…….The World Without Boundaries

Hello Christchurch !

Written By: jipp - Mar• 20•17

It would be our third (full) day in New Zealand, and we had so far covered Auckland all the way to Taupo before driving further south to Wellington the capital city. From Wellington we crossed the beautiful Cook Strait to Picton from where we drove over to Murchison to spend our first night on the South Island of New Zealand.

Murchison was great, but we had to move on. It was a long long way to our next destination – Christchurch. We bought two cups of take-away Cappuccino at one of the cafes in town and drank it with bread that we had bought from a supermarket back in Marlborough the day before.

Our first destination of the day was Maruia Falls. Located somewhere along the way from Murchison to Christchurch (much more towards Murchison of course), we had to do a little bit of hiking to the viewing point and further down the hill to see it more clearly from the river itself.

Maruia Falls was created by an earthquake back in 1929 so I’d still categorize it as natural and not man-made because its formation was a work of nature. Traces of massive earth shifting as a result of the earthquake were still very much visible and I sat there looking in awe at the long cliff along the river – as if the whole land was totally dislocated in a perfect straight line. I had never seen anything like that before.

We drove on towards Christchurch – across beautiful forest reserves where the trees had black trunks and branches, and across small towns and villages and of course the seemingly endless stretches of grassland. Every now and then we’d stop to take pictures or just take in the view. One of the first things that I noticed when I first landed in New Zealand was that – New Zealand was very yellow. It’s like the grass has all turned into golden yellow, probably because of the dry weather. But of course it has its own beauty and charms.

The hills were beginning to turn more dramatic as we dashed further towards the South. They were all blanketed in yellow grass which got me thinking if they were forest in the past or it had always been like how it is now since the beginning of time. If they were forests in the past, then I’d say New Zealand has probably undergone an unprecedented extensiveness of deforestation just like so many other countries in the world.

After a brief stop at Waipara Hills (a winery that allows wine tasting), we finally rolled into Christchurch, the biggest city in South Island. We checked in at a hotel called Jailhouse – which was a real jail before it was turned into one of the most iconic hostels in Christchurch. I liked it instantly, but my travel buddy Frankie was not quite fond of it. He always associates jailhouses with ghosts – for some reason – and he could not wait to get out of there. It was probably my very first time getting into a jailhouse – and it really is how I had imagined it was.

The hostel has long verandas on each floor and a shared indoor patio in the middle, probably the place where the prisoners used to do their daily assembly and be checked and counted by the prison guards.

It reminds me of the movie The Green Mile about a prisoner who had the ability to perform miracles on sick people but was eventually prosecuted for a crime he did not commit.

Having heard so much about Christchurch, I was quite surprised to see how different it was from what I had imagined. The city is still very much undergoing a major recovery from the 2011 earthquake. The whole city seems to be under restoration works with the roads were still being stitched and many of the buildings were still heavy with scaffolding and construction equipment.

People there seemed to be a little bit rough with a little bit of discipline issue when it comes to driving. I had almost bumped into another car which was stopped way beyond the stop line at a traffic light. And there was a lot of other reckless driving that we saw when we drove around Christchurch.

Christchurch Cathedral

We walked across the Hagley Park South, towards the iconic Christchurch cathedral. Too bad it was still undergoing major reconstruction and was still closed to public. We briefly entered the Botanical Garden which was beautiful but we did not have enough energy to cover the whole piece of garden. Instead, we walked on, aiming to look for something to eat before we passed out.

Christchurch that I found out was not really a place for the foodie. It was not easy to find a place to eat, or maybe we were in the wrong area of the city. We did however bump into a food festival dedicated to South East Asian cuisine (organized by Singapore Airlines, no less). We immediately walked towards The Philippines food stall, past the almost deserted Malaysian food stall.

