Sunday 30 October 2016

New Zealand Adventures : 19. Last Road to Christchurch.....Quake City, International Antarctic Centre and Cultivating Christchurch

Kia Ora!

Greetings from New Zealand!

The sun is setting and my time is nearly up as the road before me is coming to an end. But I'm still alive and one last thing to say.

So, this is my last blog of Aotearoa from my final destination - New Zealand's second largest city, which has been world publicised for its taints of tragedy and infectious spirit of recovery .......Christchurch 

** I'd recorded this video before the major earthquake in Italy struck

The last road to Christchurch.....

After one month, I was emotionally and physically exhausted from the Dairy Farm, I had given it my best shot and having reaped everything I wanted out of the experience - I decided the time was right to move on......

So, armed with my good friend, the friend who's always been by my side the past 14 months across our many strange situations and exotic adventures (you know I'm talking about the backpack right?) we hit the highway one last time to hitch hike our way south to the big city....walking into the natural disaster zone of 'Quake City'. 


Reaching Christchurch, I checked into a hostel just on the outskirts of the CBD, sustaining myself on the standard backpacker SNAX crackers and happy to see a comfortable bed.

I came to Christchurch quite oblivious and ignorant to anything about New Zealand's second largest city, apart from global news of it suffering two horrendous earthquakes. I had learnt about the science and affects of an earthquake for sure, during my schooling and university degree in Geography.

But no videos or school text books was to prepare me for seeing first hand, the devastation to a city from the aftermath of a major earthquake.....

You see why they call Christchurch 'the city of cranes' as there's lots of them! Christchurch suffered two earthquakes in 2010 and the more aggressive one in 2011 where 90% of the city was destroyed. The city has been rebuilding itself gradually since then and not having as much funding or the population size as say the bigger capital cities of the world - their progress is at a frustrating glacial pace and there is evidence of constant construction work in every direction you look in.

The one advantage is there is plenty of construction work available and demand for specialist tradesman.

Alot of buildings in Christchurch have become abandoned, derelict or just condemned, unsafe to utilise so they just become a canvas for vandalism and defacement.

Reconstruction of the Gothic Age Arts Centre on Worcester Blvd.

Bridge of Remembrance over the River Avon that flows right through the centre of Christchurch to commemorate the sacrifice kiwi soldiers made fighting in the World Wars for New Zealand. On the other side of the river through the arch, used to be The Strip that hosted much of Christchurch's vibrant nightlife which came crumbling down in the earthquakes.

Christchurch is actually very much an English city with its town planning and architecture influenced by English cathedral towns and the types of trees and gardens planted closely resembles 'Mother England'.

But among the cracks of all the rubble and remains, the empty lots and abandoned buildings, good hearted individuals, trusts and creative arts organisations like Gap Filler and Life In Vacant Spaces have tried to spread some optimism and positive vibes to raise the spirits of heartbroken Christchurarians (I probably made that word up), You have to give them credit for at least trying with funky art installations or pop up projects to give the public some hope for their cities future, which is embraced with alot of enthusiasm.

'We got the sunshine' and 'I was knew you would come back'.....sounds like they could be songs?

Art installation of Giant Grass sofas and chairs with a giant chess board nearby.

The 'Dance O Mat' is quite a treat for the city, putting a $2 coin in to the washing machine - I guess connect your music up, hit play and boogie on the platform under the floodlights and loud speakers. The locals say Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles once had a wiggle and a boogie here during their visit to Christchurch.

Like so.....Charlie and Cam strutting their royal socks off...

Super duper fanfabulousious crazyzany coolioschoolio playground, built for the kids, designed by way could an adult design this playground this cool?

Quake City

The whole attraction to come to Christchurch was due to my geographic interest in the earthquake, you may think its insensitive, but the city are the first to acknowledge how fascinating it is with its very own museum with admission proceeds going to the rebuild trust fund, Win Win!

So I took a little looky to delve a bit deeper into this natural phenomenon that shocked the city, with real life footage and artefacts taken of the earthquake. 

Why do Earthquakes happen in Canterbury?

Ok, the science part or back to Geography class - goody! Why did Christchurch have not only one but two major earthquakes just 5 months apart?

