Helen & Nigel's Around The World trip 2013/14 travel blog

Christchurch cathedral

Christchurch cathedral

The transitional cathedral - Christchurch

The transitional cathedral - Christchurch

The white chairs - Christchurch

The current shopping centre - Christchurch

The current shopping centre - Christchiurch

The damaged Catholic cathedral - Christchurch

The silver fern - botanical gardens - Christchurch

Nigel during our day of mountain biking

Our hike on the lakeside

The tree line during the ascent to the mountain hut

Looking down on the hut

The ascent to the mountain hut

The sunrise at the mountain hut

The mountain ridge

The mountain ridge

Our guides - Cassie and Amanda

On the summit

Kayaking at the lagoon

Kayaking the lagoon

Amanda guiding us through the penguin caves

John, Mary-Kay and us at the penguin beach

The blow hole at pancake rocks

The pancake rocks

Helen at Christmas lookout

Franz Joseph Glacier

Shotover jet ride

Shotover jet ride

Shotover jet ride

We're sending this edition of the journal from Queenstown on New Zealand's South Island.

When we left you we had arrived in Christchurch but before you look at the photographs here's a little information on Christchurch's recent history for those who don't know.

On Tuesday 22nd February 2011 Christchurch was hit by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake - this is the most powerful natural event that has hit New Zealand's second-largest city. It followed nearly six months after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake which caused significant damage to Christchurch and the centre of the city.

The reason the 22nd February earthquake (which was weaker) caused such widespread and severe damage and the tragic loss of 185 lives, was the close proximity to the previous quake. The damage to the central city was also exacerbated by the geological situation. As the city had been built on a sandy foundation the earthquake produced a process called "liquefaction" effectively turning the ground to a porridge and producing around 400,000 tonnes of silt. The earthquake only lasted for 10 seconds but as it was a shallow earthquake, the vicinity, the depth and its location to Christchurch were the reason for so much destruction.

During our first two days we were based in a central hostel which had recently reopened. We had a stroll around the Central Business District (CBD) and felt that the area was just one enormous building site. With their shallow foundations the historic buildings had come off worst and the Cathedral was severely damaged. (Photo).

We visited the temporary or "transitional" cathedral which has been built from plywood and cardboard tubes - it's a novel and unusual design and the locals either love it or hate it. We also saw the 185 white chairs that represent the fatalities from the quake. (photo)

Lots of the buildings are still unsafe to enter and they currently have a central shopping area which is built from shipping containers (photo).

After our two days at the hostel we moved out of the centre to a small motel in the suburbs. At our new residence we have been preparing for our multi activity fortnight. We had a walk around the central park and botanical gardens where we found an example of the national emblem, a silver fern. It's quite hard to spot as the silver colour is on the underside of the fern. (photo).

We also hired mountain bikes for a day and went to a purpose built track in a forest park where we had views of the coast. This was also the area of an enormous landfill site (completely hidden from sight) to dispose of all of the rubble from the earthquake. As we both hadn't cycled for a while we finished the day with rather sore bottoms!

On the morning of Monday 17th March we started our 2 week multi activity trip.

The "Rimu" trip is named after a New Zealand fir tree, our group is fourteen in total. It consists of ten Americans.



Jim & Carmen

John & Mary-Kay

Erik & Hannah

Chris & Carol

We have two Guides - Amanda (a Brit trying to become a Kiwi) & Cassie (an Aussie)

We were picked up from our hotel and started the trip by travelling north in a coach driven by Cassie and named Frank. It was named after Frank Worsley who was Shackelton's captain during his polar expedition. The coach has a trailer which the group named "Little Frankie" and after loading up we left Christchurch and headed up the coast to the seaside town of Kaikoura where we hiked on the scenic Kaikoura Peninsula past some weathered limestone cliffs to get really close to a colony of fur seals which were basking on the rocks.

After this we had a short drive to our first accommodation which was a Bed & Breakfast at Kaikoura.

On Tuesday morning we travelled along some spectacular coastline for a couple of hours to a town called Blenheim. This was in the Marlborough wine region and where we visited the Forrest Estate Winery. As we had an energetic activity in the afternoon we only sampled a couple of their wines before having a picnic lunch.

The group then split with Debbie, John and Mary-Kay heading off to sea kayak and the rest of us starting our three day backpacking trip.

We headed to Nelson Lakes National Park where we started the Angelus Circuit. This started as an undulating forest walk along the lakeside to reach our first hut.

The following day was the main event with a 3,000 feet ascent carrying our fairly heavy packs. Amanda guided us initially, winding our way through forest before getting above the tree line and clambering over boulders and scree to reach our second hut which was high in the mountains.

As we had a bit of spare time we bagged a couple of small peaks at the back of the hut

On Thursday we finished the walk by taking advantage of all the height we had gained, traversing a high mountain ridge and descending a zigzag path to meet up with our coach. We then regrouped with the kayakers and drove to the west coast. We stayed at a seaside village called Punakaiki and had "fush and chups" ( Kiwi for fish and chips) at the local pub

On Friday we did some small hikes around the Punakaiki Rainforest on the coast.

We joined Mary-Kay and John on a coastal scramble to see some caves where Little blue penguins nest. We all visited the famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes which are limestone formations that have been sculpted by the Tasman Sea. (Photos) We continued along the coastline arriving at Hokitika where Helen invested in some local Jade jewellery and we finished the day at a small town called Franz Josef at the base of a glacier.

On Saturday we took a short trip from our accommodation in Franz Joseph to kayak at a lagoon near Okarito, a small beach community on the west coast.

This was a very picturesque lagoon and we were let loose in kayaks for a couple of hours to explore. After lunch we took a short hike to a viewpoint before returning to our accommodation in Franz Josef.

On Sunday some of the group were hoping to have a helicopter ride onto the glacier but it was cancelled due to low cloud so we all had the option of several different hikes and we chose the hike to a viewpoint looking down onto the Franz Josef Glacier.

This glacier makes its way down from the Southern Alps but like most glaciers around the world is currently retreating. We spent most of the day hiking up through the forest, dodging fallen trees and ankle high roots on what's called the 'Alex Knob' track until we arrived at the Christmas viewpoint which gave an incredible view of the ice albeit from a distance.

After our hike we left Franz Josef and travelled down the coast through forests and then inland to a small village called Makarora which borders Mount Aspiring National Park.

Here we took over a house on the edge of the village, had a BBQ for dinner and spent the night listening to Jazz and Blues.

On Monday morning we were given mountain bikes and cycled the Te Araroa track.

This was a fun morning activity, cycling on mainly level gravel tracks along a river and lakeside into the town of Wanaka.

There we had a spot of lunch before driving to Queenstown where we booked into the very nice Crowne Plaza Hotel.

We are posting our latest update on Tuesday 25th March from Queenstown where we have a free day and have been left to our own devices. We decided to try the Shotover jet boat ride which takes you over a few inches of water and down canyons which was very exciting (photo's)

We have another five days on our guided trip before we return to Christchurch and pick up our motorhome to continue our New Zealand adventure.

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