The Filipino food stall was the only stall with a long queue of people, probably because it was the only stall that has aromatic smokes billowing out of its grill set. It was very inviting. We went ecstatic but not before we found out how expensive it was. I wanted to pull out, despite the long queuing that we already did, but my travel buddy pushed on so there we were, spending some NZD20 each, over a rice and some stupid barbequed pieces of meat.

Having swallowed those stupid pieces of meat almost in one go (they were very small anyway), we wheeled off towards Cashmere Hills where we could view the city from a high standing point. The road to the Cashmere Hills was very much of a zig zag and we had to be very careful while negotiating the sharp curbs, the narrow lanes and passing vehicles from the opposite direction. I was not really wowed by the view but I still found it relaxing to be up there and looked at the city that I had heard so much about.

The view from the Sugarloaf Scenic Reserve that we bumped into by accident was something to die for though. I took a little bit of hike along the crater rim walkway as it is called and let myself be blown away by the seaside view of Governors Bay. It really was breath-taking. We stayed there at the Cashmere Hills long enough to witness the beautiful sunset over Christchurch.

We returned to Jailhouse to do some cooking for dinner and I really liked the kitchen. It is quite huge and probably can accommodate at least a few people cooking all at the same time.

Governors Bay

I went to bed thinking about what was lying ahead for us. We would be driving from Christchurch to Queenstown the next day and this road would take us across some of the most beautiful landscapes in New Zealand. The names of all the world famous lakes such as Tekapo and Pukaki suddenly came into mind. Just the mere thought of them made me go so excited I almost could not sleep that night.


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NZ : Entering the South Island

Written By: jipp - Mar• 15•17

Taupo that I found out was more than just the lake. Taupo was our first stop after spending the day before driving from Auckland to the Hobbiton Movie Set. We started the day in Taupo by driving over to the Huka Falls. I wouldn’t say I was really amazed by the falls – but the fact that the water was so blue made me wonder if it really was natural or man-made (but of course it is natural). The sight of foamy blue waters galloping down against the black riverbanks was something that I would probably not see anywhere else but in Taupo. Huka Falls is said to contribute 18% of electricity in New Zealand so it is not all about the beauty but also very much significant to the livelihood of New Zealand people.

Huka Falls

From Huka Falls we drove back out to the main road and our curiosity led us to Craters of the Moon whose signboard we found by accident. After paying the entrance fee, we were led to a long wooden walkway that took us across beautiful bushes with steaming vents and bubbling craters here and there – except that I did not see any bubbles. May be because it was summer and all the craters were dry. I could hear the sound of boiling activities coming from beneath the soils though, and the sight of steams rising up from under there was just other-worldly. One of the locals who happened to be there told me how she once witnessed a guy slip and fall right into the boiling mud but that was before all the walk-board was built.

Craters of the Moon in Taupo

Pulling out from that little unplanned detour, we drove further south towards Wellington – the capital of New Zealand. That part of the road trip took us near to Tongariro National Park which is famous for its near-perfect cone-shaped volcano. This volcano was featured in LOTR too, as the Mount Doom or Mordor where Prodo has to bring the cursed ring to be destroyed before it falls into the hands of Saruman. Climbing up the mountain known as Tongariro Aphine Crossing is one of the great walks in New Zealand – together with Milford Track among others. I really wish I had at least another extra day so that I could do the day-climb. Unfortunately we had a tight schedule to keep up with so I had to spare it probably for another visit – if ever. Uhuks.

Mount of Doom

Well, after driving across plains of bushes and vast areas of planted alpines, we finally reached Wellington. It was not the best evening to be in Wellington though. It was so windy and cold so we had to brave through the unwelcoming weather to take a brisk stroll along the waterfront walk. Otherwise we would miss the only evening we had in Wellington. I was not particularly impressed by Wellington. It looked so empty and most of the shops closed early. The only place that was quite lively was Courtenay Street and that was all. After helping ourselves to a simple dinner at the Burger King’s there, we returned to our hostel and be prepared for one of the most anticipated parts of the whole journey – the inter-island ferry cruise across the Cook Strait.

