Sunday, October 24, 2010

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 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....

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