Saturday, 4 April 2015

Rotorua and Christchurch GoPro

Rotorua Trip

S.Island Round 1 (Christchurch Trip)

Continued in Christchurch...

The same weekend we went to Akaroa Peninsula, we also toured around the city of Christchurch. Before we left for our South Island weekend getaway, our friends were all telling us that there was nothing to see in or around Christchurch. They were all wondering why we chose to visit that place, and to be honest we didn’t really know when we bought the air tickets. We were just blinded by the cheap prices for the flight, and hungry for adventure. So far the weekend had been a success and as beautiful as anything we had seen before. Headed on to the city of Christchurch.
Here’s a little history lesson for you all that are not aware of Christchurch’s situation. In recent events, Christchurch experienced a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in September of 2010, which was apparently the worst they had in 30 years. Somehow no lives were lost, but it left the city broken and weak. But wait, that’s not all. In February of 2011, only 5 months later, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch once again. This time there were many deaths and injuries, and the city was left in ruins.
We had no idea we would be going straight into ground zero of this natural disaster. Upon arrival, we quickly realized that the city was almost a ghost town. Many people left after the last earthquake to start their lives elsewhere while the remaining citizens helped to rebuild the city. It is 2015 and they are still cleaning up the mess! I couldn’t believe my eyes on how many buildings were literally just in a pile at ground level.

We had a whole day free to explore the city and had heard about an art exhibition being held down the street so we started out there. On our way we noticed several wall murals of beautiful street are and stopped to take a look. It wasn’t your everyday graffiti or tagging, it was artwork filled with emotion, creativity, and hard work. We reached the exhibition and follow the path through. It was about the street are in Christchurch, what a coincidence. Apparently, all of the street art we had seen was a sort of ray of hope though the destruction and a symbol of strength in Christchurch. We picked up a map that pointed out several works of art throughout the city created by the starring artists on exhibit. We followed the map and checked out every single picture on the map, plus many more along the way. 

I couldn’t believe how many walls were covered with artwork. It turned into a sort of competitive scavenger hunt for the three of us. We would try and call out first new murals as soon as we spotted them peaking around a corner. Everywhere you looked had some sort of artwork on it, between storefronts, abandoned restaraunts, apartment buildings, and even parking garages. We would walk completely around a single building standing out in the surround rubble and have four different works of art represented on one building. Some murals were all about thanking the construction and cleanup crews working day and night in Christchurch, while others portrayed strength and hope for the new city calling it “Christchurch 2.0.”

Honestly, it was really sad seeing all of the buildings completely destroyed, but at the same time, empowering and inspiring that everyone had come together to rebuild their city. There were even little pockets between still standing buildings that had small playgrounds made of completely recycled materials from the destruction, and there was even a whole mall made from shipping cargo containers. I loved seeing all of the innovation and motivation.

So to prove all of those that doubted us wrong, we had a very successful and cheap weekend in Christchurch! I learned a lot and saw a lot of really sweet things. Travel is not all about going to mainstream place and doing advertised things. It’s about learning new things about the place and experiencing it completely. That was honestly one of the coolest trips we have taken since I have been in New Zealand, simply because we didn’t have a full plan.
Stay tuned for more about my two week South Island road trip in the coming weeks…


Friday, 3 April 2015

Day in Akaroa

My latest adventure took place on the South Island of New Zealand in and around the quaint little French influence town of Akaroa. To start the weekend off, we woke early in the morning and headed for the peninsula that Akaroa is situated on. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere we were stopped by the breathtaking sight of early morning fog. Now this wasn't your ordinary fog that covers the ground and makes everything dark and incredibly humid, this was heavenly mountain fog. You've got to remember that we were on a peninsula made up of mountains so it made for some interesting weather. As we popped over that hill, we all just became completely speechless. It was what I can only assume was a valley filled to the brim with fog. It was actually moving as we pulled over to observe. The fog was acting just like liquid water would if you poured it into a bowl. It was being blown over a nearby mountain-top and into the valley below. The semi-condensed water was swirling and rolling around in the valley as if it were being sloshed around. On top of seeing this amazing sight, I would like to add that it was early in the morning so the sun was perched perfectly over the horizon and gave everything a golden glow. I was simply blown away. I literally cannot describe exactly what I saw into words so enjoy this visual aid. J

