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March 7th 2011 - Hanmer Springs

March 5th 2011 – Lake Tekapo – When we woke up this morning we were so glad that we had come as far as we did yesterday and saw the lakes and the mountains in glorious sunshine because now it was grey and overcast and not very warm!  After breakfast we set off again but made a short stop further along the shores of the lake to visit The Church of the Good Shepherd as instructed by Vicki!  This tiny little church was built in 1935 in memory of the pioneers of McKenzie county and the foundation stone was actually laid by the Duke of Gloucester! 


The Church of the Good Shepherd


There used to be a stained glass window behind the alter but it got damaged and was replaced by a perfectly plain, clear glass window but with that view who needs stained glass!


No need for stained glass!


Adjacent to the church is a statue of a collie dog.  This statue, which was unveiled in 1968, was to show how much these wonderful dogs were appreciated for without them this mountain country could never have been grazed.


Statue in appreciation of the Collie dog


We resumed our journey, which was going to take us back to the coast once more.  The weather did not improve, in fact it got gloomier as the day progressed!  We arrived in Timaru where we intended to stay the night.  We made our way into the centre of town and found somewhere to park in order to have some lunch.  Just as we were getting out of the van we heard bagpipes!  Then Clive spotted someone in a kilt!  I noticed a couple getting into a car near where we were parked and popped over to ask if they knew what was going on.  Needless to say, they weren’t locals!  We were surprised however to find they were from Stirling, Scotland!!  They hadn’t even noticed the pipers so we all wandered over to the wall overlooking a large park and there were loads of pipers wandering around in groups.  It turned out that there was to have been a piping competition in Christchurch but due to the earthquake it had been cancelled. A lot of the bands had already arranged their trip so decided to come anyway and all gather in Timaru just to play for the fun of it.  Unfortunately the fun became a bit of a damp squib when it started to rain, heavily! What a shame.


Pipers in Timaru


Regarding the couple from Stirling, we ended up chatting (as you do!) and told them that we used to live in Tighnabruaich some years ago.  Pat asked me if I happened to know someone in the village called Aga Lushington – amazingly I did!!  It turned out that Aga was Pat’s French teacher when she was a school in Sterling, I was aquainted with Aga and her sister Thelma when we lived in the village – how incredible is that!!  On that note we said goodbye as the rain had really started to come down and made a dash for the van, however I had promised to contact one of my friends in Tighnabruiach to ask after the health of the Lushington sisters and let Pat know the outcome by email!


We made the decision not to stay in Timaru after all, it was far too wet to do any exploring, so after our lunch we hit the road again and got a few more miles under our belt.  We eventually stopped in Ashburton, which is a couple of hours away from Christchurch.  Once we got settled in I phoned my friend Bryony to let her know where we were and to see if there was any chance of meeting up with her the following day.  She suggested we go to their house for coffee in the morning.


That evening, around 7.30pm I was sitting in the van blogging and Clive had gone over to the kitchen to wash up.  Suddenly the van wobbled, well it sort of shimmied – that’s the only way I can describe it!  I looked out of the window and all the trees were still, there didn’t seem to be any wind. When Clive got back I asked him if he had noticed anything, he hadn’t!  Oh well, must have been my imagination.


March 6th 2011 – we set off for Christchurch after breakfast and it took us rather longer than we had anticipated.  We didn’t arrive at Bryony’s house until 11.45!  Bryony’s husband opened the door to us. Perfect timing, he said!  It turned out that poor Bryony had been called in to work to do an emergency operation!  At the time she was called out Jeremy was on a bike ride so she had had to take the children with her to the hospital.  Jeremy was just about to go and collect them so invited us in and said he would be back in ten minutes!  Whilst we were waiting for him to get back we noticed several cracks in the walls and ceiling in the kitchen, we had also noticed scaffolding on the outside of the house and a pile of bricks on the ground, which used to be their chimney!  The house had taken a bit of a beating but was still standing, thankfully!


Quake damage!


