We landed in Auckland and after a quick overnight stop, travelled on to Christchurch. After the country had experienced a heat wave, the tail end of a cyclone hit the island causing major disruption and some coastal damage. We now find the temperatures considerably lower at around 18c and plenty of rain – not far off the Irish summer conditions now.
Christchurch city centre is still in a sorry state, 7 years after a devastating earthquake struck, killing 181 people. Many of the cities oldest buildings were affected including the Cathedral that the city is named after. There are many parts of the city that are still empty or roads closed down or rubble sites. However the New Zealand ingenuity shines through with many pop-up businesses, car parks and even a ‘pop up’ Cathedral made of materials such as shipping containers, polycarbon and cardboard. It sounds like a very ugly affair, but as you can see from the picture, its really very elegant.
We visited the Antarctic centre in Christchurch, which was the stop that Captain Scott and his expedition stopped in 1901 to prepare their supplies before travelling on to Antartica. Christchurch has been a key centre for Antarctic explorers ever since and houses an impressive visitors centre. In the visitors centre you get to see some of the rescued little blue penguins , experience what a snow storm feels like when it hits -24c (bloody cold, I can tell you), and see a 4D Ice voyage film where you are shaken, stirred and liberally sprayed with water.
As part of the experience we took a ride on a Hagglund, which is an amphibious all-terrain vehicle specifically designed for arctic conditions. That sounds tame, but was more like a roller coaster ride, as they took us through a specially designed assault course to showcase its capability.
After the excitement of the Antarctic, we took in the serene surroundings of the Botanical Garden. The range of trees and plants is wonderful to see and the rose garden had a riot of colour. In addition to the amazing trees and plants, there were some wonderful sculptures. We even got to meet a mother duck and her Ducklings. Very cute.
And what about this cute little rainbow we saw. Anything strange there?
Next stop Waimate for our next working experience.