The site http://www.geonet.org.nz/quakes/felt contains up to date information on (recent) earth quakes in New Zealand. Did the earth move? Was it a heavy van or indeed quake? You can check it here. Contains also other interesting data on quakes.
Fondest memory: Having a bath at the warm springs.
Favorite thing: we made use of http://www.metservice.com/national/home for all our weather forecasts. The weather is changeable and the forecast are too, but overall the info is good. read th warnings before going on a track.
The rule of thumb when being outdoors in NZ is be prepared for 4 seasons in one day - I kid you not!
Dress in layers and as the day heats up you can remove a layer. This means that instead of wearing one big bulky heavy jacket that is warm wear a few thinner jackets or long sleeved flannelette shirts. This way you can take off a thin jacket and not freeze instead of just having the option of taking off one bulky heavy jacket.
Also have a good scarf, hat and gloves and if you can thermals - both tops and bottoms as all of these items will help you stay warm.
A waterproof jacket or coat I would also recommend that will also cut down the wind. I personally have a gortex shell - when I was in the Borneo jungles in monsoon season even with that hard rain beating down I was completely dry!
Comfortable, sturdy shoes for walking - if you want, depending on what they are made of you can get dubbin (if they are leather) or a silicone spray to help make them a bit more waterproof. A change of socks.
Carry water with you.
Energy bars - muesli and chocolate - these are VERY good to have. Make sure you don't eat them all in the first few hours - save some til you get back, unless there is an emergency and you need something to eat you will be prepared.
A cellphone - putting it in a ziplock type of bag that is airtight will help to protect it.
Fondest memory: Northland has so many things to offer that are hidden or tucked away from the hordes of tourists, making it an idyllic place to visit and explore, especially if you enjoy the great outdoors.
2degrees is a carrier that provides a great and inexpensive way to get a phone perfect for calling and texting. For NZ$60 (~$48 in the US), I got a phone, SIM card, 100 minutes of talk time, two months of 5,000 texts each, and NZ$5 worth of credit on the phone. This can be used to buy more national minutes and texts or for international texts (9 cents each) and international calls (44 cents/minute).
I did not look into rates for downloading abilities and data plans, but I found these rates to be very reasonable and among the least expensive. So far the plan works great and the phone is extremely durable; I have no worries about it lasting the entirety of my trip!
More and more tourists travel in New Zealand in winter (June to August/September) - and in the forum many people ask how travelling is at this time of the year. Most questions are about driving and how difficult it is, if you can get into most outdoor activities, and if it is wise to travel by campervan or even go camping.
Some thoughts about this issue.
You can be lucky with the weather and would even be able to make some of the Great Walks - but do not expect it. The best thing to do in winter is walking on the glaciers of the West Coast as this can be done in (nearly) all weather conditions, and August is rather a dry month in this rainy part of the country.
The North Island might be rather wet, so hiking is difficult, and the Tongariro Crossing Track could be under snow. On the South Island (which is noticeably drier in winter) you can still make great day walks if it does not snow too much. And, for example, you will not get snow in the area of the Abel Tasman and Kahurangi National Park. So you could do the Abel Tasman Coastal Walk and also the multi-day Heaphy Track. Apart from the glacier walks you can make great day walks in the Franz Josef area.
Further down south I would surely not risk the Milford Track and the multi-day hikes around Wanaka and Queenstown because there is a high risk of being snowed in. However, there are fantastic day walks, and on the day the Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers on site can tell you which walks are safe. As the terrain will be wet you should have walking poles, and if you walk alone perhaps hire a locator beacon.
Regarding the other outdoor activities you can do them all - bungy jumping, jetboating etc. will just be a much colder fun than in summer. Bring a cap, scarf and gloves.
Even skiing is difficult to predict. Like now (end of June 2008) the skifields of the South Island can be closed because the snow has melted away. And if the temperatures are above 0°C they cannot make artificial snow. Then it snows so much that you cannot get up to the skifields ;-) And the pass roads are closed...
To put it short: You can be lucky and do nearly everything you are dreaming of, but do expect to make some changes on site.
I would surely not sleep in a campervan in the South Island in winter. But others do, and most of them survive ;-)
But do not underestimate snowfall in the South Island. We do get snowfalls down to sea level even in Christchurch. In certain regions, not only in the mountains, this can also mean 20 to 30 centimetres in a day, even around Timaru and Dunedin.
Then you have the classic winter problem areas like all the pass roads and the Milford Road (plus avalanche risk). North of Dunedin is another place where motorists get into trouble on a regular base as the highway is extremely steep there.