Jeremy was soon back with the children, Laura, Corin and Kate.  I remembered Laura and Corin from when Bryony worked in our department but Kate was born just before Bryony left to return to New Zealand, she is now nearly 4 and is a little cracker!  During the earthquake on February 22nd Bryony and Jeremy were both at work, Laura and Corin were at school and little Kate was at home with the nanny, Karen.  Kate told us that she and Karen stood in the doorway until the shaking had stopped, I asked her if it was scary, she said “not really, but I cried till it was over”!  Bless her! Anyway, they all seem to be coping with it very well.  Jeremy asked if we had felt the aftershock the previous evening – I asked him when it was, about 7.30pm he said, just as we were sitting down to dinner!  In that case, yes I had – that was why the van wobbled in Ashburton!!!


Jeremy insisted that we stay for lunch and soon had a lovely spread for us, including home made bread! Not long after we had finished eating Bryony finally got home, it was lovely to see her again.


 Laura, Bryony with little Kate, Corin and Tosca the dog

We didn’t want to overstay our welcome and the children were obviously wanting some time with mum so we finally said our goodbyes and continued on our way.  This time we were heading right over to the other side of Christchurch, to the East side.  We had phoned ahead to a campsite at Spencer’s Beach and it didn’t take us too long to find it.  We got settled in and had dinner then around 8.15pm we set off to visit our old friend Bill McArthur’s son Willie and his family who live at Waimari Beach.  Before we set off I suggested to Clive that we make the bed up as it could be quite late when we got back.


We arrived in the neighbourhood of Waimari Beach and were shocked at the state of the roads!  In places it was like driving over speed bumps, the road undulated like corrugated iron!  There were areas cordoned off with cones which had large holes in them too. All along the route there was evidence of the liquefaction which had occurred during the quake, grey mud and gravel everywhere!  We finally found Willie’s house and knocked on the door.  I could hear dogs barking inside but nobody came to the door.  I returned to the van and phoned Willie – he said they were about five minutes away but that his wife was in, he was surprised she hadn’t opened the door!  A few minutes after I finished speaking to him the front door opened and his wife Lee called out. She apologised profusely for not letting us in but had noticed the campervan with two strangers in and thought we were looters!!  Willie had phoned her and set her straight, hence she opened the door.


A short time later Willie turned up with his daughter Briar and her friend, they had been with him to Hanmer Springs where he was doing a gig, not to listen to him but to go and spend the afternoon in the hot springs!  Willie and Lee also have a son, Finn, who just happens to be a drummer, like our son Gareth!  He’s not into folk at all, calls it cheesy!!  Gareth feels the same way!  It was great to finally meet Willie.  His father Bill was a very good friend of ours whom we had first met when we lived in Tighnabruaich, Scotland back in the early 80s.  He was half of a Scottish folk duo called Beggar’s Mantle, the other half being Bruce Davis.  It was through Bruce that we had contacted Willie.  Dave, Willie’s older brother, also turned up with his wife Sandra a short while later - Dave bears a very strong resemblance to his father. 


Willie and Dave McArthur


We had a wonderful evening in their company.  Willie has his father's wonderful sense of humour and it was sort of like spending the evening with Billy Connolly, they are amazingly similar!  Willie is also a brilliant musician, he showed us some of his videos and he is an awesome performer.  His father was justifiably very proud of him.  Willie just would not hear of us going back to the campsite, nor would he let us sleep in the van, he insisted that we use their spare room and sleep in a proper bed!  He also informed us that they had running water and a loo, but only for pees! If we needed to do anything else we had to use the al fresco loo which was outside on the street, a portaloo courtesy of the council!!!


I have to say that through all this adversity people like Willie and his family are managing to get by and are still able to laugh.  They are some of the lucky ones, they know people who have lost their houses and all their possessions.  Lee’s parents’ house has succumbed to the liquefaction and a lot of their belongings will be ruined – they were in London on holiday at the time of the quake!  Lee and Bryony were actually in the centre of Christchurch on the day of the quake and are both very lucky indeed to be alive!


I have to tell you here of a strange coincidence.  You will have heard of the “six degrees of separation” – well how about two degrees! At one point during the evening Lee asked me where we had been earlier and I mentioned that I had been visiting a friend in Fendalton (the posh area of Christchurch!).  At some stage in the conversation I mentioned Bryony by name. Lee did a double-take and asked if she was married to a Jeremy!!  I said yes, why?  Lee’s best friend Karen is the nanny who was with little Kate in the house during the quake!  Also, Jeremy and Bryony had a house sitter a few weeks ago, it was Lee’s auntie – how absolutely incredible is that!!  Proper spooky I say!


