A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand

Quake City


It was time to leave sheep country behind us as we headed to Christchurch, the final city on our journey in NZ and in fact the last city for us on this epic adventure!


It was a two hour drive through the morning mist to get there which was hampered further by a nasty accident with a car fire ball on the side of the road. Stray no longer go into Christchurch city itself and instead do a drop off at the airport. I believe this changed after the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 where they were concerned about bringing tour groups into the city where buildings were unsafe etc. This meant that we had to say goodbye to our Stray Bus there. After hugs all round we were on our own again and made our way to the bus stop to get a public bus into town for 8 bucks.


Dan had found a lovely hostel called Dorset House for us to stay in only minutes walk from the bus stop. Too early to check in we left our big bags and headed out to explore the city. The sun had come out to play and we had a pleasant walk along the river Avon into the city center.


There is lots of building work going on here, a city still recovering from earthquakes in 2011. Many lives were lost and we had been told by our driver earlier that morning that one of the main buildings that collapsed and caused the most fatalities had been designed by a man who had faked his qualifications, so never should have been designing buildings in the first place. He has since disappeared!


There is an eerie quality to the city with not many people around other than tourists and builders possibly because there was a mass movement out of Christchurch after the quakes with people looking for new homes, work and also a safer place to raise families. Many of the older buildings that could not stand the shakes were destroyed and now there is a big effort to rebuild and regenerate the city. The extent of the work still needing to be done years later really shows how catastrophic these earthquakes were.


Re- Start Mall is a great example of the regeneration and the city's resourcefulness where containers have been brought in to create a unique shopping centre.


It's also here that we spotted Quake City an exhibit that has been out together to tell the story of what happened when the earthquakes hit. The 10 dollar entry fee helps to support the recovery and it is well worth a visit. There is a very poignant video wall where you can sit and watch locals re telling tales of brave rescues and impossible survival stories as well as the emotional reunions and devastating loss. One woman spoke of the agonising search for her husband who she had been on her way to meet for a coffee when the quake hit, she ran screaming his name through the streets until he miraculously emerged from the dust into her arms. Another described the 'noisy silence' after the quake, where everything stops apart from the car alarms that have been set off. A class of school children were seen walking hand in hand covered head to toe in dust with tear stained faces and roads opened up swallowing cars and even people. These first hand accounts really brought it home how a normal day can suddenly become shattered in seconds.

Some of the images at the museum were unbelievable...


And the resolve of the local community was inspiring, one example was setting up a cinema that used pedal power, where people rode on bikes that produced energy turned into electricity to power the screen!

Whilst walking around Re-Start mall we found this wall of Smiles for Chirstchurch where one traveller who saw the destruction wanted to bring good thoughts to the city by collecting smiles from around the country.


Other than the 'Earthquake Tourism' we didn't see much else to do in the city but were happy just to relax and enjoy our last day in the New Zealand sunshine at a couple of the nice restaurants and bars.


Posted by doyledan 02:44 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Rangitata White Water Rafting

Leaving the beauty of Mount Cook wasn't easy, you could stay in that area for a day just admiring the view. However, we had an exciting activity to look forward. The Rangitata Rafting just outside of Christchurch offers the chance to ride up to Grade 5 white water rapids, which is the highest that you can commercially experience and it has the added bonus of the Southern Alps as the scenic backdrop. We would be staying at the headquarters of Rangitata Rafts but in order for us to be on time we were picked up at one of our stop offs to get ahead of the bus.

Upon reaching the headquarters we were given lunch as part of us purchasing a rafting experience and we tucked into a BBQ whilst taken through the ins and outs of the rafting experience. After the prep talk we sized up our gear for the day and what was great was that everything was provided. We were so lucky that the weather was really nice, the sun was beating down and so wearing a wetsuit was a bit of nuisance so when we got the call to get in the van to take us to the water Sarah and I got in as quick as possible.


Driving down to the starting point our driver from previously gave us some stories about the owners of the huge sheep stations that covered the whole area. Initially he explained that for a long time these vast stations were part of the families who originally settled on the land and stayed with them for many years. However, in later years the stations were not doing as well and were sold on to other people. It was with this exchange that Rangitata rafts would eventually be created as during the period of downturn the owner of the sheep station decided to offer locals and what their was of tourists the opportunity to go down the river by raft that was on his land to help subsidize the ever growing finances needed to run the station.