Christchurch is a quake prone city as New Zealand sits astride the boundary between two of the Earth's great tectonic plates the Australian and Pacific plates. As they move together, they subject the New Zealand land mass to an enormous amount of force and pressure.

Earthquakes are usually measured in Magnitude

M1 - 3   WEAK 
4            LIGHT
5            MODERATE
6 - 7       SEVERE

Records show that once every 10 years, a magnitude seven (M7) earthquake is recorded somewhere in New Zealand. However, there are thousands of earthquakes every year in New Zealand but most are not felt because they are either small or very deep within the earth. Each year, there are about 150 - 200 quakes in New Zealand that are big enough to be felt.

Over some time, the rubbing of the two tectonic plates build up stress in the rocks under the Canterbury region (where Christchurch is) to the point where they become strained beyond their strength and suddenly break or rupture - recipe for an earthquake.

These breaks extending deep into the earth occur along planes of weakness called faults releasing the stored up energy. But not all the stress is released at once and may gradually be released over time as a series of aftershocks following the years of a major earthquake.

Photos of breaks on the the front garden of a Christchurch residency, running along a fault line.

Heart felt aid and support flooded in from all over New Zealand and overseas when the quake struck. Real uniforms of the Urban Search and Rescue teams who were brought in from all around the world mainly from Japan and the USA to help with the disaster zones.

The sign off the Pyne Gould Corporation headquarters which collapsed in the earthquake

A car door, spray painted 'Clear' by the Search and Rescue Teams and claimed by the museum.

Dog collars worn by the Search and Rescue Dogs that seeked out bodies in the remains.

Giant Bell and statue claimed from the remains of the Cathedral of The Blessed Sacrament, you can see the damage that was done in the photograph behind.

Do you know what to do in an Earthquake?

Alot of places around Christchurch, have 'During an Earthquake' emergency instruction which was very unusual for me to see coming from the UK.

Do you know what to do in an Earthquake? as I sure didn't!


* If you are INSIDE a building, move a few steps and then drop, cover and hold. 

* Stay away from windows 

* Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure its safe to exit - you are safer to stay where you are until the shaking stops

* Stay in bed and protect your head and neck with your arms

* When the shaking stops, move outside but expect aftershocks

* If you are OUTSIDE move a few steps away from buildings, trees, streetlights, power lines and drop cover and hold

Safe Places to go During an Earthquake.....this could be useful

* Somewhere close to you less then three metres away to avoid flying debris

* Under a strong table. Hold on to the table legs to keep it from moving away from you

* Next to a interior wall - away from windows that can shatter and cause injury and tall furniture that can fall on you, protecting your head and neck with your arms

In modern homes, doorways are no stronger than any other part of the structure and usually have doors that can swing out and injure you. 

Christchurch Rebuild Tour

The Christchurch Rebuild Tour allows you to accompany a local guide who survived the earthquake to show you their story of the disaster and take you through their new city on a red spunky bus, revealing new plans how Christchurch is picking itself up again (it really in my opinion, should be nick named the Phoenix City).

I felt as all proceeds are a donation to the rebuild trust, this would be the most authentic and community-touristic way of understanding and helping the affects of an Earthquake first hand, without the pleas of money from destitute locals in a more economically deprived country.

Christchurch first experienced a major earthquake on the 15th September 2010 at 4:35am when the epicentre struck an rural area called Darfield 40 km west of the city, the 40 second 7.1 Magnitude quake woke most people from their sleep with the city experiencing damage to the buildings. Because the earthquake had struck during the night, there were no fatalities but this couldn't have prepared them for what was in store for Christchurch 5 months later....... when a more central earthquake, reduced the city to ruins in another unexpected natural disaster.

Looks like a movie scene doesn't it? Well.....this photograph was taken shortly after the quake struck.

On 22nd February 2011, mid summer in New Zealand at 12:51pm, during the busy lunch hour for many of Christchurch's workers and shoppers, they got a nasty surprise. The epicentre of a colossal 6.3 Magnitude earthquake hit Port Hills, just 7km southeast of the CBD. The tremor was significantly so extreme, the peak ground acceleration exceeded 1.8, almost twice the acceleration of gravity, causing devastating affects on the unsuspecting city.

