A Travellerspoint blog

Christchurch and surroundings down to Dunedin

Cruising down the South Island.

Before arriving in Christchurch we'd seen a documentary about the earthquakes, including the fatal one in February this year, so we thought we knew what to expect. We also knew that the center was closed because of all the damage. Still, there are no words to describe how it felt to see a completely deserted and fenced off city center, with uniformed guards at the gate. Many of the roads in the city were closed off and the ones that were open were bumpy and hastily patched. Most hotels were closed even outside the fenced off center and many people have just deserted their homes and moved to better places. And just when things started looking a bit brighter, there was another rough earthquake just two days ago, two days before christmas. Fortunately no one was seriously injured, but nonetheless, many of the already affected houses (that just had had time to be rebuilt) are in a bad shape again. So our hearts really go out to all people in Christchurch, we can't imagine what they're going through.

Pictures of the city center before the last earthquake.

Now there is just a small part of the center left and it's been rebuilt in a curious way. The 'new'/temporary centre is established by having shops and coffeeshops in sea containers. But at least it made us feel better to see that the city is reviving slowly.

The new built "center" -shops and banks and cafes in metal containers

Despite the mood-lowering sight of the centre we got into a bit of a Sinterklaas mood with a taste of pepernoten (from a Dutch bakery in Picton) and gevulde speculaas (from a Dutch shop in a place called Norsewood, of all places!!).

Driving out of Christchurch we got the feel of road damage around the place, and in the end we were quite happy to get out of there. And fortunately we picked a very good spot for forgetting the sadness in Christchurch: Bank's peninsula. It's a hilly peninsula created by volcanic eruptions, with a scenic route around the edge of the original crater. Beautiful views! The only bad thing is that we've started to feel quite numb and indifferent towards all the beautiful nature around us. We see so many nice places that we forget half of them and don't appreciate them for their full worth. But no worries, we (or I, Ipa) still try to take pictures of them so that you guys can admire a fraction of the beauties when we get home ;)

In Christchurch we stumbled over a brochure promoting a day trip to one of the filming locations of LOTR, and since Judith of course wanted to do it we called and asked how much it would be to do the tour - answer: $240 (~150 €) per person!! So instead of blowing half a weeks (or months...) budget we decided to try to make the tour on our own. And it was totally worth it!! But since it's Judith's thing she'll have to tell you herself :)

And here I am (Judith), so yes, what can I say? It was a BEAUTIFUL spot! Not only recognizable from the movie, but just a beautiful place to be. One of the best parts when we where there was seeing the tour (only an american family of three joined that day), and since we were having a break on the same spot where they had their guided tour, we could even hear most of the stories... haha! That was I think the best saved money ever! I must admit that I didn't even listen that much to the stories, because it was nothing interesting compared to the good views. We had our lovely packed lunch on top of Mt. Sunday, which served as the city of Edoras (Rohan) in the Lord of the Rings movies. We took many nice pictures and here is a small selection:

And the tour car :)

After that we went to Timaru, where we had our next (6 day) WWOOFing experience! And it was quite an experience... The place was called 'Treehugger organics', the owners Nathan and Steph, and we expected some hippy-like people with a real heart for nature, organics, sustainability and that kind of things, with great stories and views on life... well... NOT!! We ended up with two other WWOOFers from France, Florian and Marie, and although they really enjoyed themselves at Treehugger (where the motto was something like: "cheap food, meat, alcohol, and more meat and alcohol") - we were quite disappointed. The work was not at all interesting (either picking or packing strawberries for 6h a day is not our idea of a nice WWOOF), but there were also some positve things going on! First of all the other WWOOFers we met were all super nice, after we arrived there came another French guy Johanne (actually he was half belgian, quarter Italian and quarter Polish), and an American girl Jordan, who was 18 year old, and really nice girl, she got her first hangover on our last days there, kind of cute actually, haha! Besides the good company there was the cutest of all animals: a little piglett who was being bottle fed and came to the house every time he was hungry. So that was definitely the best WWOOF job available, feeding the piglet!

