" New Zealand Holiday ... 15 . . . Christchurch "

Date & Time: Sunday 20th - Monday 21st November 2011.

Locations : North up the coast, Moeraki, Oamaru, Christchurch, to Amberley.

Places visited : Dunedin to Amberley with a visit to Christchurch City next day.

Accommodation : With Rosie and Richard at the Claremont Estate and Nature Park

With : Ann and myself.

Weather : Another grey day but clearing as time went on so little rain overall.


" New Zealand -15- Christchurch " at EveryTrail

[ Alter the settings to zoom or change the Map, use Everytrail to download the Gps route ]


After our busy day on our multiple wildlife trips yesterday it was time to say our goodbyes

to Hildegard and Ralf and head north for the last of our planned stops on this Hiley World Tour of New Zealand.

Farewell to Nisbet Cottage . . .
. . . and our into the poorer weather today.

We drive down to the road which skirts the Dunedin inlet.

Not sure of the nature of the tooth-like objects but that's the same big sports stadium in the distance that we saw in the sunshine yesterday.

The Grand Railway Station at Dunedin

Completed in 1903, "a jewel in the country's architectural crown" the literature says . . . and they were not wrong.

In its day it was handling up to a hundred trains a day and is one of New Zealand's four major railway station buildings.

But with a hire car tor return to Christchurch in a couple of days time we better stick to the roads.

Some fifty miles north of Dunedin there is a small headland with a big reputation

What can be found on the beach there has added a name to the geological dictionary.

This is Koekohe Beach, Moeraki . . . home of the Moeraki Boulders

We parked at the beach car park and enjoyed a windswept two hundred yard walk along the shore

to the resting place of these large, round stones.

These boulders are actually concretions, a build up of calcites, around an initial shell or bone object.

[ Their formation could be loosely compared to that of an oyster growing a pearl, adding layer on top of layer, to form these huge, round rocks.]

These have formed in a calcium rich, stable environment such as a primeval ocean floor, probably about 60 million years ago.

The boulders were subsequently covered by alluvial deposits so that they became hidden in the shales and soft sandstones of the area.

Now the sea is eroding the cliffs, the boulders are seeing the light of day once again . . . and make a remarkable sight.

However they are not indestructible . . . and the force of the ocean waves will eventually destroy them.

The Maori have a different explanation for them and you can read more here

Following the coast railway north, we reach the town of Oamaru.

Main Street architecture often dates back over a hundred years.

The famous Oamaru Opera House mirrors the grand architecture of the town.

Built over a century ago, the Opera House is still an important entertainment venue.

Heading north into clearer weather

and we can see across the flat Canterbury Plains to the east side of the snow-topped Southern Alps.

The condition of the single track railway doesn't quite reach the standards required for a high speed rail link

but the line is still very much in use and we saw the occasional train as we motored north.

This is the Rakaia River as it flows toward the sea.

Like the rivers of the west coast, it has a river bed strewn with loose glacial boulders and gravel.

This bridge is reportedly the longest road bridge in New Zealand . . . as it has to cross the multitude of strands that make up the wide river.

We by-passed the roads to Christchurch City in favour of getting to our destination north of Amberley some 40 minutes north.

This brightly coloured shop on the road junction to Waipura would be a welcome landmark for the next few days as we drove around seeing the sights.

We are heading up into the Waipura Hills

where we have an invitation from friends to come and stay at their Claremont Estate for the last few days of our stay in New Zealand.

Tucked in the folds of the foothills, Claremont is a large sheep station and the "Big House" is now a rather nice Country Hotel.

Claremont Estate and Nature Park

The entrance tiles date the building to 1866.

We met Richard and Rosie in Australia three years ago when we were on our Kimberly Coastal Cruise

It will be really nice to meet up again, chat together and explore the part of the world they have called home for the last ten years.

We settle into our rather nice rooms at Claremont and then make our way up to their smaller house close by.

In the last year they have gradually eased back from running the hotel on a day-to-day basis and have now moved to the old Farm Manager's house.

The hotel now has a husband and wife team as resident managers . . . and Richard and Rosie are gradually handing over the reins.

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As a result, next day they were able to spend the whole day with us and show us around the area.

They needed to drive to Christchurch to see several people so this gave us chance to see the city along with our own personal, knowledgeable guides.

For those that don't follow the news too closely, Christchurch had two major earth tremors in 2010 and 2011, each of which caused major damage. The 2011 February earthquake was a particularly tragic one, with over two hundred people killed, mainly in the CBD ( Central Business District) but also in the city and coastal suburbs.

Taken from the car as we arrive in town.
First evidence of the destructive force at work.

While we were there we were faced with the personal dilemma that perhaps reporters to disasters or war zones are faced with.

Should we record the scenes of destruction for our own personal viewing . . . but not show them ?

Should we publish them . . . but that would mean showing other people's problems without us offering to help while we were there ?

Should we be seen taking pictures of other people's misery ?

It was nine months on from the second major quake in Feb 2011 and the town was getting slowly back on its feet. People were going about their daily lives, the first commercial visitor bus tours of the damaged city centre business district were being run, visitor photographs seemed ok.

