Punting on the river

Re-Visiting Christchurch before the Earthquake

They thought they were safe. Although New Zealand sits atop the “Ring of Fire,” where the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates join, there were no known fault lines where 25,000 people lived for 160 or more years, building beautiful churches, universities and homes. One day, in 2010, that changed forever.


Christchurch, located on the south island of New Zealand, has excellent walking or cycling trails due to its plain-like nature and compact size. The shallow and immaculately clean River Avon runs gently through the city’s centre, and not only boasts trout and salmon in its waters, but is flanked by easy, level, walking trails. The age old Alder, Oak and Birch trees, lining these paths, give the city a distinctive English atmosphere, particularly if you visit during winter.

The tranquillity and reminders of English village living are everywhere and I thought Christchurch a cosy place to make a home, that is, until two weeks after my visit in 2010.


The first earthquake registering 7.1 hit the unsuspecting city of Christchurch on September, 4th 2010, causing widespread damage but no loss of life.

The second quake was felt barely six months later and with a magnitude of 6.3, of which the epicentre was a mere 10 kilometres south-east of Christchurch’s central business district.

Killing 185 people and injured several thousand, many of Christchurch’s unique buildings collapsed, water and gas mains burst causing flooding, roads were uplifted. Countless houses sustained damage, especially in the CBD, where we had stayed not long before. Continuing liquefaction issues have rendered many homes unliveable and unable to be sold.


Experts thought a new fault line had appeared in the areas immediately surrounding Christchurch, meaning the city was unlikely to be the same again.

Surprisingly, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, retail store owners in the commercial district quickly improvised, bringing in shipping containers so that they could continue operating, albeit in a limited way.

It is a vast change from Christchurch, the way it used to be, just two weeks prior to that day the first earthquake hit. Here are my memories of the way it was.

My Christchurch Memories

Cathedral Square – as it was

An earthquake was the furthest thing from our mind when we ate a delicious and ample breakfast at the Holiday on Avon motel, prior to boarding the hotel’s free city shuttle bus to Cathedral Square to do some sightseeing on our first day in this pretty city.

Our dining room at the hotel overlooked this lovely vista and a 15-minute stroll along the river took us to the City Square, the site of the iconic 170-year-old Christchurch Cathedral.

Cathedral Square – Christchurch City

The Christchurch Cathedral Square, a few weeks before the earthquake devastates the town. Some people here enjoying Chess, on a clean crisp winter’s day. We spent some time examinging the ornate tiling and interior of the Cathedral, itself.

A group of Maori buskers performed songs for us, with traditional Maori “Poi.” The performance, they freely admitted, was in its early stages.

A short distance away, we explored the Botanic Gardens – a location I always visit when I am travelling, in order to see the local botany and floral displays.

Botanic Gardens Christchurch

The Curator’s house at the Botanic Gardens, replete with herb garden, was tasked with supplying the herbs for the restaurant. Again, very English.

  • Punting in Christchurch
  • Christchurch
  • Christchurch
  • Punting on the river
  • River Avon

Transport in Christchurch

I guess the city was pleased it kept its city tram network, although I am unsure if this is still operating, as a tourist, ‘hop on hop off’ tram. Formerly, it stopped at the major sites surrounding Cathedral Square. For a small city, they really looked after their tourists.

Ornate iron fretwork on the bridge over the river captured my attention. I wonder if it is still intact?

Christchurch’s Heritage Architecture

Beautiful architecture was found in many corners of Christchurch.

A collection of 23 heritage bluestone buildings formed the Arts Centre and University. Housing many different artists and crafts from painting, ceramics, to older ladies spinning and knitting socks, the Arts Centre was evidence of multi-purposing these stately structures. Demonstrations were occurring daily whilst I was there.

Note: This area sustained much damage from the quake, so may look different today.

Day Trips from Christchurch

The Christchurch area of New Zealand can be a convenient hub for day trips to Akaroa, Mt Cook National Park and the TranszAlpine Train Trip to Greymouth.

The relatively small population of Christchurch has had support from the New Zealand Government in the slow process of rebuilding. That continues with further earthquake-proof structures, similar to those found in Wellington.

