You probably heard about the 2 big earthquakes that hit New Zealand’s 3rd biggest city Christchurch in November 2011 and February 2012. 280 something people died, thousands were injured and many buildings were reduced to rubble. We ended our visit to New Zealand there before flying to Cairns, Australia. Christchurch has lots of attractions, many of them because of the earthquake. First, we visited the container mall, replacing a mall that had collapsed. We had a yummy lunch at a Lebanese food stall there.
While driving through the city, we saw a lot of construction. Every collapsed building must be rebuilt with an extra-strong foundation and a lot of stabilising bars, so they’re taking their time on rebuilding to get it right.
We also visited the Cardboard Cathedral. It was built as a unique cathedral to replace the town’s namesake, The old Christchurch cathedral that had it’s steeple collapse in the earthquake. The Cardboard Cathedral is made with typical material on the outside, but the inside is all made of cardboard, laminated wood and paper. The chairs, the altar, even the big cross at the front.
Christchurch is also one of the world’s southernmost big cities, so it is the “port to Antarctica”, or at least the eastern side of Antarctica. We visited the Antarctic Centre, a museum with all things Antarctica. The ticket seller at the entrance told us to hurry to the Antarctic storm simulator. We were given Winter jackets and rubber things to go over our shoes, then we went into the storm. The room has snow on the ground and a snow dome as a shelter for those who need it during the storm. It simulates a research station getting hit by a nasty storm, but of course not as nasty as Real Antarctic storms. It started with a bit of wind, then it got really cold and the wind started howling. It lasted about 5 minutes, but I imagined myself as an emperor penguin, standing in storms like that all winter with no sun, keeping one little egg warm!
After the storm, we gave our jackets back and went to my favourite part of the museum, the blue penguin display. Blue penguins are the world’s smallest penguin, and are native to New Zealand. We just missed the feeding so most of them were back in their nesting holes, but a few were still out and about.
There were also windows into the nesting holes, so we could see the others too. The penguins in the museum were found unhealthy and were saved and brought to the museum, so wouldn’t have survived in the wild.
Most people associate all species of penguins to Antarctica, but only 4 of the world’s 17 kinds of penguins can survive in that kind of harsh climate. Other species are found in New Zealand, southern Africa, Australia, South America, many islands in the southern ocean, and the kind found the furthest north is the Galapagos penguin, which we saw during our time there.
We also watched a 4D movie that blew snow and wind at us, and even shook the seats as the big icebreaker we were on went over big waves.
We also learned about the race to the South Pole between Norwegian Amundsen and British Scott. Amundsen got there first, and Scott and his comrades died on their way back.
After the Antarctic Centre, we went to find a campground. Since we had to get up early for our flight, we went to a Holiday Park (fancy campground) and stayed in a little cabin. It was a lot more expensive than all our other nights in New Zealand, but we wouldn’t have to take the tent down in the morning, so it was worth it. The next morning, we got up at about 3:45AM to get to the airport. The day before, my dad found a place near the holiday park that would drop our rental car and shuttled us to the airport. It seems like we always have horrible flight times on this trip, but they’re also the cheapest ones, so we’re not complaining. I was hoping we would fly out on Air New Zealand, but we get the cheap airlines too. We have two flights with Malaysian Airline, and I don’t think we’re flying with Emirates on or way through Abu Dhabi either. Since the Cairns airport is pretty small, we had to go via Brisbane. When we were about to land there, it was raining and the clouds were very low. As soon as we got the ground in view, we heard the jets roar and we rose up again. I guess the pilot realised the plane wasn’t in the right position to land, either too high or too low. We had to do a big loop to land again, and there was a lot of turbulence. For the first time in a long time on a plane, I threw up. Fortunately, the landing in Cairns went smoothly.