So here we go . . . our view of a day in the city.

This was Sumner Bay, more or less at the epicenter of the major quake.

The fresh colour of the cliffs was due to a major collapse. Houses were left perched on the cliff tops.

Look at the angles of those street lamps . . .

The shipping containers stacked up alongside the road formed a two storey barrier

to protect the traffic in the event of another cliff collapse.

Opposite, a once proud house stands broken and forlorn, its walls cracked, its windows destroyed.

However not all buildings suffered as badly, in fact we were impressed by the number of places that were up and running as normal.

We stopped for a light lunch in this little cafe . . . the modern building in which it was located had survived the quake without damage.

In the window of this and other shops and premises . . . official notices of their post-quake building inspection.

" No restriction on use . . . open for business."

The industrial unit next door was not so lucky . . . the ground it stood on has been cleared and levelled.

At first I took these places to be car parks or land available for future development, but it suddenly dawned on me that each of these open spaces had once held a shop, a warehouse, someone's job, someone's lively hood.

The city had suffered a major blow to its very core.

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Rosie's business done in Sumner we drove back into town as Richard wanted to take us to visit the city museum.

Opposite the museum was one of the old churches of the city.

It was undergoing renovation from the 2010 quake when the Feb 2011 one struck.

Note the spire is missing . . . is was being stored at ground level and can be seen sitting on the pavement to the right.

More temporary supports and this time a gable end on the deck.

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The Canterbury Museum as it is known, is in the centre of town.

Fortunately they had spent a lot of money in recent years reinforcing the structure to withstand the quakes. Their investment has paid off as the structure remained intact and internal damage was confined to such things as displays falling over rather than anything more major.

New Zealand is rich in relics of ancient reptiles and dinosaurs and there were stunning displays of 60 million year old fossils.

There was a whole Maori section and a scenario involving the hunting of the Moa Bird . . . which continued until its extinction.

[ Smaller than a present day ostrich, unfortunately the Moa suffered from being a slow runner and being very tasty to eat !! ]

New Zealand moved away from Gondwanaland, the southern super-continent at a time before mammals had evolved.

Consequently New Zealand wildlife is predominantly birds, many of which thrived in the forests of old.

[ Recent introduction of mammals such as cats, dogs, stoats and possums have decimated the ground nesting birds like the Kiwi.]

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We continued on around the museum . . .

This dolls house was damaged in the earthquake, just like real houses.
Go back in time and join the first settlers who travelled by horse.

The full size model was built sufficiently strong to allow you to sit on it and have your picture taken.

Sadly the Cathedral in the background, shown here as a background picture,

suffered very badly in the second major quake and is having to be demolished.

When we were in Invercargill we visited Bluff Head.

Two residents of that town, Fred and Myrtle Flutey, had decorated their house in Paua Shells which when cleaned and polished resembled mother of pearl. After their death their house was sold and the collection was in danger of being lost till it was saved and reinstated in a replica house within the museum. For more information click here

There were also displays on Rugby (following the World Cup), early European settlers, the whaling industry and more . . . we could have stayed all day.

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After our visit we parked closer to the town centre to see the shops and what we could of the central business district.

Even now the centre is boarded off and there's no access for the public.
Those cranes are demolishing rather than re-building the centre.
This door was once on the first floor of a multi storey car park.
Sadly they never re-opened the Sushi Bar that Thursday.

But then there was colour . . . . and life . . . and shops were open.

Welcome to the Container Shopping Centre.

Someone had the brilliant idea of turning standard shipping containers into safe, single storey shopping units.

[ Sometimes a second was secured on the roof as a storeroom ]

The atmosphere here was superb . . .
. . . and the facilities were very colourful.

Even the local outdoor retail shop was back up and running.

Johnson's Grocers, a famous local store, was up and running again, albeit on a smaller scale.

Stilton Cheese . . . Mmmm . . . that's good idea . . . we purchased a portion for later.

Everyone need some cash at times so a new bank was being built . . . in a container.

The Department Store of Ballentynes was re-open for business in their original store.

Pardon me for photographing a favourite brand of clothing.

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The problem for the local economy is that many of the residents of Christchurch who have lost their homes, have moved away, all over New Zealand.

No matter how many shops you re-build, the local politicians must draw the people back to the city so that the shops can prosper once more.

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Before we left town, Richard and Rosie wanted to visit their town house which they have been renting out.

It looks ok, but those walls are not upright.
The survey marks on the pavement.
It is damaged but is available for use.

However some of the doors don't fit properly, the drains get blocked by mud and the house slopes to one side.

It will probably be cheaper to demolish and rebuild rather than repair.

Time to be returning to Amberley and Claremont . . . we pass more damaged buildings on the way out of town.

Here the structure survived due to the flexible wooden framework . . . but the brick walls have fallen under the strain.

Despite the extensive problems that the city faces

we leave with an impression of a people

with a positive frame of mind and a spirit to fight back

. . . like the colourful container shops

and the reindeer flying through the air in Ballentynes.

We wish them every success.


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Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Fuji Finepix T300, my Canon G10 or 1100D digital cameras.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . . a spirit of hope.

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