We left Nelson and headed to Kaikoura. During the two hour drive we saw many fields of sheep and cattle, as well as several fenced fields with large herds of deer and a field of llamas. Venison is a popular item on menus here.
Shortly before reaching Kaikoura we stopped at Ohau Point where there were a large number of seals of all ages and sizes on the rocks and in the water. People were able to walk down on the rocks and get up close and personal with the seals. They had no fear of people and we hope that people respect the marine life rule: look but don’t touch. While looking at the seals we talked with a family from New York State. Always great to meet people from back home!!
We loved our motel room in Kaikoura. For the equivalent of $106 American dollars we had a large room with a view of the ocean and small kitchenette, but best of all was the bathroom. It had heated towel racks, a heated floor and a heater when you turned on the fan so the air was warm when you stepped out of the shower. Loved, loved, loved it!
After a short one night stay in Kaikoura we headed to Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island with a population of 340,000. The first recorded settlers here were Maori, with European settlers arriving in 1840. In 1850 the first organized group of English immigrants arrived on four ships and are considered the city founders. In 1856 it was declared a city and land was set aside to build the first dwelling, a cathedral.
It is called the “Garden City” but today it is very much a city under extensive regrowth and change. The people of Christchurch are an extremely strong, resilient people full of hope and strength and resolve. You see, since 2010 Christchurch has been shaken by over 10,000 earthquakes. One earthquake was 7.1 magnitude, three earthquakes over 6 magnitude, fifty-seven over 5 magnitude, and many thousand more. The 7.1 earthquake occurred in 2010, but the 6.1 earthquake in February 2011 did the most damage since it was shallow and close to the city center. The 2011 earthquake killed 185 people and brought down many buildings already weakened from the 2010 quake.
The destruction was evident to us as we walked and drove around the city. Complete city blocks in the downtown area are now vacant after the destroyed buildings were razed. In the face of all this tragedy the people have risen to meet the challenge. Two perfect examples are the Cardboard Cathedral and Re:Start.
When the original Angelica Christchurch Cathedral was badly damaged in the quake, the people of Christchurch, just like the city founders before them, found a way to build a church. Japanese architect Shigeru Ban designed one of his famous “Emergency architecture” buildings in which a cathedral was built from 96 cardboard tubes, timber beams, structural steel and a concrete pad. The cathedral opened in August 2013 and is a symbol of innovation, hope, and inspiration. It is built to last for fifty years while the new permanent cathedral is designed and built.
Another example of the tenacity of the people is Re:Start. After the quake destroyed their stores in the downtown area, business owners brought in converted steel shipping containers and operated business from these containers. While many containers remain, we read that the containers are gradually disappearing as more permanent stores are being built. We walked through the shopping area and had lunch at one of the vendors set up near the containers. Bill had a lamb souvlaki which he said was very good.
There was evidence everywhere of construction as the city is hard at work rebuilding. It is somewhat sad to see all the beautiful old buildings razed to make way for the larger new ones because the real charm of the city lies in these past structures.
As we walked their streets, ate in their restaurants, shopped in their stores, stayed at their motel, we were always met with smiling, friendly, cheerful people. It was our pleasure to meet them. They are an inspiration!
The next day we took a day trip to Arthur’s Pass which is the highest pass over the Southern Alps, connecting the east and west sides of the South Island. The Southern Alps is a mountain range which runs along the western side of the South Island and forms a natural dividing range along the entire length of the South Island. Arthur’s Pass is both a national park formed in 1929 and a small village where we had lunch at a small cafe.
After lunch we hiked to Devil’s Punchbowl, a 430 foot waterfall. We use a tour book which we have found tends to underestimate the difficulty of the hikes, and this was another example. This hike was marked as an easy though steep hike to the waterfall. Not quite! We met a couple coming back from the hike and the woman shook her head and sighed and mentioned 289 steps. Didn’t seem a big deal to us until we had started the hike and discovered that some of the 289 steps were cut into the earth and/or high steps which really presents a challenge for my short legs. It was hard for me but the view at the top was amazing. While there we met people from Seattle and Tampa, Florida. For some reason we are meeting many more Americans on the South Island.
Most motels have guest laundry and if you don’t want to use the dryers they often have clothes lines outside. Clothespins are called pegs.
Emergency is 111 not 911.
Reservations are called bookings. When you go to a restaurant they may ask if you have a booking.
All New Zealand tap (faucet) water is among the world’s best and safe to drink.
On both the North and South Islands the motels all keep electric blankets on the bed. The blankets are put under the sheet not on top of the sheet. If you are not careful you will lay on one of the controls which is uncomfortable. The first time we felt it we thought the springs were coming through the mattress. We find having the blanket under the sheet where you lay on it with the wires odd.
The cold and hot water faucets are reversed with the cold water on the left and hot water on the right.
They include French fries (chips) with everything on the menu. Bill ordered chicken parmesan last night and it included chips (no spaghetti). Bill asked if they would substitute mixed vegetables for the chips. We are both really tired of French fries even though the fries here are always good. I never thought I would say I am tired of potatoes, but I am!
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Interesting how they have set up temporary site so businesses can go on. So much devastation and loss of life. Love the cute seals and the alp pictures are so beautiful. Sorry we didn’t get to the south island. Have fun you two!