I feel lucky to see it in its original state.

monument 9 11 christchurch
Architecture, Travel

Christchurch Cathedral – Now Lost


The Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, was an impressive piece of religious architecture and a tourist draw-card for the small city. Sadly it’s now gone, due to two large earthquakes that occurred back in 2010 and 2011. I was lucky enough to visit just two weeks before the first earthquake.

History of Christchurch

For Christchurch to be declared a ‘city’, with all the privileges that entailed, it had to have a cathedral, so the pilgrims that sailed on the immigrant ships in 1850 and made Christchurch their home, built the cathedral in the historic style of the time. Clearly, they had faith that the city would develop.

The Church though a little damaged, remained intact after the first earthquake, in 2010, but the beautiful tower fell in the second event barely six months later. An earthquake-proof cathedral, presumably of a different design will be re-built on this site.

mosaic christchurch cathedral
Reproduction in mosaics on the floor of the Cathedral depicting one of four pilgrim ships that established Christchurch in 1850.

Early Pilgrims

Some insight into days on board the immigrant ships was provided:

Life on board was cramped. Steerage passengers were confined to a small space below the main deck. Single men slept in bunks. Married couples had a curtain for privacy. This space was used not only for sleeping, but also for storing everything needed for the voyage. There was a lack of fresh air, and dampness was a constant concern. Basic food was provided, such as salted meat, flour, rice, biscuits and potatoes. A bucket was supplied for washing and laundry.

Many suffered from seasickness. The worst, during the first two weeks, but for some, it continued for the whole voyage. Passengers passed the time at sea plotting the ship’s course, writing letters and diaries, sewing, playing cards and games, and dancing. Prayer meetings were held every morning and afternoon, and there was a full church service on Sundays. There were also school lessons for the children. Source: http://www.firstfourships.co.nz/

The Altar

Christchurch cathedral
Before the Quake….

Christchurch cathedral

A door like the Cathedral entry door could withstand any earthquake.

christchurch cathedral


Christchurch Cathedral’s Stained Glass Windows

Christchurch cathedral
Christchurch before the Quake….

Not able to withstand the quake were the stained glass windows and curiously patriotic cushions on the pews.

Christchurch before the Quake....


christchurch cathedral

The mosaic theme continued all along the wall and floor tiles. They loved these sorts of things in the mid 1800’s. Didn’t they? A real treasure.


Part of the design included a Swastika, a symbol that held a different meaning, prior to World War II.

The Swastika is known as the Fylfot and is an ancient symbol found in the ruins of Troy, Egypt, China, and India. In Sanskit, it means prosperity from the belief that it brings good luck. The Victorians loved the symbol and I have a Victorian hat pin that is a swastika. It gives me the creeps, but historically, that was not the intention.


Not sure what the relevance of this was for, other than what it says.

Christchurch before the Quake....
Christchurch cathedral

Here is what the cathedral looked like until recently – Reduced to rubble but the door remains intact.

Work was scheduled to begin in 2020, on the re-build.

Linking to Norm’s doors


Sunday Sayings – Courage

Christchurch has had more than its fair share of tragedy in recent years.


I could this week have written about hate crimes. I could this week have written about prejudice or racism, or vile acts of terror,such as we have seen close to home. There has been much of this already in the media, and to write more is to give voice to those who espouse these inhuman views.

Instead, this week, I chose to write about an opposing emotion of courage. It is those that show courage in the face of abhorrent adversity that we should acknowledge louder.

Christchurch has had its fair share of tragedy in recent times. Now the residents must show courage in the face of abhorrent adversity.
Pic credit: kassiisaac

We must generate courage equal to the size of the difficulties we face.

Dalai Lama

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”

– Mary Anne Radmacher

Our morbid interest in these dark events is biological in basis. We are programmed to pay attention to that which we perceive is the greatest threat to us.

This quote is worth remembering:

Perhaps strength doesn’t reside in never having been broken, but in the courage required to grow strong in the broken places.


I find there to be profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and I marvel at the way they are so succinct in communicating messages to the reader.

Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and from across cultures. They speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned.

Quotes, like proverbs, make us think more deeply about something.

