Friday, 11 March 2016

NZ: Christchurch and Kaikoura

*** don't miss the bumper update, I did 4 posts in a row so scroll down for the others

The next day was a LOOOOONG day of driving to get to Christchurch. At the last minute we changed our route and decided to follow Daan and Wouter as we couldn’t bear to be apart from them (haha).  This turned into a bit of an adventure when we headed off to see a ‘gorgeous gorge’.  We never found the gorge however we did drive 20k down a bloody awful gravel road that filled my lungs and car with dust, before deciding we had probably gone the wrong way and turned back….turns out that the road I had pointed down a couple of k's earlier that the boys had told me was wrong, was right….

We also stopped in a little town called Geraldine, where I saw two pretty amazing things that'll make you all jealous....

One - a dog wearing flowers round its neck

and Two - the world's largest knitted jumper!

Wouter and Daan were staying with family just north of Christchurch so we split up and we found a campsite near the beach, which was pretty grotty and filled with people who looked a tad dodgy.  We were kept awake at night time by boy racers on the beach, and awake in the morning with roosters….so decided not to stay there again the following night.  I also embarrassed myself by walking into a woman’s cabin who was half asleep, thinking it was the kitchen….

In the morning we packed up our tents, convened with the boys and headed off to Akaroa, a tiny little French themed town (Le Mini Golf, anyone?).  There’s not much to do in Akaroa itself but it is a really cute little town, and the drive was pretty beautiful.  We wandered round, went for a swim, Wouter thrashed me at giant chess, and chilled at the beach, then drove some more, going home via the ‘tourist scenic route’ which was pretty scenic to be fair. It reminded me of North Wales on a sunny day!  On the drive home I drove over a dead possum but my car is so low I scraped over the possum’s head….I nearly vommed at the sound.

We stopped at a gorgeous little eco campsite in Little River, 30 mins outside of Akaroa.   It was so adorable – the toilets are composting ones but really nice, everything was outside but sheltered and it was really quaint.  It was only ruined by the obnoxious American staying there who talked really loudly for 4 hours about gun laws, boasting about his car crashes and drug taking and how good he was at his job and just generally being a dick.

In the morning we drove back to Christchurch, checked in to another really nice hostel where we had a room to ourselves in proper beds – bliss! Then went and met Ben, who’s a guy I know from back home.  He’s moved to Sydney but wanted to see a bit of New Zealand before he started work, so is travelling with me for a few weeks.

Christchurch is a bit weird, but I do like it. We wandered around and it’s a bit of a ghost town.  We checked out the ruined cathedral, which is surrounded by hoarding and situated in the middle of a newly paved square.  The square is also surrounded by buildings which are empty and marked for destruction.  

Nearby is the ‘restack’ mall, which is loads of shops and banks made out of shipping containers.  We walked to the Botanical Gardens which are really pretty, and checked out a street art exhibition at the YMCA which I really enjoyed.   

We also saw the earthquake memorial, 185 painted white chairs for each person who died, and the ‘cardboard cathedral’ replacement.    

Later on we met the boys for what we thought was one last beer together.  To be fair it was a Monday night, but the whole of town seemed deserted – no cars or people in sight.  The centre of town was dead and we couldn’t find anything open apart from one kebab place, so had a kebab for dinner.  The barman here was very down on Christchurch – he had nothing positive to say about the place and told stories of corruption and greed within the government which kept Christchurch as a disaster zone rather than rebuilding it to its former glory.  It did feel a bit like the city was revelling in its destroyed state – it felt a bit like disaster tourism than anything else.  The barman said that the economy was pretty poor when the earthquake struck, and now it’s booming due to the building and investment, and the government is deliberately taking ages to rebuild to keep the economic boom.  Depressing if true!

We headed to the only bar we could find that was open for some beers.  My pool skills returned and I won 2 of my 3 games, I was very proud of myself (even if we did have a bit of an argument over the rules).   At the end of the night we said a sad goodbye to Wouter and Daan, before realising that we were both going to Kaikoura in the next few days and would probably bump into each other there!

The next day I bought an eyewateringly expensive winter jacket from Kathmandu (which I haven’t even used yet as it’s got really warm again!) then me, Ben, Rinse and Rike road tripped to Arthur’s Pass, having said bye to Anke the day before as she headed back to Germany.  Christchurch and the surrounding area were grey and miserable and as the road wound higher up through the mountains we drove through a thick, dense cloud that you could barely see through.   Then suddenly a glimpse of sunlight – and as we came down the other side of the mountain we were in the most beautiful sunny weather imaginable.  Hooray!

