Leaving Christchurch

On the 11th of August, Femke and myself finally left Christchurch. After 4 months of work (thanks to Christchurch City Council, Mandalay and Soul Solutions) we were prepared for part 2 of our Great Kiwi Adventure.

Since we were at Mt Hutt the day before, we had to frantically pack that evening we came back. On the 11th, we packed Magnum, did a thorough clean, sorted out the paperwork with the real estate and headed off by early afternoon. I was afraid we missed something but it was happily a smooth process.

Below are some photos of the studio apartment where we lived. It will give you an idea of how compact we had to live for four months and where I spent most of my time. These photos were taken before we packed up, so it’s a clear indication of what it was like. If you look at the photos in order it will be like a pan around the entire room.

The kitchenette The sink

The cupboard The TV and the laptop (matts work)

The window The bed

The kitchenette was where I had to make either toast or sandwiches each day. I ended up having to make then on top of the microwave as there was no other space. I didn’t mind so much as that height was ideal for me. There was a proper kitchen downstairs that was shared by all unit tenants. (5 rooms in each unit). Luckily we didn’t have many heavy cookers in our unit and did not have any kitchen usage clashes.

The laptop was about 1.5 metres from the bed. It is by far the shortest travel distance I had had between home and work in my life!

The TV was woefully small. I didn’t have my wireless head phone system so when we rented DVDs we had to ensure they had subtitles on them. We then had to squint to read them from the bed as the TV just made everything so small! I missed my 116cm widescreen 🙁

The small white heater next to the bed was very good! Very quiet and effective at heating the room during the very cold days!

The room looks very clean and it is (thanks mainly to Fem), but every cupboard and nook and cranny (yes even under the bed) was stuffed full of our stuff. It was hard to believe how much of our stuff we were about to fit into the room.

Now switching to outside.

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We were on the top floor of the middle apartment shown above. But on the other side of the building (which I can’t get access to). There are about 40 units with 5 studio rooms in each unit. We were in a quiet corner of the complex and had relatively quiet neighbours for which we were extremely grateful. We have heard some horror stories from other tenants and have seen some rather unsavoury characters at times.

Overall I enjoyed our time there and had mixed feelings about leaving.

Our first stop on part 2 of the Great Kiwi Adventure was small town called Kaikoura about 2 hours drive north…

Mt Hutt

As a lot of people know, it was one of my desires during my time in New Zealand to get a chance to play in snow. Believe it or not, I have never done this before. Despite two previous New Zealand holidays and seeing snow on a lot of mountains, actually getting out amongst the thick of it never eventuated.

Despite spending four months in Christchurch during winter, (Surely I will be in snow now!) the best I have been able to do is some frost in Christchurch city itself which was all melted within an hour or two. It was only a thin layer and did not really qualify as proper “snow”.

On various trips inland to the mountains to Arthur’s Pass and Hanmer Springs, there was also no snow where we were. It turns out we missed a blizzard at Arthur’s Pass by 2 days! We also wanted to go up nearby Mt Hutt as that is a great ski field. But either lack of funds or bad weather put an end to any planned trips on the few free weekends we had. As the end loomed I began to wonder if I would get to see any before we left.

So on the day (August 10th) before we leave, it was a beautiful day. The first nice day in a while as there had been a lot of storms and general drizzly weather around the south island for a few days. On a spur of the moment decision Fem and I decided to go to Mt Hutt. (Err.. shouldn’t we be packing?) We had made friends with Matt and Maddie (Fem’s co-worker) who also lived in the same Poulson St apartment complex as us, so we invited them along as well.

We headed up on the long drive and was glad to see so much snow on the mountain.

Snowy mountains Magnum with snow chains

Before we got to the top we also had to put snow chains onto Magnum. It took almost 40 minutes to do this as it was over 2 months since I bought them and could barely remember how to do it based on a single tutorial I got at that time. But with the other Matt’s help we were on our way.

There was so much snow there! We drove past street signs with just the sign itself visible and the entire roughly 2 metres pole buried in snow.

When we got to the lodge, we had a quick bite and then we were off into the lifts.

Waiting in the line Mt Hutt ski lifts

The ride on the lift was very cold with the wind. All four of us did up our coats and put on gloves and generally shivered.

The views from the top were absolutely stunning. With the previous days of rain it has just cleared the vision in all directions. Everyone took in the view and then started taking lots of photos!

Matt and Maddie with a great view Matt and Femke with a great view

Matt and Femke at the top Matt, Maddie, Matt and Femke 

We stayed up there for just over an hour. I think we were the only four without skis. There were hundreds of other skiers taking the lift up to ski down. I felt like staying there for a week and learning how to ski!