March 7th 2011 – We had a very good night’s sleep, which was much needed as we didn’t get to bed until the small wee hours!  Well just remember, we were in the company of two Scotsmen!  When we got up Lee was making bacon and eggs for breakfast – mmmmmmmm!  Willie however was in a bit of a tiz as he had just received a text reminding him that he was doing a gig this morning and he had to be in another part of Christchurch by 11.00am!  Dave, who had also stayed the night, decided  to go with him, they both just had time to grab a sausage before dashing out of the door.  We said we would join them later, in the meantime we enjoyed our breakfast with Lee, Briar and Finn.  Fourteen year old Briar was rather upset that morning, she had heard on the news that many Christchurch schools were reopening and children were returning to school.  Briar's school was right in the centre of Chritchurch and the whole building collapsed, she can't return to school until a new building can be found.  All her schoolwork is on a laptop, which is still in the building!  Finn on the other hand goes to a different school, his hasn't reopened yet either but he of course was delighted, more time to play computer games and watch TV!!


We said our goodbyes and thanked Lee very much indeed for her wonderful hospitality.We found our way to St Alban’s Park where Willie was doing a charitable gig, a sort of morale booster for the community, which had been hit quite hard by the quake.  On the way we had seen further evidence of quake damage to houses and roads.  At one point we spotted a fissure going right across the road!




We parked the van adjacent to the park and the first thing we noticed was water gushing out of a hole in the ground, presumably from one of many broken pipes.  Remember this is almost two weeks since the quake!


Water bubbling up through the ground!


We found Willie in the middle of his performance, there was a young lad there playing Willie’s guitar. He is evidently learning guitar and Willie gave him the opportunity of playing his first live gig!  There was all sorts going on at the playing fields, including a barbecue, there were free hot dogs, drinks, chocolates and cookies – everything had been donated!  There weren’t many people there initially as the weather wasn’t brilliant but eventually the sun came out and more and more people turned up.  Whilst we were listening to Willie singing I noticed how badly the playing fields had been affected.  There were huge areas of liquefaction in evidence – its going to take a lot of money and hard work to get Christchurch on its feet again!


Silt and gravel left behind following the liquefaction during the quake


Finally Willie finished his stint and Clive and Dave went to help put everything away.  Whilst Willie was stashing his gear in the van two cops wandered over for a chat.  They weren’t accusing him of looting fortunately, just passing the time of day and having a fag! It turned out they are both Australians, over from Victoria to do their bit for Christchurch.


Aussie cops doing their bit for Christchurch


Before saying goodbye to Willie and Dave I asked for one last photo. 


Spot the hobbit!

Our friend Bill wasn’t a great deal bigger than Clive but as you can see, his boys are big guys!!  Interestingly though Dave had actually auditioned to be in the Peter Jackson's new film, The Hobbit but unfortunately he isn't tall enough!!  The little brown person with her back to us is Maddy, Dave's dog!


We were sorry to say goodbye to Willie and Dave really, it has been wonderful meeting them and we certainly wish them and their families the very best and sincerely hope they can soon return to some sort of normality in the aftermath of the quake.   Actually, we wish that to all the people of Christchurch.


Once we left Christchurch we headed in land once again, this time our destination was Hanmer Springs. It didn’t take long for us to reach this lovely alpine village and we soon got ourselves booked into a campsite for the night.  Then we headed back  into the town centre, first of all to have some dinner.  We were starving and didn’t have much on the van so treated ourselves to an Italian, Clive had a pizza and I had pasta!  After dinner we relaxed for a bit to let our meal settle then we got changed into our togs and headed for the hot springs.  We had a couple of hours soaking in various different pools, there are nine different ones.  All al fresco so we had lovely views of the snow capped mountains whilst we soaked!  Obviously we couldn’t take the camera in with us, it would have got wet, so pinched a pic off the web!


Hanmer Springs hot pools!


There were sulphur pools, which were lovely and hot, about 42 degrees and smelled of hard boiled eggs! There were mineral pools, which were a little cooler at around 36-38 degrees and made your skin feel all silky,  then there were three separate therapeutic pools with water jets to aim at different parts of your anatomy.  There were also bog standard hot pools which were just lovely to relax in.  All in all we had a wonderful time in there and finally emerged like a couple of prunes, then we ended the evening in the local pub with a pint!  What a great day.


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