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South Island NZ August 2010Author: LSKahn (More Trip Reviews by LSKahn)
Date of Trip: August 2010
In August 2010 I was fortunate to have a home exchange in Christchurch, New Zealand. In view of the series of very damaging earthquakes which began just after I left I was fortunate to travel when I did. It will be a long time before others get to see the Christchurch Cathedral without all the damage.
This was the second part of back-to-back home exchanges. The first one was in Melbourne and I flew to Christchurch from Melbourne on Air New Zealand (my all time favorite airline with the most amusing safety videos you will see anywhere). This was the second time I have been down under with a prior series of home exchanges (Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and the North Island of New Zealand in 2008.
I had a lovely house in Christchurch out by the airport (It survived all the earthquakes in one piece because the damage was elsewhere). It was the last stop on a bus route that did not take long to get into town. While I was there the New Zealanders were all concerned about the big rugby game with New Zealand's All Blacks vs. Australia. NZ wonwhich made a lot of people happy. I did get a piece of the world's largest pavlova (you have to be from down under to appreciate that!) made in honor of the event and sold just outside the Christchurch Cathedral.
I did take the Tranzscenic railroad to the West Coast. Traveling off season (August is winter in NZ). I did not have to reserve seats on the train. I went all the way to Greymouth. Unfortunately, it was overcast and the views were not as nice as I suppose they are in summer. I did not go to the Franz Joseph glacier on the West Coast because I was told by many who did that it was fogged in much of the time. Remember that the roads are very slow in NZ and it would have taken a lot of time for an uncertain result.
I did have the use of a car and went overnight to Mt. Cook. Instead of the expensive helicopter ride, I took a hike to a glacier. It was very slippery over some glacial moraine, but, with the help of some hiking poles, I made it! I ended up looking down on a glacial lake with lots of icebergs. I was told later that in the big earthquake the lake had a huge tidal wave! Glad to have missed that one!
Before going to NZ I had arranged a flight to Queenstown so I could do the day tour to Milford Sound. I got very sick the last week of my trip. There was a swine flu outbreak while I was there and I guess that was what it was, but, having arranged the the trip, I soldiered on. Milford Sound was very nice, but I wish I had felt better. Because I didn't, I flew back rather than undergo another 6 hour bus ride. It was not cheap but it was the absolute highlight of the trip. When I said I wanted to take photos, I was put in the copilot's seat! Sick or not, I snapped my way to Queenstown on a day that was spectacular right over the Southern Alps. The pilot said that there are views like what I saw only about 5 days a year! When I got back to the hotel, I crawled into bed.
The last few days in Christchurch I was under the weather and did not do much. I did make it to Christchurch's port: Lyttelton. Lyttelton took a huge hit from the quakes because it was at the epicenter. NZ has a lot of work to do to recover from the multiple disasters. It will take years. Having said that, Christchurch and its environs suffered, but the rest of the South Island is still open for business. The mountains are still there! The Antarctic Center near the airport is still open and I did get up close and personal with a penguin there (extra fee but worth it). I also took the rice in one of the Antarctic vehicles. Yes, I am glad I did it. Would I do it again? No. Sort of like a roller coaster on the purpose built track and I don't much like roller coasters.
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