But apparently this owner was noticeably doing better than most of the farmers in the area and people become suspect. The police got involved and sent up scouts to see what the guy was up to. From a distance they saw that the sheep station owner would go out every other day for long periods in his helicopter, and upon closer inspection they noticed that he was decorating the helicopter up as if he was the police. This of course took the police officers by surprise. It turned out that the sheep station owner was flying to the remote plains where bikey bandits had been growing Marijuana in large quantities and would swoop down pretending to be the police in order to scare of the bandits, then he would load up the helicopter and fly it to a contact who would then sell it on.

The guy was eventually charged but I think he wasn't given a heavy sentence because he wasn't selling it, but was merely trafficking it. It was something like that, some silly loop hole in the law system. But you had to hand it to him.

After that story we were at the starting point of the rafting. Our guide would be Dan and before we set off we had a group photo with the beautiful backdrop, it was such a good day for it.


The first part of the river is a grade 1/2 and it was here that Dan took us through the different calls he would be making during the more challenging rapids, such as GET DOWN, PULL LEFT! PULL RIGHT!, he mentioned that we shouldn't be alarmed when he bellows the commands out referencing some of the small Asian women who would hear his shouts and freeze with fear!.

Then it was game on from this point, the first grade 5 we would hit was pretty choppy. Dan had told us that the river was not at its highest and could be at least another metre higher. The amount of tonnes of water that were passing past us equated to something like 72 baby elephants but when the water was higher the force of the water was magnified even more. We stopped off before the big rapid so the guides could figure out the best direction to take. Despite there vast knowledge they still need to approach the rapid with caution because one wrong move or position could mean flipping over. After a quick check we jumped on board and went for our first rapid, it was EPIC!!


We made it all on the boat and put our oars together for a cheer!

Moving down steam the valley was so good to look and made the experience even more worth it.


The next Grade 5 we would hit was bigger, longer but we were ready and after a quick check from the guides we went for it!


It was so much fun, Sarah and I high five'ed with a big whoo hoo!

Afterward it was plain sailing and we felt like we could take on more, Dan did some fun stuff on some of the smaller rapids so we could experience the raft taking on water and potentially flipping over and at one point he twisted the boat and half of us fell in. He said that was a trick the guides do to teach us a lesson not to be too cocky :-)

Another cool add on was that we wre allowed to jump in the water at saver points in order to experience the rapids and the power they yield. so stopping off at a calmer pool we hooked onto a rock and we all jumped off into the gushing water and floated downstream. At the end of our floating was the cliff faces that we could have a go at jumping off. Sarah decided not to because she didn't want to lose her contacts but I had a go. It was 9 metre's high, and despite having down a bungy it was still a bit scary as I jumped off!


It was a perfect way to end our three weeks of adventure activities and as a team we picked up our raft headed back to base for complimentary lunch. We can't recommend Rangitata Rafts enough, the guides were great, the service was top notch and the added bonus of great scenery and price which includes lunch and Dinner makes it worth it.


Stay tuned for the last tale.


Posted by doyledan 02:15 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Mt Cook!

When we got our first glimpse of the tallest mountain in New Zealand it was a jaw dropper! I had heard from our previous bus driver that this was one of the best scenic areas, and boy was she right.


It wasn't just the mountain , it was the landscape leading up to it as well. We stopped off a scenic point and the lake below was so wonderfully blue, it was mesmerising.


We had left Queenstown, a beautifull landscape in itself, and only an hour or so out we had come to this as a view from our balcony


The plan was to stop off in the valley leading up to Mount Cook, which would mean we could have the option of walking a 3 hour track up to the start of the Tasmen Glacier. This Glacier is one of the longest when fully frozen, measuring 7km. It is a regular spot for the ski season but as it was summer the ice had melted a created a Lake for us to visit. The track was moderate and we passed flowing rivers by bridge walked over rocks whilst looking up at the snow capped mountains. The weather was perfect for the walk and we all enjoyed the afternoon not travelling on a bus.


Evan and I tried to dip our feet in the glacier water but obviously it was freakin freezing to the point where it hurt!


Getting back too the hostel meant we had to walk a bit further as the bus had driven us part of the way before, so the legs got a bit tired by this point. Sarah spotted a small spider on the way.


We didn't really do much at the hostel apart from a couple of beers and plenty of rest as tomorrow we would be trying out White Water Rafting down the Rangitata river!