Check out the video...

See how quick it is? in just 24 seconds peoples lives were changed forever.

90% of Christchurch was destroyed with 50% of the roads system damaged and 185 fatalities across 20 nationalities were confirmed....

After the shaking had stopped, bridges were crumpled and many of the roads showed signs of liquefaction where water logged silt and sand was pushed to the surface from the violent tremors of the earthquake. 

Thousands of homes were destroyed in the residential suburbs. walls and verandas cascaded down the shopping and nightlife strip and multi storey buildings pancaked, reducing them all to dust.   

International Urban Search and Rescue teams were brought in from around the world to clear buildings and search for bodies. The city CBD was demarcated as a Red Zone where people were asked to evacuate their homes immediately by the New Zealand army, grabbing a bag full of possessions and leaving their pets behind if they couldn't find them. Anybody caught trespassing back into the Red Zone were arrested. Entire streets and neighbourhoods in the eastern suburbs had to be abandoned with inhabitants trudging through the thick heavy swampy roads of water pools and silt to safety.

Can you imagine that?, you're going about your day and then in less than a minute, you're ordered to grab whatever you can and leave everything you've spent your life working for behind....your own home itself is too dangerous to be in.,,,

We can't can we?

After a building was searched, the Search and Rescue teams spray painted doors with the date/time and how many people were found dead or alive inside.

You can see on the door here, Team USA had searched the Kaplan International College on the 27th February, 5 days after the 2011 quake - leaving their mark with a circle around it to show the building had been searched and was clear. Many dark reminders like this exist in the past shadow of Christchurch today, an eerie reminder of that fateful day.

As does this, yet more notably and obvious, Christchurch's heritage architecture is also irreversibly damaged  - the destruction of Christchurch's iconic Cathedral in Cathedral Square as it exists today. 

Pretty grim huh? but as I said in the video, its still standing with the help of supportive stilts and water filled freight containers, after protests by heritage advocates were carried out to preserve it and not have it demolished by new ideologists who saw new innovation and use for the space to raise a born-again city. You would see that the inside of the Cathedral is now a resting place for the entire population of pigeons in New Zealand (ok, maybe that's a bit dramatic) but there's a whole lot of pigeons cooing and flapping around up there. Its the only thing you can hear amidst the gloomy, spooky silence of the ancient church, the echoes in the shadows......shudder.  

Pre-Quake, Cathedral Square was Christchurch's historic hub, hosting outdoor concerts and festivals and the central gathering for New Years Eve celebrations and public speeches.

The Cathedral itself was built in 1881, here's a shadow of its former self in 1924.....

Quite a difference hey? Quite a shock at what its been reduced to now.

During the earthquake of 2011, the violent tremors brought down the Gothic church's 63m-high spire, leaving the bottom half of the tower in tact. Further debris fell during the aftershocks that followed, destroying its stained glass window but the body of the tough Cathedral has held its own against Mother Nature over the years. It now serves as quite the tourist attraction and memorial for well wishers to the people of Christchurch. 

In Christchurch Cathedral Square

From one church to the other, the innovative Transitional Cathedral universally known as 'The Cardboard Cathedral' was constructed with yes....98 cardboard tubes, as you can see on the inside of the roof.

How cool! how often do you see a church made out of cardboard?

It was designed by a Japanese 'disaster architect' and the entire building was built in just 11 months, serving as both the city's temporary Anglican Cathedral (after the fallen one of course) and a host to concert performances.     

'The White Chairs'

This art installation of 185 white chairs is in remembrance of the 185 people who lost their lives during the earthquake of 2011. This memorial site invites you to sit in a chair, which symbolises each life, overlooking the city streetlife and the site of the Canterbury Television Building (CTV) where there were 115 out of the 185 fatalities. At the time of the quake, the CTV Building also housed doctors, nurses and many international students learning English.

Many names of the deceased listed at the white chairs were of Asian descent. 

