Monday, June 13, 2011

Christchurch just can't catch a break

Hi Everyone,  Just posting to report another series of quakes in Christchurch.  I know this doesn't make the news back home, but each day in Christchurch there are aftershocks.  They range from 3.0 to 5.0 and the city is continuing to crumble.

I feel so horrible for this community who everyday worries about when the next aftershock will strike and everytime they try to get their life back to normal the shaking starts and their hose is torn apart once again.

Today at 1:10pm there was a 5.5 aftershock, big enough to evacuate the 'red zone' (the central business area of downtown Christchurch which has sustained alot of damage) Luckily they did because less than 40 minutes later a big 6.0 aftershock struck.  Buildings have collapsed, new cracks emerged, new liquefaction has come up on the streets, power is out and phone lines a clogged... once again.  Once again the emergency operations center, and civil defense have set up and activated, people are injured and don't feel safe in their own city. 

I have never heard of this amount of earthquakes/aftershocks happening in one city.  Maybe its just because it doesn't make the news, but this seems absolutely crazy. 

Hopefully there will be no deaths from this aftershock, but the question remains, how many more will there be?  How many people will continue to flee Christchurch affecting the economy, the community and the entire surrounding area and when do you stop calling it aftershocks?  Because these aren't just little 3.0ers these are basically at the scale of the february 2001 quake that struck Seattle/Tacoma.  Imangine trying to live a normal life with quakes like that coming multiple times a day.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Beach Camping New Zealand Style!

Last weekend Kiwis celebrated the Queens birthday... meaning I didn't have to go to work on Monday and still got paid!  Which also means we were off on another adventure around the North Island!

This time we took Greg and Nelson along with us and set off in our bright yellow rental car to New Plymouth. (The west cost of the north island, the part that sticks out like a half circle on the map)

We drove up to Wanganui  where we began our adventure with a hike at the national park.  It was basically straight up, and it was super windy... but we made it part way (its usually a 2 day hike) and then decided to turn around and head back to our car so we could go find a camp site before it got too dark.

So we were off again in our little yellow car to find a camping site.. and it got dark... really dark... and we were still driving.  We ended up going down some creepy road that said there was camping. not finding it and following another dirt road for awhile, turning down another dirt road and eventually (thanks to gregs map) coming across one other lone camper and access to the beach!  We gathered all our stuff and hiked down to the beach where we found the PERFECT location.  There was tons of firewood, we were above the tide levels and on the black sand beach.  Yes thats right, some of the beaches here are black sand!  The only down part was it was slightly raining... but it eventually stopped for the rest of the night and it was wonderful weather!  We set up our tent (of course Colin got frustrated and flustered) and then made a fire, had dinner and soaked up the amazing views.  We were literally feet from the Tasman Sea, on the coast of New Zealand, doesn't get much better than that!

 You can sort of see our camp spot! its in the bottom right corner, with the green/grey and orange tent!

Thankfully it didn't rain the whole night and the next morning was beautiful! We walked along the beach, I tried to climb up the side of a mountain, Greg taught us how to make bracelets out of flack leaves and then we finally decided we should head off to New Plymouth to start our next hike.  Well as we made our way there it started pouring rain and did for basically the rest of the day.   So we altered our plans and headed out to Mikes Organic Brewery.  We did some tasting and bought some strawberry beer and other kinds and then headed back into town.  We stopped for lunch at a cute cafe in a small town along with way and it was amazing!  Then made our way back down to New Plymouth and discovered an amazing spot to watch the sun set.  Its was right on the coast and it was this HUGE spire (like a rock pier)  We decided to climb up to the top, read the signs and headed up.  Mind you that the signs just said wear appropriate shoes... well 240 stairs later we came across a chain link rope... and we had to climb up to the top via this chain!  You could easily fall to your death, and there was NOTHING stopping you from falling.  But we finally made it to the top and the views were amazing, especially watching the sunset!

After our amazing climb to the top we went back down and found some dinner.  *Did you know that New Plymouth was where some of the Europeans first landed?  Also its the biggest port for international items on the west coast of the north island!*

We went back to our hostel and all fell fast asleep as the tent sleeping wasn't too comfy.  On Monday morning we went around town and then headed down the 'Surf Highway' 45 around the coast to see some sights and do some serious hiking at Mt. Taranakai.  After getting semi lost we came across the hiking area.  We didn't really have a map (hiking 101 fail...) and the signs said a 3 hour hike... we thought 3 hour return... not 6 hours.  Anyways we made our way through this beautiful area for around an hour and came across a huge crossing and some people.  They showed us a map, laughed at us for not having one, and told us which way to go so we wouldn't hike 6 hours.  They even gave us apples, which were delicious!  So we were suppose to cross the river, which we started to except there wasn't really a track to continue on, so we followed this washed out river/not settled rocks dirt and trees till we came across the clearing spot again. (only about 1 hour.. and once again hiking 101 fail...)  I fell a few times as dirt wasn't settled and have a nice shiner on my butt now, but we finally made it back up to the normal track. And finally after 3 hours we made it back to the car!  Which was good since we didn't have any food in our backpacks and were starving!

We finally made it home safe and sound, just in time to fall asleep and wake up for work in the morning!

All and all it was a wonderful trip and I can't wait for more.  I am still loving New Zealand, and actually like driving here now too!  I still get laughed at, at work for the 'funny' things I say and I wish I had a car instead of having to take the bus each day.  But over all its been great!  I can officially say I have been living completely on my own for 4 months now and still have money left over for trips and clothes!  It feels pretty good, but who knows what will happen when I return to the States... (Mom and dad, save me my room!! :)) )

Until next time! - Sarah