Spending an evening at the waterfront of Wellington

We booked the inter-island ferry cruise through the same company that we rented our car from. It did not come cheap – thanks to the depreciation of Malaysian ringgit – but we really wanted to do it. Booking for a place and doing the crossing was much easier that I had thought. I paid the tickets for 2 persons and one car through Jucy Rentals without specifying the date and made a phone call to confirm the date and time later. They later sent me an email of date and time confirmation and a print-out of this email was all I needed to carry to the inter-islander ferry.

We took the one at 9am and moved from our hostel as early as 7am. It was a long quite of cars so it was safe to go early. We drove in, passed the print out to the officer at the gate (I think they only wanted the reference number) and he returned it later with a pair of boarding passes. The crew members were all there to arrange everything and we only needed to follow their instructions. It was an easy drive-in drive-out business. We didn’t even need to move our luggage out of the car.

After parking the car as instructed, we pulled up the hand-brake, walked out of the car and joined hundreds of others towards one of the biggest cabins that I had ever been to. It was more like a mini-shopping mall, complete with high-end restaurants, lounges, cafes and children’s play area. We picked a seat on the outer lounge so that we could see the view right from our seats. Unfortunately, the weather was not really on our side and the view was shrouded by thick clouds so there really was nothing much to see.

I briefly fell asleep but was woken up by a full-blast honk and jeez, the clouds had opened up, giving way to one of the most breath-taking sceneries that I had ever seen in my entire life! I could see the multi-layered hilly farms beyond the seashore with dots of goats grazing hungrily all over. Some of them were so near to the seaside cliffs for a moment I got worried and wondered if they’d ever slip and fall to the unforgiving ocean. It was so beautiful a sight I almost cried in excitement.

After 3 hours of cruising, the beautiful town of Picton finally came into sight. It looked so welcoming and so ready to usher us in to the South Island – which is known for its breath-taking places that make New Zealand one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Going out of the ferry was so easy I did not even have time to record it on camera. I could not believe that we were already driving on the South Island.

Under normal circumstances, we would have made our way to Christchurch using the coastal road on the East coast. Unfortunately it was still closed due to an earthquake so we had to use the alternative road via Murchison. The road took us across inland districts where some of the roads were still being repaired probably due to the sudden surge of traffic. We stopped to take in the beauty of Nelson Lakes – and it was there that I had my first encounter with the sandflies – probably New Zealand’s version of mosquitoes but much more ferocious and unforgiving in nature.

Nelson Lakes

We pushed further to the south, to a beautiful small town called Murchison where we would be spending the night. It was more like a village with a few rows of shops and a gas station, a chapel, a town hall and even a museum! Surrounded by beautiful farms and nestled in a beautiful valley, it really is so easy to fall in love with Murchison.

We stayed at a hotel called Lazy Cows Backpackers – which turned out to be one of my favorite accommodations in New Zealand. It has a little garden in the backyard, and it was there that I had my first encounter with an apple tree. I mean, seriously, I have been to several 4-season countries before but I had never encountered an apple tree. New Zealand apples have always been my favorite among all the apples available back in KL so seeing an apple tree in New Zealand certainly made me jump in excitement.

Lazy Cow Backpackers in Murchison

The room that we were placed in was partially underground but it was so cozy and comfortable and I was especially impressed by the toilet. The toilet itself sits on an elevated floor and it has a beautiful rack right on the side wall.

After spending quite a bit of money on food for the first few days in New Zealand, it was good to finally be able to do some cooking and saved a few bucks in Murchison.  Everything went well so far so we celebrated our little feast by opening a bottle of wine that we bought back in Auckland. We were hardly halfway through the journey but everything seemed to be quite so clear and real for us now.

Little by little the worries that plagued our heads before began to drift away and we were beginning to really enjoy the trip. There beginning is always the hardest part but we might be well over it now. We could not wait to explore further into this blessed country.

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