The tragic site where the CTV Building once stood. The empty blocks are an eerie sight, leaving much of the city centre looking like a ghost town or a giant car park.

Touching tributes from the people they left behind.

This memorial erected on the outskirts of the city, was a gift from the City of New York to the People of Christchurch to pay tribute and honour all firefighters who die or risk their lives in service to those in need. The twisted iron pieces anchored here on the River Avon, were taken from the remains of the second twin tower that collapsed in the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks.

Further on the outskirts of town, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament still stands having, and still having, felt the full brunt of the earthquake. My tour guide tells me that the hefty tonne bells and the sphere spires either side, were completely detached from the Cathedral and came crashing into the middle of the road, halting traffic and causing chaos as if were a setting of Gotham City and Batman was needing to be summoned. The building obviously now is condemned, but remote drones were flown inside to capture footage of the damage in the interior. Even today, pieces of the Cathedral are still falling off the battered building.

Hearing this made me realise how we are so at the mercy at the whims of nature and how colossal man made structures and ancient architecture just won't win the battle.

Holy Moly! during the earthquake, this statue of The Virgin Mary was reported to have spun around 360 degrees in the violent tremors and left looking pitifully out of the window, over the ruins of Christchurch City.....spooky hey....  

Five and a half years after the quake, Christchurch has suffered 15,000 aftershocks in counting (I'm sure I felt a couple during the night in my hostel) and families in some parts were still living in substandard accommodation, waiting for insurance claims to be settled. About 80% of the buildings within the city centre's four framed avenues have been or are due to be demolished and new structures are being erected using a new technique called 'Base Isolation'.

Base Isolation mmmm? The Parliament building in Wellington had this and its where a structure is built isolated from the ground, it rests on flexible bearings or pads known as 'base isolators' which will cause the building to move very little or not at all during the shakes of an earthquake.....interesting, bit of engineering knowledge for you all.      

The Christchurch Recovery Plan intends to shrink the city to 60% of what it was, creating a more compact, low-rise city centre with large green spaces along the River Avon.

This will cost New Zealand a whopping $70 billion NZ Dollars for the city plan to be completed. Unfortunately, the city only has $16 billion to work with since the earthquake, so the pace of the reconstruction of their city is frustratingly slow for the locals - but that's not bad for a little country like New Zealand!

Leaving on a positive note, another fine example of the city's initiative is the Re:START mall, a trendy shopping complex with shops, cafe's and outlets all housed in freight shipping containers since the shopping district was destroyed.......neat idea huh? A highlight of the new-age city that locals are very proud to tell me about.

Ok, so Geography class dismissed! but it made me think of how the resilient people of Christchurch have suffered so, and how they are trying so hard themselves, to gradually climb out of the rubble and breathe new life and hope into their beloved city again.

The Dark side of Christchurch - The Murder Trial of Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker

With two earthquakes and harrowing stories, you would think the reputation of Christchurch was dark enough!

But as I mentioned in the video, right where the epicentre of the 2011 earthquake hit, the spooky coincidence in the history of world crime tells us that 57 years earlier in Port Hills, just 7km away from the city centre was the site of one of New Zealand's most notorious and most shocking murders at the time.

In 1954, two teenage girls in Christchurch Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker, developed an intense infatuation with eachother and lived in a make-believe fantasy world where, when threatened to be separated, plotted the murder of Pauline's mother.

They were trialed and found guilty of pre-meditated murder at the Supreme Court here in Christchurch, on the grounds they were not insane and could not face the death penalty as they were too young.

Instead they were sent to different prisons and were never to see each other again,

Peter Jackson (You know the Lord of The Rings guy? you must remember) directed the 1994 film 'Heavenly Creatures' about the shocking murder that gripped quiet little New Zealand, starring a very young Kate Winslet. If you come across it, do check it out - its actually a very good film.    

Oh what sinful things the streets of Christchurch can reveal.....with such a holy name too....

