A two minutes silence took place today across New Zealand at 12.51 – exactly one week after the quake
struck the death toll is heading for 240. We arrived at our final campsite for this holiday in Hanmer Springs in time to participate in the two minutes silence. There are quite a number of people here who have left Christchurch because of the quake and the local school population has soared as a consequence.
The road to Hanmer Springs passes through an area called “The Alpine Triangle” (New Zealand does like to ensure that every area has a tourist name and almost every road is on a trail). As usual, the very windy and up and down route goes through a spectacular range of mountains and fields and valleys and gorges and all of the scenic things which New Zealand does best.
Autumn yellows are beginning to become appear in this area and some leaves have even fallen off some of the trees – perhaps good that we are going home tomorrow at the start of Autumn and arrive (theoretically) into the start of an English spring.
We have to navigate our way through sheep herding and
also deer herding – they had to construct a corridor for the deer to cross the road because they are far more nervy than sheep.
bridge over a high gorge leading to a nice valley
The bridge is however one of the numerous Bungy Jumping spots in New Zealand and we watch someone throw themselves over
the edge and finally be hauled in by a boat in the river below.
As Hanmer Falls is our last night in New Zealand, we celebrate by eating out, a rare thing on this holiday since we have been far more self sufficient in this van than previously.
On our final morning, it is raining cats and dogs which is a bit of a pity because we hoped the rain would hold off until we had got to Christchurch. So the final dump etc takes place in the pouring rain, but true to form for New Zealand, the weather rapidly picks up and within 30 minutes of leaving, we are in the sun with rainbows and it remains hot
but very windy for the rest of the day.
The earthquake is never far from our minds and as we approach the airport near to which we have to return Eppy, we see signs of earthquake damage. Initially, it is the odd wall fallen down or a bit of damage, but close to the airport, there are numerous buildings which have been reduced to large piles of rubble and churches in particular seem to have been hit. Particularly poignant is one church which has lost its spire and bell tower – the spire is standing perfectly upright almost as if it had been placed there and the tower has been reduced to rubble. It is not a moment for a photograph. We can also see large dust clouds over the city blown into the air by the very windy day.
This may just be a sign at the Wilderness office welcoming us back but it is also an indication of the effects of the earthquake
There is no water in this part of Christchurch and hence the old names on the board are rubbed out rather than washed out and vans go out with the water in the tanks which they have when they come in.
Eppy handed over (she goes out again tomorrow), we
head for the airport for a long wait. Originally we had planned to sightsee, then we had thought of going to the Antarctic Centre near the airport but none of these are possible so it is a long wait for our flight to Auckland at the airport.
The airport is showing some signs of damage with ceilings down in places, the odd cracked beam and cracked plaster and the staff
here seem very concerned that we might be leaving because of the quake – a number of times we have been asked to come back in about 6 months when everything will be sorted out. I think however it will take more than 6 months to get Christchurch back onto its feet and functioning properly again. As we take off for the short flight to Auckland, you can see the darkness of the CBD area out of the window, contrasting with lights in other areas.