If we thought we knew little about Australia, it turns out we knew even less about New Zealand. Much like Australia, New Zealand is just so very far away; it is small, a little bit bigger than Britain and smaller than Newfoundland and Labrador. It has a small population and causes literally no trouble at all; so it is rarely in the news. Most people know that “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” was filmed here and as Canadians, we knew our girl Shania Twain moved here. However, according to New Zealand’s tourism information bureau, they brought us more than just “The Lord of the Rings” and the “Hobbit “. They are responsible for things such as – frozen meat, the tranquillizer gun, electric fences, stamp vending machines, wide-toothed sheep shearing combs (naturally), the electronic gas pump, bungy jumping and the new and possibly weirdest activity – Zorbing (basically humans running down hills in a clear hamster like wheel/ball).
Geographically, New Zealand is composed of two main islands, a North Island and South Island. It is full of mountains, glaciers, fiords, plaines, hills, subtropical forests, volcanic plateaus, and kilometre’s of coastal beaches. Approximately 20% of New Zealand is covered in National parks, forests and reserves….it is a stunning place. It is also a shaky place…New Zealand is part of the Ring of Fire – no I am not talking about the Johnny Cash song – it is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Pacific Ring of Fire runs along the edges for South America, up the coast to Alaska around to Asian and then all the way down to New Zealand. For its part, New Zealand sits on two tectonic plates – the Australian and the Pacific (in case you were curious there are 15 plates grinding around the surface of the earth). This means New Zealand can be a very unstable place….we experienced out first earthquake here!!.
New Zealand has a population of around 4.4 Million people….yes the population of the entire country is less than the population of the Greater Toronto Area. Of those 4.4 million people, 3/4 live in the North island with 1/3 of those people living in Auckland! That means there is a heck of a lot of space here! There are actually more sheep in New Zealand than people, there are around 40 – 50 million sheep – that means there are about 10 sheep to every 1 person, they are literally everywhere.
Our journey in New Zealand started on the South Island. We landed in Christchurch at 1 a.m, promptly picked up our rental car and headed to our “Holiday Park” which was conveniently located and what I can only assume was, the end of the airport runway. The next day we set off to explore Christchurch, as we headed into town, we were frustrated by the amount of roadwork and detours and shocked by the number of abandoned and what appeared to be derelict buildings. Then it came to us, one of the few pieces of news that we got about New Zealand; Christchurch was hit by a massive earthquake. What we were seeing was the aftermath and rebuilding of this. On September 10, 2010 Christchurch was hit by a 7.1 Magnitude earthquake and only 6 months later they were hit by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. needless to say there was a lot of damage to both roads and buildings.
From Christchurch we headed south to Queenstown and into the Southern Alps. It was an unbelievably beautiful drive….albeit it gets tedious…I am now convinced that there are no straight roads on the South Island….and for some odd reason….all of their bridges are designed for just one car. We decided to stay in a very quaint town right beside Queenstown called Arrowtown, which was an old Gold Mining town, it literally looked like it fell out of the old west. We quickly set up our tent and headed into Queenstown to book our Moutain Bike and White Water rafting adventure and to pick up our permits for the Routeburn Track. Check out our previous post to see more about these adventures!
Enjoy the pictures…!