International Antarctic Centre

Now the appeal of Christchurch isn't just the dark side of it, if you find a place boring you're simply not looking for other things. Because of New Zealand's geographical location on the earth, its one of the gateways to access the coldest, driest and windiest place on the the planet - Antarctica

A photographer once describing Antarctica as The Supermodel Continent - 'because she has lost a bit of weight lately (thanks to climate change), costs a lot to meet and when you photograph her, they reveal spectacular line and almost other-worldly beauty.....and when things get nasty, you don't want to be around as you certainly get the cold shoulder'. 

One of my life ambitions is to visit every continent on the planet. This is the only one missing, so what better way to get the closest I can to Antarctica, but to visit the International Antarctic Centre here in Christchurch, opened in 1990 by Sir Edmund Hilary himself 

The International Antarctic Centre not only is an education centre for tourists, school groups, communities and budding arctic adventurers; the multi complex is also the passenger terminal and base of the New Zealand, Italian and USA Antarctic programs which recruit individuals to fly to Antarctica to conduct station and scientific research.

Antarctica is the southern most continent and the site of the South Pole. Measuring 14 million km2, its huge ice-covered landmass is virtually inhabited and was once part of the super continent that connected all the worlds landmasses, Godwana (when the dinosaurs roamed) which broke away and drifted to the bottom of the earth away from the suns rays.   

The British of course have a deep history embedded in the ice crevices of Antartica. Ex-Navy officer Captain Robert Falcon Scott led two expeditions in the Antarctic region to the South Pole; The Discovery Expedition 1901-1904 where he discovered the Southern Plateau and the ill fated Terra Nova Expedition 1910-1913. Contrary to what alot of people think, Captain Scott was not the first man to reach the geographic South Pole, but Roald Amundsen a Norwegian Explorer in 1911, just five weeks earlier than Scott's British Party. Damn,

Reconstruction of Scott's Antarctic Base Camp

Unfortunately Scott's Party never returned from their second Terra Nova voyage to the South Pole, perishing 150 miles away from their base camp of exhaustion, starvation and extreme cold.

But the legacy of British South Pole explorers was sustained by one of Scott's Discovery Expedition team mates Ernest Shackleton who returned to Antarctica twice, leading his own expeditions on the ships 'Nimrod' in 1908 and 'Endurance' in 1914, where he planned to cross Antarctica via the South Pole. Endurance was his most well known expedition where the ship became trapped in ice and then sank 10 months later, forcing Shackleton's party to live on the floating ice and continue their expedition crossing the ocean in small boats and trekking across Elephant Island.     

Buckled up and flying to Antarctica.....well not really, this is what it would feel like though.

Wondering what this is? its a Hagglund, a two-united Antarctic vehicle still used today but was originally designed and developed for the Swedish Army. Its pretty much the 'multi purpose' vehicle, carrying up to 17 people and able to adjust and adapt to different terrains and conditions with all four tracks going at once - a tank and a boat all rolled into one...

Of course, I couldn't resist going for a rock and roll in one....

and yes, you do need to hold on!

Penguin Encounter 

The Antarctic Peninsula isolated terrain shelters rich wildlife, including Little Blue Penguins. At the AIC, all the 26 penguins were rescued, many you find on the peninsula east of Christchurch city, with some disabled with missing a wing or foot. Their physical disabilities makes them defenseless and highly unlikely to survive in the harshness of the wild.

The rare yellow breasted just a penguin who has rolled around in its own faeces, serves you right! won't be getting the girls will you now!

I decided to take the opportunity to go on a 'Penguin Encounter' to have more explained to me about them. Here are their little cubbies inside the wall holes which are heated and have their own resting mat - sometimes bringing other little penguins in with them

Communities of little penguins have their own dramas amongst eachother.....spats, romances, affairs, betrayal.....might as well have their own soap opera.....Penguin Street

Best close the hatch and give them some privacy....

Further in the back room where I could have a peek in the window of the quarantine and penguin husbandry program; I was taken to the Penguin rehabilitation unit, where the little penguins were learning how to be mobile on prosthetic feet.

Its pretty cute, the first stage of their rehab is wearing, what looks like to me, a mini stubbie holder with that wet suity material sown together to fit a little penguin foot.

Stage two is a 3D print out of a prosthetic foot, how cute is that!

