There and Back Again 3: Christchurch, New Zealand (South Island) Travelogue

In 2014, Promega created a special incentive to reward field science consultants who help the scientific community take advantage of the our on-site stocking program. The winners had to meet ambitious criteria to receive 2 round-trip tickets to anywhere in the world, a week of paid vacation and spending money. Our four winners from 2014 will share photos and stories about their journeys in a semi-regular Friday feature on the Promega Connections Blog.

Today’s travelogue is Part III of the adventures of Mica Zaragoza, a senior client rep, who used his award to travel to Australia and New Zealand.

Helix-Travel-Blog---1-WEBAfter a day of travel, including a quick stop-off in Sydney, we arrived late in New Zealand the evening.  New Zealand is an island nation with strict customs requirements, having been stung in the past by a decision  to import the opossum.

Jumping full into the experience, we rented a car (5-speed) and headed into the City to scope out our hotel ( more on the car later).

During our time in Australia, we had spoken with several travelers who had visited Christchurch for their recommendations.  Without fail, their response was negative, using words like “destroyed” and “rubble” to describe the city.  They referred to a  series of earthquakes in 2011 that crippled the city of Christchurch; the residents were not aware of the risk and structures in the city had not been constructed to withstand such devastation.

Helix-Travel-Blog---2-WEBInitially feeling that other visitors had been overly critical, I was surprised to find many of the city’s once beautiful downtown features and buildings condemned, demolished, or otherwise under construction despite 4 years of progress. This included the beautiful Christ Church at city center as well as the replacement of their former shopping area with Re: START, stores in shipping containers.

Helix-Travel-Blog---3-WEBDespite the feelings of sadness to see beautiful architecture reduced to rubble, the City did have a wonderful botanical garden and quiet river walk to enjoy.  I’m glad we were able to visit and look forward to the day it returns to prominence with its Urban Chic influences.

We started our South Island journey with a beautiful drive through the Transalpine Pass via Arthur’s Pass; it’s hard not to call every drive on the South Island scenic. We stopped frequently to take pictures and enjoy the scenery; this drive was definitely a delightful experience.

Helix-Travel-Blog---4-WEBSpeaking of the driving experience… As many of you may know, in New Zealand, they drive on the left side of the road sitting on the right side of the car.  Though I knew what to expect, it was such a foreign concept that I needed to repeatedly think about each turn and had to completely familiarize myself with the idea of left-handed shifting a standard transmission.  That part wasn’t so hard once I got past the ‘fun’ factor of it feeling so new!

Occasionally we shared our road with an oncoming train.
Occasionally we shared our road with an oncoming train.

Other things noteworthy about driving were that the roads on the South Island were primarily single-lane highways with extremely limited shoulders, often wrapping around beautiful gorges, lakes, and mountains, both with and without side rails.  I  felt like I was driving in a car commercial that never ended! One-lane shared bridge, periodically shared with on-coming traffic and trains, were also a feature of our drive.

The journey to Paparoa National Park was worth it, as we made a special trip just to see the ocean side Pancake Rock formations.

Pancake Rock Formations
Pancake Rock Formations

After a long day on the road, we stopped off at a local brewpub in Greymouth to enjoy Venison Sliders and a cold, refreshing beverage to recharge. Wrapping up the day, we arrived late into the evening at the small village of Franz Joseph Glacier.

Franz Joseph Glacier, New Zealand

Helix-Travel-Blog---10-WEBArriving into this small town, we quickly learned that life moves at a different pace: businesses close early and restaurants generally finish serving around 9pm. We began our next day with  a trek outside of town for one of the most memorable highlights of the trip–a hike to Franz Joseph Glacier. Starting from the “car park”, the short hike to Franz Joseph Glacier took us across an exposed riverbed, surrounded by forested mountains, and seasonal waterfalls as glacier and snowpack alike melted from up-high.

Helix-Travel-Blog---11-WEBThe hour and a half trek ends on a hill looking onto the retreating glacier, providing a great feeling of fulfillment.  I can’t express how relaxing it was to take in the fresh air, beautiful surroundings, and to think on how everything in the valley was formed.

Helix-Travel-Blog---12-WEBAs if one glacier wasn’t exciting enough, I insisted we arrive at Fox Glacier later that same afternoon for round two.  Again, another exposed riverbed walk, the trail to Fox is much less majestic on an overcast day, also offering the challenge of a huge hill under rock slide warnings to the viewing area.

Before heading back, we took in the glacier and surrounding ice flow for several minutes, listening closely as a cracking could be heard.

Helix-Travel-Blog---13-WEBTo finish out this leg of the trip, we resumed the long drive down past Lake Hawea and jaw-dropping waterfalls to the international hub of the South: Queenstown.

The following two tabs change content below.
Promega products are used by life scientists who are asking fundamental questions about biological processes and by scientists who are applying scientific knowledge to diagnose and treat diseases, discover new therapeutics, and use genetics and DNA testing for human identification. Originally, founded in 1978 in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, Promega has branches in 16 countries and more than 50 global distributors serving 100 countries.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.