Our first stop of the day was at Castle Hill, a random collection of boulders and rocks sticking out of the countryside.  As we pulled into the carpark we spotted Daan and Wouter’s car which was a nice and unexpected surprise! They were leaving as we were arriving so we agreed to meet at Arthur’s Pass village for lunch.  We took a walk up to the top of the rocks – they were huge and it would have been fun (if a little exhausting!) to play hide and seek there – it’s easy to get disorientated!

We continued to drive onwards to the village where we met the boys in a cafĂ©, a Kea (alpine parrot, bloody cheeky things) stole half of my sandwich, then we drove to the Viaduct for a photo, before heading back to Christchurch the way we’d come.  I had heard that just north of Christchurch there’s a town that’s been razed to the ground due to the quake, and it’s a bit eerie as the roads and signs still exist but there’s no buildings, so we headed there on our way to the campsite.  However we drove around for a while and could see no sign of destruction apart from a terrible road, so gave up and bought groceries instead.

The town Springfield has a giant donut in it

Another night camping (I feel a bit sorry for Ben, I don’t think he realised I am now a fully fledged camper!) and the following morning we drove to Kaikoura, taking the ‘tourist drives’ when we came across them.  It’s nice watching Ben’s reaction to all the scenery, and I keep telling him smugly that he hasn’t seen ‘nothin yet!!!

Toria was in Kaikoura!!!! It was so lovely to see her again, it felt like it’d been ages since I last saw her in Queenstown but it had only been 2.5 weeks….we had a catch up then decided to go on a sea kayak tour to spot some seals with Ben. 

We wore some very sexy spray jackets and skirts and jumped in the kayaks.  The sea was pretty rough and I was secretly glad I was paired with the guide, as during the safety briefing they were pretty intense about what to do during a capsize, which is my nightmare!

We paddled out to a big swell and rocky patch and spotted 5 seals lazing about on the rocks and some in the water.  They were lolloping about and generally having a good time (I assume) and weren’t phased by us at all.  We went out a bit further into the sea and had some seals swimming right by us, then spotted one feeding in the distance – it was chucking an octopus up into the air, and suddenly a huge Albatross swept down and stole the octopus right from the seal’s mouth and flew away with it, with a trail of seabirds following for seconds!

We got back quite late and luckily Toria’s hostel accepted guests, so we were a bit cheeky and cooked our dinner at her hostel, then joined in with their pub quiz.  I left a bit early to meet Daan and Wouter at our campsite as they didn’t have a pan to cook with.  The campsite was very basic as it was a free one and completely dark, I had to pitch my tent in super long grass using only my head torch but I managed it so was very proud of myself! I would almost say I was akin to Lara Croft these days. 

As the others were taking ages to leave town I joined the boys on the hood of their car and we watched the incredible stars for an hour until we got too cold to continue. 

As we had arrived in the dark, I wasn’t too sure what I would wake up to, but it wasn’t disappointing – we were right next to the sea with mountains behind us – a pretty sweet place to wake up in the morning!

Ben and Rike had a surfing lesson and Rinse had a haircut booked, so I joined Daan, Wouter and Toria on a little walk out to the peninsula of Kaikoura.  We nearly drove over a seal when we parked as they come right up onto the road.  We kept our eyes peeled out at sea for whales but sadly didn’t spot any, but we did see tons of seals and get really quite close to them – they blend into the ground and we almost stepped on one, oops! When you get quite close they lift their heads and hiss and bark like dogs. 

We had lunch then said final goodbyes as Wouter and Daan were heading to the North Island – though Wouter has managed to get a job in Auckland so I may see him again, and I hope to visit both in Amsterdam one day!! I miss them already!!!

Toria headed south on the best hitchhike ever – a huge articulated lorry, and we left Rinse and Rike in Kaikoura.  Ben and I headed north to Blenheim for the night, and I dropped Ben off at the ferry in Picton as he’s going to Wellington for the weekend.  I am now chilling in a hostel for 2 days catching up on life admin and recovering from a month of non stopness!!


1 comment:

  1. Sounds like Daan and Wouter have been trying to shake you off for ages! heh heh Sepha x x x


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