A HEAVENLY GARDEN ON EARTH: South Island New Zealand.
New Zealand is the 45th country that I had been to. The first time when I was about landed in the International airport of Christ Church New Zealand, a parade of beautiful snowy mountains under a shiny blue sky and a dazzling white cotton cloud welcomed all passengers on-board the air plane who for the first time or many times would still be amazed by the beauty of the heavenly scenery.
Observing down from the air plane, the mountains seemed stand so solid and quiet; the tranquility that brings peace to all hearts especially those who for the first time landed in this heavenly garden country.
From the airport to the center of Christ Church, I can see still the effects of the earthquakes. Major parts of the city have been badly affected; many roads, bridges, churches, houses, sky scrapers were cracked, twisted, leaned and even collapsed. The re-construction and repairing of the public facilities have been put in place including the rebuild of the city’s wastewater networks, roads, public building etc. According to my local tour guides, about 900 buildings included sky scrapers, hotels, churches and some public buildings such as sport stadium in the center of the city alone will be demolished. The long-term plan is, only 5 stories building can be enacted in the center of the city and 4 stories in the out skirt.
The affected houses that had been surveyed by the insurance company are marked with red, orange, and green placard; the red meant the houses are no longer safe to live in and the people should be moved to the temporary houses built by the government, until their houses have been fully repaired or totally re-built. Orange meant there should be a greater repair taken place than the green one, but in both kind of houses people are still safe to live in.
Another scary view is when looking at the houses in the hillside, most specifically those that are located nearby the coastline. Many of them are in critical condition and some already fallen down from the hill. In order to secure the underneath roads from the landslide, the hillsides along the coast line were fenced by hundreds of containers, so that the stones and the houses on top of the hills would not fall on the passers cars or any vehicles that pass on the roads beneath the hill-side.
During the February earth quake, hundreds of big volcanic stones with weight up to more than 100 kg rolled down the hill and hit the houses and the cattle below. Luckily, because the earthquake occurred at 1 o clock in the afternoon, most of the people were able to run for their life, except unfortunately the Christ Church TV building in the center of the city that had vertically collapsed like a pan cake and taken more than 100 of its staff dead.
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Christ Church was hardly hit by the earthquake in September 2010, since then, hundreds more earthquakes occurred, the biggest as recorded was in February and the June 2011. The February earth quake was the worst and had ruined major part of the city center and many buildings in the hills side. Since I arrived in the beginning of Spring in Christ Church New Zealand on 20th September 2011 till I left on the 1 October 2011, I experienced several light tremors might be around 1 to 3 scale Richter magnitude earth quakes, however, coming from the islands country, Indonesia with the condition almost the same as New Zealand, that both countries are sitting on the Pacific Ring of Fire, it makes me a bit used to this kind of situation, so I just continue doing my activities, sleeping or traveling around the South Island even when the tremors occurred.
In spite of the earthquake, Christchurch is still the gateway to the South Island. As the second largest city in New Zealand after Auckland, this city still keeps its natural beauty as one of the most outstanding garden city in the world. The Citizen of Christ Church called their city as the “Munted “ city, which is correct, but it is not dangerous at all to live in Christ Church except in some parts of the city center.
I stayed in small accommodation nearby the North New Brighton beach; in a studio room that is fully equipped with a private kitchen and its utensils, shower, big flat TV, iron, hair dryer, freezer, heater, microwave which cost me about NZ$ 70.- per night. Foods (except fish) and clothes are expensive in South Island, these are reasonable because most of the consumer goods is imported, so do the vehicles and gasoline, and the lattest makes touring is quite expensive in this country. Another element that contributed to the higher price of consumer goods is the distance between places that is really huge. With population only 4.5million of which around 450.000 lived in the second largest city, Christ Church; that makes this country seems inhibited. However, public transportation such as bus and train are comfortably available in reasonably cheap fares and that makes my short stay in Christ Church was wonderful!
The only inconvenient I faced while in Christ Church was the fact that some tours that I had already booked and paid were unilaterally canceled by the local travel agent due to the lack of attendants. The earthquake had shrunk the tourism sector of Christ Church up to 90%. Nevertheless, I still had fun and enjoy my trips around; city touring, flying with a chopper looking for the whales in KaiKoura though we could not find one due to the breeding time of the whales, enjoying the panoramic view of Edoras where the Lord of the Ring was taken place for filming. 4X4 wheel driving off roading and jet boating in the Alpine and enjoying also traveled by the trans Alpine train. Overall, the tours were fantastic and the foods in Christ Church restaurants were all tasty.
In Christ Church I met with some tourists from USA, UK, Indonesia and Japan and we felt nothing but safe, peace and happy not only because New Zealand has no dangerous animals such as snakes, kangaroo, tigers or alike in its woods and the mountain, but also because of the breathtaking scenery of this heavenly garden country on earth!
Except for Air Asia bad service that the worst I had ever experience with international airlines, the rest of my trips around Christ Church was splendid! As a note I will never fly internationally with Air Asia again. Once is more than enough with this air line!
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