Join in the discussion by leaving a comment.

Everyone’s opinion is important. What is yours?


Punting in New Zealand

A Time Warp to the Victorian Era – in Christchurch

The best way to see Hagley Park, the Botanic Gardens and the Avon river in Christchurch, New Zealand, is not on foot but by boat.

This is seriously one of THE most serene and relaxing things I’ve done. Punting at the Antigua sheds at Christchurch is something, like the city itself, very English. By way of contrast, the weather was anything but English; we were blessed with the most beautiful winter’s day – it was indeed quite cool but sunny and clear.

A Punt is a flat bottomed boat that does not have a keel. Typically, a punt is approximately 21 feet (6 metres) long and 3 feet (1 metre) wide. It should be propelled by means of a pole – about 16 foot (5 metres) long. The punt and consequently, the passengers sit very low in the water, although at no time do the passenger feel in any danger and I did not even get my feet or anything else wet.

Punting history

The abridged version is “To punt without losing your balance, getting wet, wetting your passengers, while keeping the trip smooth and making sure that the passengers enjoy the ride, is something requires expertise indeed. Punting originated as a means of fishing, dredging, carrying and transporting all kinds of materials.

In other words, the punt was originally a work boat. The punting style consisted of starting at the bow, where the operator dropped the pole to the bottom, leaned on it, and then ran after it, pushing the boat under his feet. It was a method that often left the novice clinging to their pole while the punt drifted away in solitary splendour. Pleasure punts were unknown prior to 1860 and found in Nelson and Christchurch and a couple of places in England.

A time warp would take me back to the days when men were gentlemen, women genteel, Bota hats, hats and gloves, but it was not necessary to build a time machine,as I simply took a Punt ride to Victorian splendour in the heart of Christchurch.

There are two Punting routes to choose from, one passing through the river as it goes through the main part of the city and the other, which is close to the hop on hop off point of the city trams, just a short stroll past the entrance to the museum and Botanic Gardens.

There you will find Antiqua Boat sheds, which is the starting point for the Gardens punts and Hagley Park. I only hope the historic Boat sheds, which appear to have changed little since early last century have not been ruined by the earthquakes.

We were also blessed to have the punt all to ourselves, not having to share with anyone else except Andrew, “Mr Gondolier” or should it be “Mr Punter”?!!!

Along the way, we all had to duck our heads as we went under a very low road bridge, and Andrew maintained the perfect balance whilst undergoing this manoeuvre.

Andrew, a University dropout with a flare for business, and a love of history and stories, has turned this tourist attraction into a successful part of his thriving business empire. He does not have to work, but does so he claims, “because he loves his job” and who wouldn’t: even in the rain, the guests are protected with blankets and large football umbrellas from the elements.

The ride through the Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park, a 50 acre green zone in the middle of the CBD which is never to be built on, the legacy of a pioneer settler, is a dream for those who appreciate and love nature. Also a wonderful area for environmental oxygen carbon dioxide exchange, a green zone in the metropolis, although Christchurch could hardly be called a metropolis. Just a nice sized city, really.

You also pass by the curators house and herb garden. The punts themselves are very comfortable and Andrew has blankets to keep you warm on cooler days.

Other creatures enjoying the Avon will be the endemic ducks, swans, and other aquatic life, the Daffodil garden which is really a lawn, as the daffodils are not mass planted but erupt from beneath the soil anywhere to the point that they mow a path through the daffodils in spring. They would be a bright point in the city’s current misery, as I feel sure that they would be in full bloom at this moment. (We were a few weeks early for the daffodils and the earthquake and for that I am truly grateful. (But right on time for the Lambing)
A few brave early plants showing their blossoms amongst the grass are seen here, before the mower gets to them…..

The daffodil garden shortly to be cropped by the mower….

No motor pervades this almost spiritual atmosphere, the water is shallow and clear, rocks form the bottom of the river, and the excellent and entertaining commentary given by Andrew, pertinent and interesting.
Near the end of the ride, you get a good view of the Curator’s house, and adjacent herb garden, seen on our approach to the Punting on the Park Attraction.

