Shipping container shopping complex
This is the new centre of Christchurch. It is a really bright and modern area.
I hope you are all well and enjoyed the half term break. Since I last wrote I have been busy exploring more of New Zealand so let me fill you in on what we have been up to whilst visiting the South Island.
We spent a night in a campsite near Mount Cook so that we could do a walk to get closer and see it more clearly. Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand and is permanently covered in snow, because of this you are not able to walk on Mount Cook unless you are an experienced climber with ice axes and crampons (these are special shoes that dig into the snow and ice to stop you from slipping). It was a shame that we were not able to get closer but we are not experienced and wanted to stay safe, so we did a short, 3 hour walk to a glacier lake at the bottom of Mount Cook. It was beautiful scenery and we walked in the bottom of a valley in which the mountains were snow capped. We even saw an iceberg floating in the glacier lake! Whilst we
were walking there were a couple of small avalanches in surrounding valleys, you could see the clouds of snow coming up from the movement. Apparently this is normal for this time of year due to the melt from the snow, but it made us realise how dangerous it would be to walk on the mountains without the proper equipment and knowing how to stay safe.
Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier
These are the first glaciers I have ever seen and they were really impressive. A glacier forms when lots of snow falls at the top of a mountain and the snow presses down to make a huge piece of ice. This massive ice block flows down a mountain and leaves a big 'U' shape grove behind. The 'U' shape groove is made when the moving ice picks up rocks and these rock scratches out the sides and bottom of the valley. All this takes thousands of years to make.We walked as close as we could to both Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier. We were able to see the crevesis (deep holes) and rock slides, but we were not allowed on the glacier as it can be
This is the centre of Christchurch that suffer lots of damage in the Earthquakes. As you can see it is boarded off and people are unable to enter this space as they don't think it's safe. If you look carefully, you can see the rubble of a building.
unsafe. When we were at Franz Josef we thought we heard thunder, but then we saw HUGE chunks of ice floating down the rivers, smashing into the rocks. This means that the 'thunder' we heard wasn't thunder at all, in fact it was part of the front of the glacier falling down and getting carried away by the river running under the glacier. This river is called ice melt and it is the river under the glacier that help cause the glacier to slide down the valley.
Whilst we were in the south of the South Island we visited Fjordland. This is an area of New Zealand that was carved by big glaciers many thousands of years ago. The glacier's melted away and so are no longer there, but the sea fills the valleys instead. We went on a boat ride to see the fjord close up, we are so glad we did this as we didn't realise how big everything was until we were on the boat. The mountains coming out of the sea were HUGE with almost vertical walls going into the sea in places! The day we visited 'Milford Sound' was beautiful and
sunny, so the view we had was different to visiting on a rainy day. Apparently on the rainy day there are over 1000 waterfalls cascading down the mountains!! Wow. We saw 4! 2 waterfalls are permanent, this means that there are there all year round, all the other waterfalls are dependant on rain. One waterfall was small enough that the captain could put the front of the boat under the waterfall and fill glasses with natural spring water! It got us really wet but was good fun. We also learnt about some of the sea life. We watched a seal colony basking in the sun and a seal pup feeding, as well as visiting an underwater observatory. This is a floating pod with windows. It descends about 8 meters but in just that distance (because the gallery sides are so steep), you can see lots of sea life. In fact this is the only place in the world where you can see black coral without having to be a diver and go deep into the ocean floor. It was a fantastic day.
This is an are on the west coast of the South
Island that is famous for a stack of rocks called the 'Pancake rocks' and some blow holes. The Pancake rocks get their name because there are layer and layers if limestone rock on top of each other, which means they look like lots of pancakes piled up on top of each other. I have not seen a rock structure quite so striking as this before! The rocks have been eroded by the sea (this means the sea has eaten away at the rocks over the years by the waves crashing into them and gradually taking pieces of the rock away) to leave funny shapes, holes and free standing stacks out in the sea. The holes are very impressive, as when it is high tide, the movement of the waves creates loud crashes, hissing and blowing sea, like whale blowing through it's blow hole.
Queenstown is a lovely lively town in the South Island that has lots of outdoor activities to offer. Whilst we were there we found a campsite that offered gold panning! So we tried our luck to see if we could find gold! It was good fun even though we weren't 100% sure what we
Can you can see the glacier in the distance with the U shape valley it has carved and the stream with snow melt?
were doing. After getting the right technique, and in amongst lots of 'fools gold' (shiny pieces of rock that look like gold, Reubs found a small flake of gold! Yey! It isn't worth anything as it is so small, but it was exciting to find it. New Zealand was heavily mined for gold about 100 years ago. Along the west coast many of the towns were built for the gold mining industry, but as the mining stopped, the towns started to shrink. There are now not many places that you can look for gold, and only 5 rivers that the public can pan in.
We spent 4 days in Christchurch living with some friends we made whilst in San Gill, a little town in Colombia. It was lovely to see them again and for them to show us around the city that they live, although the city has changed massively in the last 3 years. In 2011 Christchurch had 3 big earthquakes and these earthquakes have dramatically changed the way Christchurch looks. Cameron drove us to see some of the areas that were worst affected. It was horrible seeing houses half off a cliff, shops border up
with food still on the shelves from the day of the earthquake, piles of rubble in the street and empty spaces where houses were. When the earthquakes happened, houses were checked to check they were still safe to be lived in, theses that weren't were given a red sticker on the outside which meant no-one was allowed back in! There are still lots of houses that are just left, no one is allowed in them because they are not safe and so everything people own is still in the house! The centre of Christchurch, the shopping centre and major attractions, was very badly damaged and so this area no longer exists. You are still not even allowed here and there are big fences to keep you out. They have built a new shopping centre in a different area out of shipping containers as this was a quick and cheap option. Visiting Cameron and Katrina made us very thankful that we live in such a stable and safe country.
Staying with Friends
As well as staying with our friends in Christchurch, we also spent a week with our friends who moved to New Zealand a year ago. They live
in Franz Josef and it was lovely to see where they live now. They gave us lots of tips on beautiful places to visit and Ollie even took us kayaking on Lake Mapourika. This is a glacier lake created by Franz Josef hundreds of years ago. The lake has beautiful reflections of the surrounding landscape and is know as a 'mirror lake'.
The rest of our time we spent travelling around New Zealand, exploring the Lakes of Tekapo, Pukaki, Matheson and Wanaka, as well as enjoying the mountains. It is a truly beautiful country. The landscape is so varied with mountains, volcanoes, beaches, tropical rainforest and farmland, yet it changes so quickly, which means you do not have to travel far to see something new.
Whist it I absolutely loved my time in New Zealand and enjoyed the opportunity to be outside exploring nature, enjoying the lovely weather and seeing lots of geography, it felt like we could almost be in England! Nearly everyone spoke English and the culture, transportation, food was all similar to home. It was fantastic but it felt more like a holiday, so I am really excited to get to Asia where everything will
be 'different' again and we can eat lots of new, exciting yummy food, see different sights and attempt to learn key words of different languages. After all the whole reason I wanted to come away was to understand more about the world and how other people live, and to do that, I feel like i want to go somewhere that's different to what I am used to. First though, it's onto Australia to stay with Reuben's family for a few weeks.
Hope you are all working as hard as you normally do and being the fantastic, caring children that I saw everyday for 4 years. I can't wait to get back and see you all again!
Take care, Miss T
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