Black ice is another problem - and cars do not have winter tyres here. Either summer tyres or snow chains, nothing in between. So roads get closed fast - but they never last really long on the major roads. Make sure you have snow chains in the boot when you travel on the South Island in winter.
Get weather reports on a daily basis, stay flexible and change your route if necessary.
On your way from Auckland to Wellington you might encounter snow problems on the Desert Road (Tongariro National Park), in other areas a lot of rain and floodings are possible. The South Island is much drier in winter.
The further north you go, the warmer it will be. So this would probably be most suitable for water activities in winter. The Bay of Islands is a haven for that. We once travelled in Northland in July and had T-shirt weather on all days but rather chilly nights. But it can also rain a lot up there. You never know. However, even in winter temperatures of about 17°C are absolutely normal up there.
The Coromandel Peninsula was a booming region during the gold rush, and for that reason it is a very fragile area and - due to the former mining in the middle of nowhere - prone to landslides, cracks, and flooding. And even if it does not rain take care when hiking, as in can be very slippery in the dense bush, as the tracks take a long time to dry. So I would only go there in winter in good weather conditions. If you have a rainy day go to Coromandel Town. There you find many remnants of mining history, museum and the Driving Creek Railway. I think it is the best place for a rainy day.
Some campervans have heating. But having spoken to people who travelled in them in winter. They have told me that it really gets ice-cold at night. Some of them have enjoyed to stay in our house for a night or two to get warmed up again ;-)
Sometimes the winter months are not too bad in Christchurch. But the further south you go, the colder it gets. In case of ice and snow such a big six berth camper van is the worst vehicle on the road. I recommend car and motel - they have family units, good heatings, and you do not have to walk through the cold on a campground, and if you want to cook you do not have to sleep in the kitchen... ;-)
About the road to Milford Sound:
If there is a high avalanche risk it does not matter what kind of car you are travelling in - they won't let you pass.
As unpredictable as the weather is, it is not possible to generalise when the road will be closed. It can also be closed due to heavy snowfall without high avalanche risk. You cannot set a date for low and high risk, as snowfall is unpredictable. On the Milford Road you must count with snow from June to November. Road closures are not very frequent but can occur at any time. So it is essential to watch the weather forecast when you are in the region - and carry snow chains for any eventuality. And I would not count with making the trip from Milford Sound to Queenstown in 5 hours. It takes about two hours from Te Anau to Milford Sound.
Travel distances on www.aatravel.co.nz
An option you could consider is a scenic flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound. However, this comes at a price.
If conditions are bad you better change your plans because it makes no sense to drive the whole day without seeing anything but low cloud and fog.
Favorite thing: Thank you so much Kakapo. This information certainly helps. We are from Singapore & we are left side driving too however driving in pitch dark will not be a good idea as this would be our 1st time driving in NZ. I will make sure to end all activity by 5:30pm as advised by you & the others. Thank you all...
Most of the times the reason we are asked to repack at different airports is because the next airline we are taking has a different baggage allowance policy. Some has 7kgs, others 8kgs and then there are those with 10kgs or more.
If doing multi-ports journey, it pays to check all the baggage allowances of all the airlines you are flying with and pack as per the lowest (eg 7kg ex AKL if flying with Air NZ or Qantas) especially if you are only transitting in between ports. If stopping over and your next plane allows more then you can pack accordingly.
For those who has not come across it yet, the best site to check for baggage allowances for most airlines is Trip Advisors' Seat Guru. Airlines reservations staffs refers to it so for future reference with other airlines consider Seat Guru. In their website click on the airline you are flying with on the left of the screen then click on general information on the drop down menu. The airline's check in, comprehensive baggage, infant, child and pets policies are there in detail. To check Air New Zealand's baggage policy for example:
Hope it helps...
Fondest memory: I live here and can't count those memories...
Hi Adrienne, just like Pam, Sissy and every1 else advised, the car and accommodations would probably be the way to go, space and cost wise especially with having your friend with you.
I can't add anymore to what they have already advised you but just in case you really like the flexibility of a self-contained camper and the presence of your friend is not going to compromise your space and you're happy to fork out for the extra cost, may I add...