That just goes to show what you can experience if you get out of bed and do something with your life. Sleeping in is overrated! I'm on vacation for life!
After we finished drooling over the beautiful morning sight, we made our way down a curvy mountain road that was supposed to lead us to the small town of Akaroa. As we approach the waterfall of fog it became clear to us that we were going to have to drive right through it. The only way I can explain it is that it was like seeing a waterfall and walking under it or behind it. The fog was moving and rolling over the mountainside. So strange.
We finally pulled into Akaroa and pulled over for a quick pit stop. It was super foggy and grim looking. The town is situated right on the harbor which made it a little creepy. It reminded us of The Series of Unfortunate Events series when the Baudelaire orphans had to stay with an aunt on Lake Lachrymose. We unanimously decided that this would be a fantastic place to grab breakfast before making a solid plan for the day. Along the water front, I spotted a little café with seating outside. As we entered the shop it was clear that we had stepped into the closest thing to being in France in the Southern Hemisphere. I was overly excited to see that there was a Nutella Crepe being offered on the menu and quickly ordered one for myself. Let me just tell you, it was the best crepe I have ever had!! It did help that it was swimming in Nutella.
After finishing off our French breakfast we made a short walk down the street to the water’s edge. By this time the fog had all but been blown off to the Pacific Ocean. The landscape looked so fake, like a backdrop for a cheesy movie. My photos look so fake, I'm afraid people back home aren’t going to believe it was an actual place.

Next stop for the day was our hostel for the night. We had booked a few beds at a farm hostel in the mountains close to Akaroa. We followed the directions up a one lane road along the edge of the mountain. When we finally made it up the steep inclines and around the treacherous bend to the end of the road we spotted a sign for Onaku Farm Hostel that let us know we had arrived. We check in and got a quick tour. The hostess warned us of their gumpy old guard goose and of the local furry visitors we may have from the farm. This place was one of the cutest places I have ever seen in my life. I instantly fell in love. We were staying in a cabin meant for 7, but we were the only 3 that night. There were two kitchens, one with a wood stove and lounge area and the other with only one wall. The showers were basically just like what you would get at the beach or the pool, and the toilets were in little metal tube port-a-potties. Two of them were flush and the third was pit. They even had a sink for the “bathroom”. It was just an old sink and vanity from a house, perched on the side of the hill connected to a garden hose. There was even a mirror included, just like your bathroom at home, but without walls. The cabin and kitchen, along with the extra comforts of home made it feel like we were 8 again in our own little club house. I felt like a Lost Boy on Peter Pan. It was a magical place to say the least.
After we dumped our stuff in our personal clubhouse, we were directed by the hostess towards one of their very own hikes located out back. It was a steep climb up the side of a mountain and around another until we got to the top lookout spot where there was a rock with the word “END” painted on it. We were literally walking through their farm. We said hello to the cows laying in the sun, and how-do-you-do to the sheep frolicking on the hillsides. Our only indication that we were on  the right path was the occasional painted arrow on rocks, fence posts, trees, or sticks. As we neared the end of the path and the “END” rock became visible, the view became more and more breathtaking. From our lookout spot you could see the Pacific Ocean on one side, the small town of Akaroa on the other, and tiny little kayakers in the inlet between.

We completed that supposedly 40 minute hike in a couple of hours, then retired to our clubhouse village for a well-needed shower. We made a trek back down the treacherous road to Akaroa and got some amazing fish and chips on the water-front for supper and headed back to get a good nights sleep.
To be continued...