Our last day in Australia was a long one, as we got up at 5am so that Chris could drive us to Urunga to catch the train to Sydney. It was a good experience; comfortable, efficient train and helpful staff, travelling through lovely countryside. The changeover from Sydney Central to the airport was quick and easy, the airport was pretty empty, no queues, and by 7pm we were on the plane to Christchurch, where we arrived at around midnight, having lost 2 hours on the way.
Thursday morning was bright but much colder than NSW. We picked up our hire car, a bright red Ssong Yang, and drove into Christchurch to meet our friends Pete and Joan, with whom we had stayed three years ago. The city was really buzzing and now has a very positive feel: as Pete said, there are just as many high-viz jackets around now as there were three years ago, but now the workmen are rebuilding, whereas then they were still demolishing. Sadly we didn’t take any photos, but we both felt it will be a great city to live in.
We drove northwards from Christchurch, taking Highway 7 as Highway 1 is blocked because of the earthquake. So far we have not felt the earth move, though we are told that aftershocks are continuing, with one only a couple of days ago, measuring 6+. Hanmer Springs is a very pleasant little resort and our motel was very comfortable, just over the road from the hot springs. There was a little evidence of quake damage, with the old brick-built hospital being closed, and some of the hot pools not available. But the two of us enjoyed trying out several of the other pools, including the hot sulphur pool and some of the jet pools. We cooked our supper, indulging ourselves in steak, after our two healthy weeks with Chris and Jane.
The next day we had a pleasant drive through the mountains. In spite of warnings, there wasn’t much traffic; there was the odd landslip with the road partially closed, but we were lucky not to have been affected by the earthquake. Sadly it was quite rainy and with low cloud, so we couldn’t see all the countryside we passed through, but we did stop off at the Maruia Falls which, ironically, were created as a result of the 1929 Murchison earthquake which diverted the river. The falls are about 10 metres high, in a wide bowl. We were very pleased to see a Weka, a ground-living New Zealand bird, pottering about on the path in front of us.