Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Mountains of Canterbury

Rakaia River, New Zealand (May 29, 2008)

Along NZ Alpine Pacific Triangle
The Canterbury region is the largest subdivision of New Zealand's south island. It is also the most populous, with its capital Christchurch being the largest city in the island. Canterbury is the epicenter of the wool industry with millions of sheep grazing on its grassy plains in front of the Pacific. In my 2008 trip I spent three days driving up and down along Canterbury's roads, especially the Alpine Pacific Triangle running on the side of the white capped mountains at the center of the island. The road passes several one-lane bridges crossing the glacial rivers descending from the mountains, like the Rakaia river in the large photo above. During one of my escapades I took a side road along the river, ending up on a dirt path which probably voided the insurance of my rental car, but afforded me an amazing view of the river gorge below, and the snow-capped mountains above. Plus a close encounter with some cows that decided I was interesting enough to examine at close distance.

The capital of the region, Christchurch, is very beautiful historical city. An important commercial outpost, it spearheaded the european settlements in the south island. Differently from the north, the south was only sparsely inhabited by the Maori, due repeated incursions by bands of Maori from the north (armed with british-made muskets) that destroyed the settlements in the region exterminating their population. When I visited in 2008 I had the opportunity to truly enjoy Christchurch and its gothic revival architecture: soon after however three disastrous earthquakes (between 2010 and 2012) destroyed a significant portion of the city, causing 185 deaths. The destruction was so severe that its historical center is still not fully rebuilt.

Route 70, New Zealand (May 29, 2008)

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