Weeman after Judith had fed him


On our last night at Treehugger it all got really crazy when the bottles of wodka, tequila, boxes of wine, and who knows what else came to the table. That was a really fun and drunk evening and it makes us look back at Treehugger with a small smile on our faces. The morning-after strawberry picking was however the worst of all mornings of strawberry picking... but hey, the job needed to be done one last time (for us). Foux du fafa... a song which is still half stuck in our brains... foux du fafafafaaaaha. (This was our deep dive into kiwi culture at its best -Flight of the Concords with Foux du fafa!)

Enjoy :)

On our way from Timaru we went to Lake Tekapo, and again (of course) that was BE-AU-TI-FUL! The lake was super blue, nicer than the sky! Our camera doesn't quite capture that bright colour blue which many lakes around that area have and that is a real pity! Imagine those nice tropical bounty island beaches, well it is that kind of blue, but then brighter and more powerful. At this place we stayed for the first time at a holiday park, which is the BEST place, nice outdoors, 20 meters from that super nice blue lake, so much better than at a backpackers or hostel! And a great place to get rid of the last pieces of hangover from that crazy night before (yes the one with the wodka and tequila and so), eating pizzaaaaa.

Lake Taupo

Next morning it was RAINING, damn it! I (Judith) was so wanting to go for a swim, even though it is quite cold here on the south island, it would be OK if the sun would have been shining... But no can do, and we had to move on. Good thing that we found such a nice lake 2 days after that, where I had a real short and cold swim in the pretty blue water. But first things first: after Lake Tekapo we went to see Mt. Cook, New-Zealands highest peak. It was visible from lake Tekapo as well, in the distance, but we decided to get close and do a small walk in that area today. But it was raining and thus when we came close we discovered that the whole mountain was covered in dark grey clouds, and we couldn't even see where exactly Mt. Cook would be.... That was a shame, but we tried. We went for a small (half our) walk to see the Tasman Glacier, which was still quite impressive, so we didn't drive the 50km in vain.

Our initial plan to stay the night in the Mt. Cook village was cancelled after knowing the prices they had their in their hostels, 35 dollar per person (normal price: around 25 dollar), and no views of the mountain, so we decided to sleep in another town, and that was a good decision! On the road south we found a lovely farmstay for only 20 dollar :) And the place was just supernice, a big house with a sheep and cow farm, with stunning views of the mountains in the distance, just perfect!

In the morning we started to go to Oamaru, one of the bigger cities on the South Island, but on the way we did some very nice stops at the freaky looking Clay Cliffs, at Benmore and Aviemore dams (where Judith went for a very cold swim), and at some Elephant rocks that apparently featerued in a Narnia movie.

Clay cliffs

Elephant rocks and some sheep

In Oamaru we met up with our hitchhiker (did we mention Jamie already? A funny guy from South Africa who travelled with us from Kaikoura to Christchurch). At Oamaru we went to see penguins! Yes really! Not the big ones, but smaller ones, quite nice! And Jamie showed us around in the old centre of Oamaru, which was really amazingly pretty. All old early 19th century buildings in use for art galleries, bakeries, local market, antique shops and other nice 'look around shops'.

Yellow eyed penguin

It was that last day of Oamaru when Jamie showed us around, and later in the day we headed to Dunedin. That day was 'discount day' - a weird phenomenon that we encountered: we got discount EVERYWHERE, it was hard to believe that it was all coincidence!
1st: we went to a clothing shop where we saw a nice cardigan for Ipa 40 dollar, but when we bought another item we got 50% off, so we bought a shirt of 20 dollar as well and only paid 30 dollar in total, nice!
2nd: in the second hand market we bought a skirt, which was on the 'half price rack', allright!
3rd: on the local market we got both cheese and (4th) bread with a discount, because the market was closing, nice!
5th: we got 1 dollar off some used CDs, allright!
6th: in Dunedin we went to 'Penny's backpackers' with an old flyer of them (which said 'beds from 18 dollar) - the beds where nowadays 26 dollar, but she could give them to us for 20 dollar! Nice!

Somehow I feel like there was even one thing more, but can't think of it now, or maybe it seemed like soooo much on that day, and when I sum it up now it is not that much anymore... But still, weird day that was :)

Next stop Dunedin, which wasn't too impressive but we'll give you a few sentences about it in the next entry :)

Posted by judipa 23:49 Archived in New Zealand Tagged dunedin christchurch oamaru lotr peninsula methven bank's

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