“Some days you are the statue, and some days the pigeon….” one of my favorite sayings, so I had to take a photo of one of the important people in Christchurch history…

punting in christchurch

This was definitely a day where I was the pigeon, on top of the world as I knew it then, and felt that in finding a new relaxing pastime, in a foreign city, discovered something new about myself. Surely that is something to ponder about….. even on a punt….


Transportation – Photo theme from “Where’s my backpack?”

Christchurc, New Zealand: methods of transport. Which I doubt is running anymore due to constant earthquakes and tremors which have devastated the city.
Christchurch, New Zealand: methods of transport.

City Circle Tram, Christchurch, New Zealand

Photo theme – Transportation

Quickly I found some photos to participate in this theme. They are all from New Zealand with the exception of the last photo. To see the orginator for this idea, visit:

 Ideas to post from http://wheresmybackpack.com/2012/12/14/travel-theme-transportation/

Both of the methods of transport,  in the above two photos, I doubt, are running anymore due to constant earthquakes and tremors which have devastated the city of Christchurch in 2010 and 2011. We visited the city less than 2 weeks prior to the first big earthquake that devastated the city centre.

The tram used to do a tourist circle around the city centre. The city centre is now a ghost town and the tracks buckled beyond use, I suspect. And no tourists to patronise the tram. The gondolas used to travel up the mountain at Lyttleton for a fantastic view of the area around Christchurch and the Port of Lyttleton. Lyttleton was the epicentre of the earthquake. No gondolas anymore, me thinks…..

But the punting business is up and running again I believe…. not the usual method of transportation, but rather nice and relaxing.

Punting on the Avon river
Punting on the Avon river

Some more photos from New Zealand – land of mud pools, quakes and fantastic scenery and nature.

Wellington, New Zealand. Cable Car….ala San Francisco

Arahura Ferry- Queen Charlotte sound  - New Zealand
Arahura Ferry- Queen Charlotte sound – New Zealand








My final photo is from 2011 on a bus tour through Europe. More mountainous country, but no earthquake danger this time.

Inside a coach, on tour through Switzerland and Europe








Oh! I forgot to add the weirdest form of transport that I have seen. It was on the streets of Copenhagen, Denmark.


How do you get around? Our dependence on transport is certainly something we ponder about a lot.


The taste of more to come – From Christchurch to Queenstown

New Zealand Tour 2010 continued/……
our shopping and tourist tour of Christchurch had come to an end. We had done the punt the gondola… been to Akaroa, done that….now it was time to move on…

Canterbury plains…. in the distance a taste of what was to come… Snow ice, mountains and alpine country. And the most spectacular scenery imaginable. We were lucky, they had just had weeks of heavy rain and a fresh dumping of snow several days before we arrived, so the weather was fresh, crisp and we were thermal equipped, coat and scarf wrapped and ready.

New Zealand is spookily similar to Iceland in many respects, both North and south Island but it was the alpine landscape that brought back such lucid memories of the land of “fire and ice” .
Yet another parallel to Iceland – New Zealand is one of only a few other countries on earth, (such as Alaska and Canada) to have the natural feature described as ‘braided rivers’ present in the landscape, as seen in pictures below. These rivers vary greatly in their width and depth according to the snow melt from the mountains behind. Prior to the melt, and spring thaw, the rivers are thin, windy, split by beds of shingle stones. Similar to a braided hair plait on a young girl, wispy, fine and running left and right of the river bed. In fully flood, it is a different story… wild and full, the shingle beds are hidden from view.

More information on these rivers can be found here:

The bridge over this “braided river” is over 1.6 kilometres long! The longest in New Zealand

This area is naturally dry until the rainy season and the spring thaw…. but now the fields are lush and green year round, thanks to an extremely intensive irrigation system that ensures that dairy cattle can graze on this lush grass, any day of the year.

In turn, this has resulted in an ever expanding dairying industry, now New Zealand’s biggest export. Not content with imported broad range products, China has commissioned a plant to be built especially dedicated to producing bottle formula for babies in China and it is to be built on the Canterbury plains.