Little dude will just have to be content with his stumpy holder

Penguin skeleton and egg....hopefully not to remind them of life and death :/

Penguin Jackpot! the stash of little fish donated by the fisheries to keep the little fella's happy and for the kids to see them at feeding time - smells pretty fishy though

A pickled baby penguin in a jar, standard box ticked of collectibles

With Mia the Husky

The International Antarctic Centre hosts 'Husky Rescue' of New Zealand where the huskies are re-homed from families that are unable to cope with their special requirements, training and temperaments. 

'Don't touch my dogs on the head, especially the ears or nose'
'Don't creep up on my dogs'
and 'Don't stare at my dogs in the eyes, because believe me they will win' say's the dogs owner militantly before you're allowed to pet them.....

Yes Sir. I suppose he has to have some boundaries to cover himself, and where there's huskies, there's boundaries.

Many people make the mistake of getting a husky because they are 'pretty' or 'status' dogs and their choice in pooches are naively influenced on TV shows and contemporary culture (i,e Game of Thrones, Twilight) to the point where the 'husky craze' wears off and the reality of looking after one sets in.....forcing people to have to give up their dogs because they simply can't control them.  

First and foremost, they are intelligent, working dogs that originated in North-Eastern Siberia, Russia and still continued to act as the main mode of transportation down in Antarctica with teams of them pulling sleds for the historic explorers right up until the late 1990's. Husky Rescue NZ participate in Husky Sledding competitions to keep the dogs active and utilising what is in their DNA, entertaining school children in holiday programmes at the centre.

Another great attraction at the AIC is the Snow Storm Room which allows you rug up in Arctic jackets and boots to explore the inside of an igloo, the 'one minute' test to see if you can withstand putting your hand in water of freezing ice for a minute or more, and a simulated snow blizzard with a wind chill of -18C to replicate life in Arctic conditions.    

Only this time, Oman the Husky came to join in the snow storm which is fascinating to see how these dogs relish in the stressful conditions of an arctic cold environment as if they'd been transported back into the spirit of their ancestors and their natural habitat.  

Not quite pampered Chihuahuas are they?

Husky fun in New Zealand's Antarctica

Still want to go to Antarctica? 

My time at the AIC fuelled my curiosity of the adventure of it even more, but what I can say is, with penguin and husky encounters, freezing cold water and a simulated snow blizzard all in one day......

Its the closest I've come to it yet. 

Cultivating Christchurch

So, having been digging deeper into the enigma of the Christchurch Earthquake and the shadow that stays overcast on the city - I was deeply moved by the suffering the people of Christchurch and New Zealand had endured and being possessed with a compulsive personality, I felt compelled to offer my visiting pair of hands up to service the city in the remaining time I had in New Zealand.

Asking around and making your intentions known to locals is a wonderful way to find yourself lead into adventures that other backpackers at the hostel sitting on their Iphones would never come across. I came to discover, there were plenty of organisations that are operating to rejuvenate Christchurch city since the 2011 earthquake with the help of volunteers - 'Habitat for Humanity', 'Life In Vacant Spaces', 'Gap Filler' but none could make use of my visit except for a small non-profit organisation who ran an urban farm in the city.

Cultivate Christchurch  is a productive urban farm which was cultivated from the site of an open car park post-earthquake. The foundation behind the program is to grow and harvest organic crops and encourage healthy growth in the community whilst giving work experience and therapy to dis-engaged youths to inspire them to live lives they value through urban agriculture.

Sounds pretty sweet....

Having done Wwoofing and other outdoor activities throughout my lifetime travelling the world, I was happy to lend my green fingers with harvesting morning, gathering fresh organic produce which were in season to be plucked.

Christchurch really is just a big village where most people know one another and the community spirit is extremely strong since post-earthquake. What the urban farm likes to do is donate their harvested produce to local cafe's and restaurants - so collecting the crops in crates, we weighed them to a certain kilo and anything surplus we took home! (and I can tell you nothing you'll find in any supermarket tastes as good as plucking it straight from Mother Earth). 

Friendly resident ducks on the farm....