Skiers at the top of Mt Hutt So much snow

We could see there has been a strong blizzard there the night before, and if you put your foot in fresh snow it tended to just go in and in!

Blizzard effects on a shed My foot deep in snow

Fem and I had a small snowball fight and I got my ‘historic’ shot with a big chunk of snow I just broke off a nearby wall. Now I have officially “played in snow!

Femke throwing a snowball at me Me with a chunk of snow

We then hurried home and packed like crazy!

I have saved the best for last. The panoramas! Enjoy!

View looking north at Mt Hutt

View looking West at Mt Hutt

Ski lift drop off at Mt Hutt

Looking East and down at Mt Hutt

Sunset at the Port Hills

On our last visit to the Port Hills as shown here, I knew I would get great shots from there at sunset.  As the weeks ticked by and our time in Christchurch was drawing to a close, I was starting to worry about if I would catch one. There was the usual delays of either work related or bad weather.

On the 6th of August we saw a great sunset looming, so both Fem and I jumped in the car after she finished work and headed back up to the hills.

I was able to get the following shots just near Castle Hill and was glad to see a stunning sunset at last!

Sunset from the Port Hills

It was extremely cold up in the hills and the wind chill made it even more uncomfortable! But seeing photos like this makes it worthwhile. (well I think so at least…)

Sunset 1 Sunset 2

There had been a lot of rain during the previous days, so the usual cloud of smog that covers Christchurch was gone. I was able to get a clear view of the city. After about an hour of taking photos and shivering we headed back to the city glad we were able to put a tick to this task.

Christchurch city

Hanmer Springs

For our one year anniversary on the 20th of July, we planned a weekend away at Hanmer Springs. This is a small town in the middle of the south island and is noted for it’s thermal springs and as a place to get away and unwind and relax.

We left on Friday afternoon right after Fem’s working day finished and got to the hotel 2 hours later.

We had a great dinner at one of the local restaurants. Unfortunately (talk about bad timing!) the following morning I caught a bad cold from a virus that was going around Christchurch. This resulted with me coughing a lot and having a bad throat ache. On the Saturday we looked around the town, Fem got a good back massage and played some mini-golf.  

On a trip back to our hotel I got a good view of the mountains and ended up with this Panorama. The area around Hanmer Springs was incredible. It was just a shame that there was no snow which would have made it really more enjoyable!

View from near our hotel

That night we went to the thermal spas to see what they were like. It was definitely an interesting experience! The air was so ice cold and the thermal pools were nice and warm. There was about 7 different pools of different shapes and sizes close together. Each of the pools had a different temperature ranging from 34 degrees up to 41 degrees. The place was totally packed but it was hard to know because of the extreme amount of steam billowing out from the pools. You literally could only see about 5 metres clearly in front of you!

On the cold night, of course the hottest pools were the most popular. Which was a bit of a same as the two hot ones were also rather small. So you basically had to squeeze in and sit close to other people and then try and enjoy the heat. Imagine being in a spa bath with 20 strangers and you get the idea. Not really relaxing and definitely not romantic.

After about 2 hours of basically just sitting in most of the different pools and with our skins all shrivelled up and wrinkly we decided to call it a night.  My cough got worse as the night progressed. (I don’t think the constant getting in and out of pools and being exposed to the cold night air was the best idea)

On Sunday it was really bad and the weather was not the best so we just wanted to go home.

Before we left the clouds parted momentarily and I saw snow on them and was able to get this panorama. There was not a lot of other pictures taken on the trip which should explain why this update is so light on shots!

Another view of the mountains

All in all it was just a pass. There was some good stuff and some bad stuff.

It would have been so much better if I did not get sick. I ended up being sick for the next 8-10 days and had to go on anti-biotics.

Ah well.

Port Hills

On the 13th of July after 2 weekends of cold and rain we finally had a clear day. We decided to make the most of it and headed off to the Port Hills just south of Christchurch.

Sign of the Kiwi Cafe Radio tower on top

We ended up at this cafe called the Sign of the Kiwi where were had lunch and then decided to go for a walk around the nearly mountain that had the massive radio tower on it.
We both discovered how unfit we were after puffing and panting out way up the side of the mountain for a good 30 minutes!

Me in the mountains Fem in the mountains

The views from the top were excellent though. Full stunning 360 degrees views all the way around!

View Panorama

View Panorama

View Panorama

One our way down, there was a single bird in the bushes who wanted to pose for my shots, so naturally I took advantage of the situation!

Show off Bird  Show off Bird

We had exposure issues with photos taken with the setting sun. It was that same old issue of if you get the blue in the sky the land is black, but if you get the land exposure right the sky is solid white. Using a technique called HDR I was able to get a combined view as shown by the two shots below.

HDR Image HDR Image