We are now back on the North Island, about half way up on the west side at Waitomo. Tomorrow we will be going down the caves in the area which are famous for their populations of glowworms which are unique to New Zealand, so we will report on that with our next blog.
Sorry that the last message was so short . We just wanted to let everybody know that we were safe after the earthquake.Neither of us has every experienced anything like that(hope never to again).
Itwas kind of unreal in a way. We had arrived at the Christchurch campground the morning before. It was a beautiful sunny day. The attendant at the campground told us the weather was to remain sunny the rest of that day, but was to turn cloudy and possibly rain the next day. He suggested that based on that we might want to do the outdoor stuff the first day, and do the indoor stuff the following day.
We took his advice and did all the downtown Christchurch stuff the first day, including visiting the cathedral and walking all around the downtown core(all the areas which would be destroyed the following day).
The day of the quake we were about 5km west of the downtown core visiting the Antarctic discovery centre. We were sitting watching a movie in there when the quake hit. We immediately knew that it had been an earthquake, but we had no personal point of reference to realize how bad it was. A staff member kind of nonchalantlywandered in and asked if everyone was OK. We said yes, and asked if it was a serious quake. He confirmed it was, but did not seem concerned. We carried on visiting the centre. About an hour later there was an aftershock which to us, seemed stronger than the first shake. We decided then to have lunch in the campervan which we had parked outside. As we were going to the campervan we saw lots of people walking down the road from the airport terminal which was just across from us. When we put the radio on in the campervan the first reports of the destruction of the city centre were coming in and they were confirming that buildings were down and lives lost.
Realizing how serious things were we decided to bring the laptop into the centre cafeteria where there was wifi and send out a quick e- mail confirming we were OK. We had just started to type the e mail when the second aftershock hit. Again it seemed stronger to us than the first shake and the first aftershock. This time people were screaming, children crying and people were running from the building . Staff evacuated everybody, this time with real urgency.
We decided that we would not go back to the campground we were booked into in the city. Westarted driving out of town heading north and listening to the radio as we went. Initially the traffic was stop and go but it eventually thinned out. Many of the gas stations coming out were closed (no power) .By the time we found an open gas station we were about 70 km north of the city, and they would only accept cash as all the card terminals were out, luckily we had some cash with us. We sent our last blog from the nearby campground.
We were reallygrateful, and very touched (the nice kind of touched) by all the messages of concern we got from so many people in response to our blog.
The aftermath of the quake is, naturally the dominating news here. We were disappointed over the next several days when news was coming out detailing all the countries which were sending aid, the list became longer and longer but Canada was never mentioned! Does anyone know if Canada has officially sent aid? Don't we have a rapid response specialist medical emergency unit of the armed forces set up just for this type of thing?
Anyway,yesterdayit was one week since the quake hit. The government called for 2 minutes of silence at 12.51 p.m, the exact time the quake hit. We and many others stopped at the side of the road to observe the silence.
Enough of the sad stuff.The next place of importance we stopped as we travelled north on the south Island was Kaikoura. It is famous for the amount of ocean life which hangs about offshore ( I guess it would be more famous if the ocean life hung about on shore). We went out on a boat to swim with wild dolphins. After about 20 minutes on the boat we came across the pod of dusky dolphins, approximately 400 of them! We swam with them several times as we reboarded the boat when the pod moved on. It was an incredible experience, with the dolphins seemingly as interested in us as we were in them. Dolphins were all around us swimming up to us and jumping around us. It was a once in a lifetime experience!
The next day we travelled north to Blenheim where we visited a really good museum that displays aircraft and related exhibits from the first World War. All the exhibits are the personal collection of Peter Jackson (the director of Lord of the Rings). We also spent some time wine tasting as this Marlborough region is famous for its good quality Sauvignon Blanc wines.
On the following day we took the ferry back over to the North Island. We spent the next three nights staying with Elinor's cousin Christine and her husband Arthur. They were great hosts! We got to meet their family and to eat Paua fritters! And Barbecued Blue cod fillets all caught/collected by Arthur while fishing.They really made us feel at home and relaxed.
Yesterday we stayed at New Plymouth, and as I said earlier we are now at Waitomo.
Phew! Running off at the mouth a bit, so will end now. Once again, thanks for all your responses and expressions of concern .
Bye for now
Malcolm and Elinor