A bus was to take us through the area, on our 11 hour journey to Queenstown. Whilst most of our fellow passengers slept peacefully with their Japanese-English earpiece translators tucked into their ears,

I listened intently to the commentary by the Kiwi bus driver with eager ears and prepared my camera for some heavy duty action… because this was only the curtain raiser to the main event to come…. and that is really something to ponder about.. the mountains get higher, the sky gets darker and the snow gets lower…
But where do we stop for lunch… a nice cafe at a lookout spot, where one can test the limits of the battery life of one’s camera on the beautiful backdrop of snow covered peaks???? No, in a dismal valley town with no discernible views save for that which includes Subway fast food restaurant ( which may I say is a gross over use of the word restaurant, although I do like the food), and the local service station.

A place called Geraldine!

Clearly the bus company has a contract with this lunch cafe come souvenir shop to bring their passengers here in the hope of stimulating the economy of this small town, but oh despairing I was that there was no vistas to be had of snowy peaks anyway! Not even if I craned my neck in all directions!!! There was a memorial garden to someone whom left no big impression on me, as I can’t remember his name, but it did have some interesting flora within.
I guess the only other claim to fame was the fact that the town has the same name as my sister in law….
not something to ponder much about at all…..

Next: On To Tekapo one of the prettiest places in the world….


To Akaroa…. a hidden diamond

Fortunate as we were, to have good Kiwi friends in Christchurch, we were offered a guided drive to Akaroa. What did this entail? Akaroa is a settlement about one hour’s drive from Christchurch, on the stunning Banks peninsula, and as we discovered, decidedly French in origin.

To get there, one passes through the Lyttleton tunnel and harbour, taking if you can the scenic route via Cass and Governor’s bay (where glorious views are matched with glorious houses perched on precipitous slopes). We were heading all the way around the peninsula to the other side of the mountains in this photograph. There is a hotel on the top of the mountain in the below photograph, where I believe the coffee is very good…..

Several photo stops were necessary along the way! Each one surpassing the last for quality of nature and pure aesthetic beauty. In a car, it will take you a little over an hour, to traverse the windy hairpin bends and curves to Akaroa, but the time is not felt heavily, as there is so much to enthrall the visitor outside the window.

And then finally we reach Akaroa. Stunning isn’t it?

Akaroa is the South Island form of Whangaroa and the generally accepted meaning of both is the literal one, “long harbour”. And what a harbour it had, as you can see here, on a stunning sunny winter’s day.

Settled initially by the French, in the 1800’s, the soil in the area proved to be extremely fertile, which led to further immigrants arriving from France.

“Today, apart from a few French street names, there remains little to show Akaroa’s origin as a French settlement. It is a county town within the Canterbury Provincial District and has a population of 630.”

Read more here about the original French settlers who purchased land from the Maoris and the co-operation between French and English colonists in Akaroa, unheard of in the rest of the colonial world here:

Despite what the link above says, You CAN see, and almost smell the French influence here. You can taste it in the menus in the multitude of restaurants and coffee shops, and see it in the shutters and gables in the architecture. This place is wealthy, mind, with small cottages often running to 6 figure sums, so I could cherish no thoughts of one day “pulling up sticks” in Akaroa. I would have to be content to visit or an overnight stay.

Mind you, one does not feel the least bit out of place at the seafood cafe having a feed of fresh Akaroa cod and chips… it seems we were to have a few “Fush n chups” meals whilst in Kiwiland….all delicious!

Just imagine living here… with a view like…..

this at your front door.

The tide was out, when we arrived, but that certainly did not detract from the gob-smacking good views, and the sunshiny, crisp air made for a wonderful day.

Was it cold? nah! This was the sort of winter temperatures that everyone loves. One could see all the colours and contours in the mountains, and peace and tranquility and the good life, exuded from every compass point.

The consumers of our world are not forgotten in this antipodean outpost of the French empire. Quirky tins, souvenirs, the ubiquitous woollen skeins, fabulous fudge, swanky clothes, toys and books and homewares, could all be had for a tidy sum.

Hot tip: Try the fudge!If you are in Akaroa. You won’t regret it.