Stay tuned for more tales


Posted by doyledan 13:25 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)


So we'd taken on the adventure capital head on both getting an adrenaline rush within the first couple of hours of being in Queenstown! But it wasn't just the extreme activities that took our breath away but the amazing beauty of the town itself! It is stunning with the Remarkable mountain range looking over the lake.


We had decided to sort our our own accommodation here rather than staying at Base. Dan found a lovely hostel by the lake called Bumbles and our room had floor to ceiling windows with great views over the water. Not too shabby for a backpackers.


We could even watch these guys from our window! Some of the others from our bus took on the opportunity to fly around like Ironman. Wish we had done this too as it looks loads of fun.


After all the excitement of the day we were starving and looking forward to having a famous Fergburger! Throughout our trip people had been talking about this place which is meant to have the best burgers in New Zealand and they weren't lying. We were lucky with only a 15 min wait (we had heard some people had queued for 2 hours on a busy day!) and we soon had our burgers. Dan went for the Big Stuff and I went for the lamb with mint jelly. YUM!!


The gang met up down the beach area for some beers and a catch up on what everyone had been up to.


Not a bad way to end the day!


The next morning we used the free bikes from the hostel to go and explore, taking in the sights along the lake.


On seeing a track for sunshine bay we thought it would be a good idea to take it but within a few minutes we realised this track wasn't for normal bikes as it was steep and rocky in places so we locked them up and walked the rest of the way.




Having dropped off the bikes it was time for the best ice cream in New Zealand! The award winning vanilla and cookies flavour is to die for!!


We decided to head up the Gondola to get some views out over Queenstown.



Can you spot the guy throwing himself off The Ledge!


At 27 bucks it was a bit pricey just to go up for the view so in hindsight we should probably have gone for the option that included Luging as well which looked fun.


This picture is made of jelly beans!


Back in town I decided to make a visit to the doctor as I d not been well for a week. Now I only mention this to highlight the importance of getting travel insurance as a consultation and some antibiotics set me back $200!! Will definately be claiming that back! Not feeling up to a night out on the town we headed to the cinema instead to see American Hustle which was really good.

We wished we had more time and money to spend in Queenstown as there is so much to do so we will definitely have to come back here in the future.



Posted by doyledan 13:13 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

I'm not a bird, I'm not a plane.... I'm a bird plane!

Ian - "Let's run through that one more time, Step... step... RunRunRunRunRuuuun! Any questions?"

Me - "So we just run off the mountain?"

Ian - "Thats right, ready?"

Me - "We'll soon find out!"

This was my quick introduction in how to launch a hangglide!

When we arrived in Queesntown the weather was gorgeous and having missed out on hangliding in Abel Tasman I booked myself in and was on Mount Coronet within half an hour, but what I had forgotten was that Abel Tasman is one of the few if not the only place to hangglide by being pulled up by a tow plane, I would be doing it the normal way... just run of the mountain and hope for the best!


My trusted pilot was Ian who had been doing this for over 23 years. He had a slight resemblance to Ben Stiller which I was still trying to work out if I found reassuring or not when we got attached to the glider itself. As we needed to run to get ourself airborn the harness I wore was different to Dans with a stirrup at the bottom that I would need to get my feet onto once we were in the air.

There was no hanging around to let the nerves get to me as I was the first one up. Clinging on to Ian and determined to keep pace during the take off I was concentrating loads that I didn't realise my feet were off the ground so I was running in midair. It was effortless and we were flying!! After a bit of a struggle to get my feet in the stirrup we were on our way and soaring over the valley. it was a great feeling.


There was a devise on the glider which would make different beeping noises depending on what the glider was doing, it it was high pitched we were going up and if it was a lower tone we were going down. Ian found a thermal to try to get us some more flight to extend our flight, by circling up in the thermal just like a bird.

After we had some more height he asked if I liked roller coasters before flying the hangglide upwards until it stalled in the air and began to fall back down again before catching the air and swooping forward. It was fun and scary at the same time and I couldn't stop laughing and squealing so we did this a few more times.


We did some first turns and dives over the spectacular scenery and the flight was over too soon as we came in to land. As we got closer to the ground you realised how fast you were coming in and head first! It was so exciting to zoom in low to the ground through the purple grasses with mountains on each side, landing on the wheels and rolling till we stopped. I just laid on the floor laughing and shaking a little bit!

Simply AWESOME!!!


Posted by doyledan 02:23 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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