'The Worm Bath' layers of cardboard and compost helps to create populations of worms, the juice they produce can be used for really great fertiliser for plants. Worms don't like sunlight, so they have to be covered up with sacs,

The urban farm also acts as a therapy programme for youths and people dis-connected with society as a means to give them valuable work experience and well being in an outdoor environment. This feels totally logical to me as if you were having therapy for trauma or social anxiety.

Why would you have stuffy over-the-desk therapy when it could be much more beneficial for your mental state to be out in the fresh air, hands on with nature and feeling the benefits of learning practical skills from a good day of physical labour working at one with the earth??   

Nature is the greatest healer.

Transplanting seedlings to their own pots - another therapeutic task on the farm 

I've discovered that I love doing hands-on practical tasks and was able to rekindle my pragmatic days from working on the yachts in Auckland and building the houses in Cambodia when I got the opportunity to help the farms support worker, Dylan, with the task of constructing wooden plant boxes from disused pallet crates.

All you need is a measuring tape, a saw and hammer and nails.....

The structures would be part of the farms 'shop garden' where they intended to plant and grow different crops such as coffee and herbs visible from the street side. But they all need the right conditions and foundation to grow, so the plant boxes were the first box ticked,

Dylan improvising, sledgehammering the corner of the boxes into the earth, with a piece of concrete..

Then its filling them with......donated horse manure......yes donated horse manure and sand. There are people in New Zealand who will give their horse manure away, fancy that. Mixed with sand, it makes a great fertiliser.

If you're the lazy type, an urban farm is not for you, there's no room for it on the project, many hands makes light work after all....and who needs a gym membership when you're busy shovelling horse's.....

Laying cardboard around the perimeter of the boxes helps with the bio-degradable organic processes and then more shovelling is done collecting woodchips to layer the cardboard.

AJ planting some of the new seedlings in their new plant boxes

Vespa the dog inspecting....

Then all was needed was a healthy sprinkling of worm juice and H2O and then let nature run its course

Dylan planting other plants in a newly turned bed

I only spent a few days on the urban farm project, but it gave me a unique connection to the people of Christchurch and doing something worthwhile to contribute to the cities recovery, however small it was in an organic calming environment. I also got to meet local New Zealanders whom I would never have met if I'd hadn't followed my own curiosity and found myself being the heroine of the week by finding a treasured wedding ring on a mass ring hunt on the farm! Damn, it feels good to give. 

I wanted to leave New Zealand on a positive note, a country that showed me many sides of life and human nature. But I feel in the time I had, I did the best I could with it and I leave wiser, hopefully more knowledgeable and with a great sense of achievement and fulfillment.

Of course, I didn't get to see and do EVERYTHING on the map but hey.....another time perhaps....:)

AJ - The organic psycho-therapist on the youth programme, a wonderful, kind man who you could talk to about anything! Everyone should have a garden therapist! 

But all experiences must come to an end....and now I must say Kia Ora to the Land of The Long White Cloud and make my way back to my own Hawaiki.

Thank You and Farewell New Zealand!

So this is the final page, I'm now hanging up my virtual pen after yet surviving another world adventure. The reason why I'm not hanging up an ink pen this time and putting away a journal book, was because I wanted to share my adventures and discoveries openly with the world this time, about the real world, and not keep them privately locked away in the pages of a notebook or in the safety of my memory.

I want to give you all a big pat on the back and say THANK YOU for making the effort in keeping up with the highlights of my crazy adventures. Over the last 14 months, I have made my way across Cambodia and all over New Zealand, two very special and different parts of the world, yes...its been that long already and you've been part of the whole adventure!

I hope it was an education for you as it certainly was for me. The experiences I've had, the personal connection with the New Zealand Maoris and how they see the world around them, the kindness and cruelty of the human spirit from all races and cultures, the stories I can tell and the further things I have learnt each time I've hit the adventure and opportunity of the open road, have been priceless.

If I can take one last thing from the spirit of the Christchurcharians and the many people of New Zealand who I encountered or helped me through my journey across Aotearoa, its this.....

Thanks for following in my footsteps folks.....

Kia Ora New Zealand and Kia Ora for reading!

Le Fin.

Christchurch, New Zealand

With Lonely Planet Travel Guide New Zealand 

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