I succumbed to temptation. In addition, I discovered some elegant but ‘different’ salad servers with my name on them, (not literally), at the Fudge shop and decided this was to be my Akaroa souvenir. For hand crafted items, they were in fact, very reasonably priced. And I was sorely tempted by a pretty apron, being as I am, prone to buying aprons on holidays, but I managed to resist that little treasure.

Even the Ice cream had a French twist! Orgasmic indeed. What a marketing tool!

I really was so lucky to have good friends like this, to show me around as
this hidden gem would remain unknown to me otherwise.

And I really do appreciate their kind generosity to a visitor. Thank you so very much Jan and John for a wonderful introduction to the delights of the Banks peninsula and for sitting and waiting for an hour at the train station when the slightly confused railway official gave you the wrong arrival time for the Tranz scenic train. I doubt that I would have waited so long….

Community, Travel

Arts Centre and Lyttleton Gondola Before the Quake

Tribute to the Twin towers of the World Trade Centre 9/11 in Ch ch ch.

Christchurch has an interesting monument to September 11, so will the Big Apple reciprocate?

Who do you call in Christchurch? Quake busters!!! Sorry bad pun there, but the old fashioned phone box was functional at the time, and not so sure now, as this area is badly hit….

Tram stop outside Arts Centre…†

Whilst waiting for our lovely old tram… we checked out some local architectural gems….like this….

We visited the Arts centre and spotted some awesome craft for sale. No I didn’t buy anything.

The style of the College was based on the Oxbridge model of academic buildings surrounding cloistered quadrangle and is such a wonderful example of bluestone gothic revival architecture… and I am afraid that parts are damaged in the recent 7.1 magnitude earthquake…. but hopefully it will be restored to its former glory as seen in these photographs.

Little wonder that a TV commercial was being filmed there… .what a wonderful backdrop!

The majority of Arts Centre buildings are brick with an outer stone facing. The grey volcanic basalt rocks were sourced from Banks Peninsula, although the quarries have long since closed. With the assistance of convict labour and wooden scaffolding, rocks were shaped with hand tools and mortared into position.

The cream-white coloured stone around the windows is Oamaru limestone which is easy to carve to great ornamental effect. However, these qualities also make it susceptible to airbourne pollution, and often a dark crust builds up causing rapid deterioration.

With an on-site stonemason and a summer programme of mist cleaning, the stonework to all buildings is being progressively repaired and reinstated to international best practice, ensuring the buildings survive for future generations to enjoy.

Earthquake status reports that the Arts centre has re – opened to the general public except that some areas like the Great Hall, clock tower, and observatory remain off limits due to damage. The great Hall and is off limits due to earthquake damage…

But back to the pre earthquake days in Christchurch….

What could top our “Punting on the Avon River,” experience? Kotane and a kiwi experience perhaps… or

a magnificient 360 degree view…. from snowy mountains that look like white cake icing to the Pacific coast and the harbour at Lyttleton ( which has dropped substantially due to quake damage…)

The iconic Gondola is a must do in Christchurch. A must do for tourists.
And if you go there and back within 2 hours, the bus ride back (about 20 minutes to the city centre) is free.

Catching that #28 bus from the city to Lyttleton, was easy, and after a compulsory photo opportunity form the Gondola staff, and a short queue ( as it was not school holidays), we hopped aboard the Gondola and gradually silently went up and up and up

…. to the summit. And the view…….. see for yourself.

Lyttleton harbour from the Gondola summit.

I wonder if the Gondola is still operating?

That is Something I’ll just Ponder About


Tranz Scenic Train Journey : Picton to Christchurch

Approaching Picton harbour.

Note the colour of the water – gorgeous!

Well, Picton appeared to be a nice spot and a good launching point for exploration on foot and by boat perhaps on the Queen Charlotte Track or Marlborough Sound. But that has to be kept for any time in the future, if I can ever get my husband to go back to New Zealand.

We noticed Picton even had a Subway restaurant. Sadly for our stomachs, we didn’t have time to buy one, but others who must have scooted off the boat did. GRRR!

And so we started the Tranz Scenic journey. For the first hour, the train had 12 wheels ( or however many wheels buses have???) I guess we saw a little of the countryside but for the most part, the bus followed the train line. At Blenheim, we were required to change back to the train. Blenheim itself was quite a rural village with small wooden farmhouses not dissimilar to many parts of rural Australia. I noted the presence of a large vineyard and could just recall seeing some New Zealand wines that had a connection to the town of Blenheim.
The engine that would take us to Christchurch.

