mess of different ingredients that don’t look like the should go together. If my experimentation has taught me anything, it’s that you can make anything with just about anything, so long as you don’t burn anything making something edible isn’t hard, and with a few spices, making it tasty isn’t unheard of either.
I met Anika and her sister the other day who were in Christchurch because her sister was flying home to Germany. She will stay in New Zealand for a few more months and we may meet again in Queenstown if out timing is correct.
Back to my poor car Helga, my only option is to take her to an auto recycler (aka wrecker). I’m only going to get something like $150 but it’s better than nothing. I have to get rid of a lot of my accumulated junk since I’ll only be able to take what I can fit into my two backpacks so I need to send what I can’t take with me home and the rest to the salvation army. My mode of transport now will have to be by bus or the old thumb. I leave here tomorrow for Dunedin so I’ll give you guys a short update when I get there.
Talk at you all again later!
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