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A Month In New Zealand
DK Travel pics visited New Zealand earlier this year and over the next few weeks will be posting a series of picture posts and top travel tips documenting all the places we visited, but in the meantime and to get things off to a flying start here are my first top travel tips for anyone planning a trip to one of the most beautiful places on earth. or, to quote Paul Henry, welcome to another day in Paradise. Who’s Paul Henry I hear you ask? More on that later.
First Stop Christchurch
Although I had, like everyone else, heard on the news about the tragic earthquake that hit Christchurch on February 22nd 2011 nothing quite prepares you for the sight of the devastation left behind, particularly if, like me, it’s the first time you have ever been to an earthquake hit place. Some 5 years on the pace of the rebuild is slow, with many factions apparently fighting over what to keep and what to lose along with slow fund releases by the insurances companies involved, further hampering the rebuild. In its place there is an evident strong resilience amongst local people to invent and overcome as witnessed by the fabulous cardboard cathedral erected as a replacement for the famous Christchurch cathedral, which is in a state of propped up ruin. The use of converted shipping containers is, to my mind, another fantastically creative innovation which has seen shops, restaurants and bars pop up, and in so doing help to revitalise city life. The Botanic gardens, located on the edge of town, provides a green oasis in which to while away sometime and is a must see. All in all despite the devastation wreaked by the earthquake no visit to New Zealand would be complete without at least a one day visit to Christchurch.
As if to emphasise the true resilience of the locals we heard reports of another reasonably big earthquake about a week after we had left Christchurch, occurring on a holiday and a warm sunny day many on their way to the beach for the day carried on regardless!
A forlorn spectacle hanging in the balance The Famous and Original Christchurch cathedral resembles something more akin to a disemboweled alien creature.
Symbols of destruction and renewal archway to Bridge of Remembrance. Currently undergoing reconstruction and closed to the public.
Tip 1 Vehicle rental
Whether you are planning on hiring a car or camper van it is essential to book your vehicle as early as possible as there is a limited number to go round, the later you leave it the narrower the choice available. We toyed with the idea of a camper van but after speaking to many who had, and given that we planned on being on the road for 30 days, in the end we opted for car hire as this allowed for greater freedom and flexibility of accommodation choice. Many fellow travellers told us that in their experience a van was great fun for the first week but after that cabin fever tended to set in. All in all a camper van is really not necessary as New Zealand is very well set up for road travel with lots of motels and hotels to choose from in all locations. Bear in mind though that these can fill up quite rapidly in peak season, again forward planning is essential. I did my research using Booking.Com saving a shortlist for each place into my next trip folder and then booked a few days prior to arrival in each destination. We pretty much got the places that were first choices on our list except for Milford Sound area where we ended up in a pretty second rate motel. That’s not to say there was anything particularly wrong with it apart from being a little dated and overpriced in comparison to other places we had stayed at along the way.
Top Tip When arranging to hire a vehicle try you’re very best to secure a diesel car, or van, as diesel is half the price of petrol on both islands this will save a small fortune when you think about driving for a month.
The fabulous cardboard cathedral designed by the Japanese Architect Shigeru Ban. Originally constructed as a temporary replacement for the original Christchurch cathedral it has now become a renowned landmark in its own right.
Blue skies and sunshine through the tubed roof of the cardboard cathedral.
185 empty white chairs stand as a haunting testament and memorial to the death and destruction visited by the 2011 earthquake.
5 years on and the devastation of the earthquake is still evident in fallen buildings where time seems to have stood still.
Mural on end of stricken building.
New hope and the best signs of human ingenuity, here shipping containers have been re-imagined as shops, restaurants and bars creating a new social hub for this beleaguered city.
Entryway to the Botanic gardens
Sun behind the trees
Another glorious view in the Botanic Gardens Christchurch
Bird in trees
Took a drive a little ways outside Christchurch to this beautiful spot, Lyttelton Harbour. The weather balmy and warm, many locals come here to swim and relax.
Love the name of this place, Psyche Jetty
Dive-bombing, look closely and you will see the hunched up figure of guy mid way to water!
Stunning cloud formation beyond the boardwalk
The sun goes down Lyttelton Harbour.
We flew with Malaysian Airlines from London Heathrow to Kula Lumpur and on to Auckland New Zealand. Book direct with Malaysian Airlines click this link
Flights booked through STA Travel UK to book with STA click this link
Following an overnight break in Auckland we flew with Jetstar Auckland to Christchurch tickets booked in advance in the UK bookings click this link
We stayed in a brilliant motel (Hagley Park Motel) very reasonable price and owner Angus was very helpful when our car wouldn’t start. For bookings click here for Booking.com or here for direct bookings
Jucy Offices nationwide click here to book
A word of warning, be very careful when choosing a hire company as many offer rubbish customer service and some behave in a way that is downright criminal. We hired from Jucy. Probably the biggest and best known in New Zealand. The hire was not without issue. We picked up our first car on arrival in Christchurch and as it was late afternoon headed to our motel and parked up the car for the night only to discover next morning as we were due to leave it would not start. We then had to pay the AA to come out to start the vehicle, but this was reimbursed by Jucy when we discovered the car had an electrical fault. Although Jucy exchanged the car and refunded the breakdown fee and offered some compensation I would have been far happier to have not wasted valuable time when we should have been on the road and heading for Dunedin. In all we ended up with problems with 2 more cars, and whilst all were sorted to our eventual satisfaction by Jucy I would have been far happier had we been supplied with a reliable and well serviced car to begin.
Bet you’re still wondering about this Paul Henry guy? More in the next post coming soon trust me you wont want to miss either the post, or the lowdown on Paul Henry 🙂
Happy and safe travels.