4 March 2018
New Zealand had long been on our travel wishlist. It did not disappoint. We felt safe and welcomed where ever we travelled. North Island is where most New Zealanders live. South Island is where most visitors want to be. Four weeks was a perfect amount of time to visit both islands. We could have had better weather but our visit was long enough to afford a few rain days. Its location and different landscapes make it a popular destination for Aussies. Aspects of the country remind me of the United States, Canada, Ireland and United Kingdom so it is no surprise many tourists come from these countries. New Zealand is also particularly popular with Chinese and Japanese travellers.
For potential visitors from North America, if you loved the Canadian Rockies, Colorado Rockies, Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone, then New Zealand is the place for you. If you haven’t been to all those places yet, I’d recommend you see them first. They’re every bit as spectacular and much closer. Having said that, there is something special about getting away from it all in the world down under.
1 – 4 March 2018
Christchurch is a popular layover for tourists flying in and out of South Island. We had the luxury of staying for a few nights and exploring by foot. We enjoyed our time here and even made the newspaper! They used a picture of us at the Art Gallery to announce their new aquisition by Colin McCahon.
Christchurch Art Galley Te Puna o Waiwhetu
Bridge of Remembrance (left), Tram (top of page), St. Michael (right)
1 – 4 March 2018
The final stop of our trek through New Zealand was Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island. With around 400,000 residents, it is New Zealand’s third largest metro area. The city’s unique name was based on Christ Church in Oxford, England. We heard it was still recovering from a major earthquake in 2011 but assumed after 7 years it would be business as usual. We underestimated the earthquake’s impact.
The area has always been plagued by seismic activity. In September 2010 Christchurch was hit with a 7.1 magnitude quake. It caused extensive damaged throughout the city but no lives were lost. The residents felt lucky to have dodged a bullet. Over the following months there were numerous aftershocks.
On February 22, 2011 a 6.3 earthquake brought the city to its knees. One hundred and eighty five (185) people were killed and many more injured. The city center was devastated. One hundred and fifteen (115) died when the Canterbury Television Building collapsed and another 18 in the Pyne Gould Building collapse. Significant quakes in June, July and December 2011 highlighted over 11,000 aftershocks in less than two years. Many of the city’s signature and historic buildings were damaged. Over 1,200 buildings in the city center have been damaged beyond repair including the city’s centerpiece, Christchurch Cathedral in Cathedral Square.
New Zealand is a relatively small country. It has a limited capacity to provide funding and tradesmen to handle this volume of construction therefore it must be spread over years. Construction is everywhere downtown. Vacant lots are filled with temporary “gap fillers”, parking lots, and public spaces. Damaged buildings that have yet to be demolished are visible throughout the city. When they are complete, Christchurch will be a modern city with new facilities that outshine many other cities their size. There are several places in New Zealand I’d like to revisit some day because of their natural beauty. Christchurch is a place I’d like to return to see the man-made environment. I expect the rebirth of this city to be spectacular.
Transitional Cathedral (aka ‘Cardboard Cathedral’) built in 2013 meant to temporarily replace Christchurch Cathedral
185 Empty White Chairs Memorial (left) and Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial (right)
Quake City Museum
1 March 2018
Lake Tekapo is north of Mount Cook and on our route to Christchurch. It is a popular stop for tourists. The town of Lake Tekapo is small but has all the ammenities a traveller needs and is much larger than Twizel, where we stayed outside Mount Cook. The lake is fantastic but no more than Lake Pukaki. I think it’s better known because it has all the conveniences the town provides.
We drove up to Mount John Observatory which provides a view of the entire lake and surrounding hillsides. There is a nominal entry fee but it is well worth it. The lake can be viewed from a number of locations. We stopped along the shore and at the very popular Church of the Good Shepard.
Lake Tekapo River and Bridge, Church of the Good Shepard
Lake Tekapo and Lake Alexandrina from Mount John Observatory.
28 February 2018
The morning travel from Queenstown to Twizel did not go as planned. We finally arrived in Twizel about 2 hours late. We quickly checked in to our cabin and drove alongside Lake Pukaki to Mount Cook National Park. Because we were on a tight schedule, we did not do everything in the park we had hoped.
Mount Cook National Park, also know by its Maori name Aoraki, is home to the tallest mountain, Mount Cook, and to 8 of the 12 largest glaciers in New Zealand. From the Mount Cook Village, we hiked the Tasman Glacier Track. We could see the Blue Lakes from the trail so we did not do the Blue Lakes Track to save time.
The Blue Lakes are interesting because there are many stunningly blue lakes in the area, however the ‘Blue Lakes’ are not some of them… they are green.
After a short drive through the Hooker Valley, we hiked a portion of the Hooker Valley Track. Unfortunately we did not have time to complete the trail in daylight. The trail is very popular.
On our return trip to Twizel, we spent time at Lake Pukaki. It is one of our favorites in all of New Zealand. We only had a day to spend at Mount Cook National Park but could have easily spent another full day. It’s a special place.
27 February 2018
Queenstown Bay has several boat rides available from mild to wild. We took the popular 90 minute lake tour on the TSS Earnslaw, a steam ship. The ship takes you from Queenstown to Walter Peak and back. The ride is relaxing. We enjoyed it but they did not provide too much comentary on loclal history like we were expecting. All and all, not bad.
27 February 2018
Skyline Queenstown has fun for all ages. The gondola ride takes you from Queenstown up the mountain to a scenic lookout and restaurant, but that’s not all. From the lookout you can hike the Ben Lomond Track, bike down the mountain, bungee jump, paraglide, or luge. We did the luge and it was awesome! We bought the family package with 5 runs for each of us. The lookout provides great views of Queenstown and surrounding mountains. Skyline is a must-do when in town.