The train was very comfortable and not at all crowded so we could spread out. I appreciated this as I could take the opportunity of looking out the opposite window and taking a photo without disturbing fellow passengers.

There was a small canteen on the train offering microwaved hot meals, snacks and pancakes! And refreshments, of course. I didn’t take up the offer of an instant coffee…..

At the rear of the train was a viewing car, with open sides from the waist up ( bar to hold you in, of course) and quite a few passengers with very expensive cameras hung out here waiting to get a good shot. Unfortunately we were up the very top part of the train, so it was quite a walk to get to the other end, through the inevitable series of doors when moving between each carriage.
Looking out from the Viewing Car…

The Tranz Scenic line passes through 175 bridges and 21 tunnels on its way from Picton to Christchurch. It takes about 5- 5.5 hours and passes through some spectacular coastal scenery with the backdrop, the snowy peaks of the Southern alps, which are the spine running down the length of the South Island of New Zealand.

Seriously though, this is one of the great train journeys of the world and the road… well it rivals the Great Ocean Road from Geelong to Port Fairy in Victoria, Australia for sheer awesomeness. (if that’s a word!)

There was even a small version of the Twelve apostles to be spotted along the way. And Barney’s rock… a large rocky outcrop about 200 metres offshore. It was told that Barney’s wife would be so frightened of her husband, (aka Barney) returning home drunk after a night at the pub, that she would row out to the rocky outcrop and sit it out there until he sobered up and yet the rock is so named after the abuser, not the abused – there is justice for you.

Just about

to go through a tunnel…

Along the way, the New Zealand rail Conductor, provided us with some information over the public address system, on points of interest and trivia, as we passed by. For example, in Seddon, a very small town where we made an extremely short stop, he recounted the story of the pioneer to whom the town derives its name. Apparently, he was instrumental in the early days of the national government including, in the Conductor’s words (and you have to say this with a kiwi accent for full effect), ” giving Chicks the right to vote”. This caused some mirth amongst the young girls sitting in front of us!

The Salt ponds are located just past the Tranz Scenic’s Dashwood pass, are the source of the Nation’s salt. Saltwater is let in once or twice a year at Lake Grassmere, and slowly evaporates until they can harvest the salt and start again. However only 4% of the salt produced here makes it to the kitchen table. The remainder is used for industrial use, especially for cleaning metal? The red colour of the salt ponds is a naturally occurring algae form similar to that found in areas of high salt content, such as the Red Sea, which obviously is where the Red sea gets it name!! The conductor was a walking wikipedia.

Some of the tracks hugged the coastline so precipitously that the southerly gale blew waves over the track itself, splashing over the undercarriage of the train.

Nearly got us.

Apparently we were told that the train line to Lower Hutt in Wellington also would often be closed if the waters from the harbour ( along which it ran) splashed over the line, resulting in a loss of traction on the rails. Some trains were even marooned midway between stations if the weather suddenly turned bad… good excuse for being late to work, I guess?!!

Huge trees were seen along the way, swept in on the shore as driftwood. I guess it is great if you want to have a campfire on the beach…..or has that been banned over here too. Those darn WH&S laws!!!

Imagine being in this little caravan or boat house shown below in the big swells. The little caravan to the right in the picture is a Fish and chips shop or Fush and chups…( said with a kiwi accent) and it was called Nin’s Bin. Nin obviously has a liking for being on the beach, as this establishment only just stops short of being over the water itself….

Nin’s Bin

Kaikoura station….Such a nice place for a photo stop.

Why? Because when you turn around you see this.

Formidable accomplishments in engineering no doubt featured strongly in the construction of this track, but I found the most inspiring sights to be, of course, the mountains draped in snow.

And of Kaikoura, itself, well what can I say? They have the ocean on one side and this amazing view out their back window… nothing short of awe-inspiring.
the other view from Kaikoura station.

But, now we were getting very close to Christchurch when night closed in.

No more photos… 😥