Sep 8, 2011

New Zealand - Christchurch/Akaroa

Next destination, Australia's brother country: New Zealand! Those two have a love/hate relationship and a lot of Australian we met before told us about making jokes of New Zealander, mainly about the 35 million sheeps versus 4.4 million people in the country. Well the two country knows each other very well and, being far away from any other big piece of land, tourism is very active between them. The queen of England is still their head of State and on their respective coins. And their flags are very similar.

Australian flag (on the left) and New Zealand flag (on the right)

We have to admit, we did not know that much about New Zealand before coming to this country. As soon as we landed, an immigration agent asked us if we were "Kiwi or Australian?". Only a few hours later we understood that Kiwi is another name for New Zealander! :/ Actually this nickname comes from a indigenous bird. And New Zealander use the world "kiwifruit" to distinguish they are talking about kiwis!! Quite puzzling, no?

On our way to the South Island, we managed to have a glance at New Zealand's amazing landscapes from the plane:

Snowy mountains featured in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy

The flat Canterbury region bordered by snow-capped mountains


Main city of the South Island, Christchurch was touched by a serie of strong earthquakes and replicas since last year. In fact we landed there the date of the first anniversary of the first earthquake. And we experienced a replica with a magnitude of 4.3. Actually we did not feel anything but just saw the wall lamp moving!

A magnitude 7.1 earthquake ripped through the region of Canterbury the 4th of September 2010 at 4.35am. It devastated many homes and historic buildings. In February 2011 a 6.3 earthquake hit Christchurch, causing extensive damages to the city centre and the death of 181 persons. It was the most destructive earthquake to strike a New Zealand city in 80 years.

Nowadays, a big part of the city centre is cordoned off and nobody can enter the central city Red Zone. Walking around the forbidden rectangle we could see destroyed and damaged buildings. And even outside this rectange, the closest buildings are closed and all economic activity ceased. This resulted tragic in economic terms. Job losses are numerous and some people even left the city for good.

Main door of a building outside the Red Zone

The city centre is a ghost town, only populated during the day by an army of construction workers. Well for the time being, it is more about demolishing before rebuilding all. The municipality has already presented a draft Central City Plan to the inhabitants, with more than 70 projects, costing 1.9 billion dollars, to be implemented over the next ten to twenty years.

Not much remain to visit in the city centre: only the botanical garden crossed by the Avon River and Canterbury Museum which re-opened only three days before we arrived in Christchurch.

Punting on the Avon


Next to Christchuch, we had a ride through an ancient volcanic peninsula, the Banks Peninsula. The three volcanoes are extinct and eroded by hidden bays forming spectacular indented coastlines. The deep blue waters colour astoning landscapes.

Pigeon Bay

French Farm Bay

View on Duvauchelle with the landmark of New Zealand: sheeps!

French have good tastes: it was in this heavenly place that French settlers established a township in 1840 of what would be the only French settlement in New Zealand! In Akaroa Harbour is cultivated a distinctive French flavour.

Akaroa and the French Bay behind the collection car
that our lovely hostess lent us for the day

French Farm Bay

 Boat houses, French Farm Bay

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