Friday, November 30, 2012

Christchurch, New Zealand

If there are trips that people remember for the rest of their lives, this would definitely be on my list. At the start of this year I would never have imagined going to New Zealand. My feet are always itching to travel, but NZ just felt so surreal. I really had hesitations especially that the trip was a long one, not just the usual  weekend getaway. I was also not sure if my piggy bank would be very happy! But in the end, I am glad I went there. This was probably exactly what I needed. A time off from everything. Just two weeks on the road.

Two weeks weren't enough to cover the whole of New Zealand, so we went to five major cities with a few side trips. Basically, from Gold Coast we flew to Christchurch, drove to Oamaru, Dunedin, then Queenstown (and Glenorchy). We took a plane from Queenstown to Auckland, took a ferry to Waiheke Island, then back to Auckland, then drove to Matamata then back to Auckland again. This is how it would look if plotted in a map:

(C) Google Maps

This is my first entry on this whirlwind roadtrip, and our first stop was Christchurch.

Christchurch, the largest city in the Southern islands, is a three hour plane ride from Gold Coast, Australia. I was lucky I traded a window seat with Eddie. The view of the snow capped mountains upon descent was so lovely. As soon as we were approaching Christchurch airport, I knew I was going to love NZ. The blue sky is a different kind of blue, and the green fields is a different kind of green. Everything was so picturesque!

It was supposedly the end of spring already but it was still so cold. The average temperature were 10-15 degrees during daytime, and as low as 0-5 degrees during the evening. It was especially colder when windy! As soon as we exited the airport terminal, it felt like freeze slapped me in the face. It's probably because I'm from a tropical country, but I found it really cold, I had to run back to get additional clothing from my hand carry bag. We picked up the Ford Escape we rented, and drove around town. There was no 3G roaming in NZ so we rented a GPS too. We were already equipped with printed maps and directions, but the GPS would prove to be our bestfriend for the following weeks.

Some snapshots while walking around the neighborhood.

Because we flew budget, we didn't have any food during the whole duration of the flight, so by the time we landed we were starving. We quickly grabbed lunch at nearby Speight's and then walked around the neighborhood. As we all know, Christchurch was ravaged by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in February 2011. According to the NZ Herald, it was the fourth deadliest disaster in New Zealand. Almost 200 people were killed, and a lot of buildings were damaged. To this day, one can still see the damage the earthquake has done. While we were walking around, we saw a lot of houses and buildings still in ruins. Streets were still lined up with cracks, and sidewalks and front lawns were blocked by temporary fences encircling heavy equipment. At 8pm the sky was still not dark. However, a lot of shops close early, so we bought some stuff from the grocery for snacks, as well as food for the following day's breakfast.

Late lunch at Speight's Ale House in Bealy Ave, Christchurch.

 Roast Pork.

 Fish of the day.

Honey Chicken.

Breads and dips.

The next day, we went to Christchurch city center. We went around Re:START (, a shopping mall made from shipping containers. I have read that the construction of this mall was to contribute and stimulate economic recovery after the earthquake. I thought it was a great idea. Using shipping containers were cheaper alternative for construction material. It also looked very unique. It was supposedly temporary, but I really loved the concept and design of the container mall (I hope they keep it). The shops are so hip, quirky and colorful.

A large part of the city was still closed to the public due to the rubble. The famous Christchurch Cathedral was cordoned off so we didn't get to see it up close. It received significant damages from the earthquake. The tower was destroyed, as well as some parts of the facade. We walked around the city and passed by the Bridge of Remembrance, a war memorial dedicated to those who died in World War I.

Re:START Shipping Container Mall

 A large part of the city square is still closed due to the damages sustained from the earthquake.

 The Bridge of Remembrance from afar.

What a lovely bike!

 Bridge of Remembrance.

St. Michael's.

After a quick lunch, we drove to Ferrymead Heritage Park ( Ferrymead is located at the Heathcote Valley, the site of New Zealand's first public railway. It is a museum/park which features historical and traditional NZ themes. Since it was a Monday, we almost had the whole park all to ourselves (that is why we were able to take a lot of silly pictures)! There's also a train which goes around the whole park. The view of the surrounding mountains and fields are breath taking. Some of the shops were closed because they are run by volunteers, but we just helped ourselves and walked in anyway to look around. It was pretty much quiet when we were there, but we enjoyed walking around.

 On the way to Ferrymead.


 Traditional houses and shops.

 Spotted a group of students in traditional clothing!

 Inside a shop complete with vintage prop products.

Stop train! LOL.

We only spent one night in Christchurch. After spending some time exploring Ferrymead, we headed on the long, long drive to Oamaru.

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