I've gone around the South Island on a 6 berth camper van with 4 others and I would do it again in a heartbeat when I get the chance. In case you want to explore this option Adrienn, check out Pacific Horizons' 4 berth Gem it has more than one sleeping outlay. The maximum daily hire rate is NZD340/day inclusive of standard insurance (you're a lawyer so I leave that part to you :-))
They have specials going on I believe for bookings done until the end of Jan 2012 for travels between Dec 2011 and 31 March 2012. They are offering 30% off. They were the company we used, I have not checked the other companies but I believe you already have the info on this. Here is the link:
The South Island has more winding roads than the North but we did not have any problems at all with a 6berth camper van. They have depots in Auckland, Christchurch, Picton and Wellington so you can drop off your van at any of these locations.
We flew to CHC and picked up the van from there and we went up to Kaikoura and Picton and around on the West Coast into Queenstown then down to Milford and Doubtful Sounds and up into Marlborough country (Lake Tekapo) back to Christchurch then flew back to Auckland all in less than 3 weeks (18 days).
If you are going to check this option, check out Top Ten Holiday Parks as well. These are up market camp sites in NZ and can offer you from un/powered sites to 5 star units (NZ standards of course).
No matter which way you decide to travel, I wish you good weather (which we did on our trip except for one day/1 night in Milford Sound when it rained and snowed and the cliffs were littered with waterfalls in the afternoon that magically disappeared when I woke up the next morning). It’s a beautiful slice of paradise; it's my wish that you'll enjoy it as much as we do down here!
Fondest memory: I live in this slice of paradise in this land of the long white clouds; I can't count the many fond memories...
If you buy just a coffee at any Robert Harris Cafe, around New Zealand, you can get free wifi.
This is handy to know. They don't exactly advertise, and you need to ask for it.
Theoretically it is priced at $2.50 for 30mins, but if you buy the coffee, you don't pay that.
Many Robt Harris Cafes also have a docking bay to recharge your mobile phone. Just don't leave it behind when you go!
Tongariro National Park on the North Island is famous for its hydrothermal ctivity; there you will discover geysers, like the famous Lady Knox geyser erupting every day at 10.30, (well, a park attendee triggers the eruption by throwing some soap in the vent, so that tourists are not disappointed. . . ), but also colourful ponds (Painter’s palette) due to various mineralisations, hot springs where natives cooked their food, hills covered permanently by steam clouds. . . . Not far from there, you can have a warm bath in a mineral water pool. . . . but for me more interesting and beautiful were the sights and walks on Ruapehu and Ngauruhe volcanoes!
More pictures in travelogue .
Milford Sound is a place one should not miss when visiting the South Island of New Zealand.
First, the road getting there is one of the most scenic I had driven at the time; you drive all times with beauties of nature surrounding you, the very rugged landscape, the glaciers, the waterfalls, the lakes you discover on the sometimes steep and precipitous road, all this gives you a feeling of a trip in high mountains above 3000m, (they look a bit like that in Europe, at that elevation, Engadine, in a wilderness version).
Second, a cruise in the fjord, down to the Pacific Ocean; the show is in the water, with the dolphins jumping around the boat, on the shores where the seals to do nothing else than sunbathing all day long, and the show, the great show are the 500 metres high cliffs, bare or covered with trees, fern, moss, from where beautiful waterfalls roar down (some boats approach enough to let you taste that water, and yes, depending from where the water falls, it has different tastes).
Third, the return route on the road, as beautiful as the day before; stop near the Homer tunnel, discover the chasm mountain, make a stop at mirror lakes, walk in the southern rain forest (Fjordland is one of the most humid places on the planet).
If I have the chance to go back one day to Fjordland, I certainly will make a week long trek (a tramp, as they say here) in these mountains. Visit Fjordland for the beauty of the wilderness.
It is like time has stopped in some remote places (but all is remote here!) of South Island; travel can mean to go somewhere, but for me, it is also the time spent for going to this somewhere, the places I discover during the journey; on the small roads of New Zealand you may find beautiful small houses or villages, maintained with lots of poesy; here are a few pictures of places where I was enchanted by this poesy; some places are a bit touristy, like Arrowtown, old gold mining city (picture 4), other are just a plunge in the past with this steam powered train in Kingston (picture 2); if you have even more time, you can take a ride on that train!
Doug Copp’s tips how to most probably survive a strong earthquake, by creating the triangles of life:
(But again let me point out that NZ authorities insist that this technique does not work and recommend that you crawl under a table. Sorry for the confusion... I have added my comments and thoughts in bold after having made my personal earthquake experience.)
1) Almost everyone who simply "ducks and covers" when buildings collapse are crushed to death. People who get under objects, like desks or cars, are crushed.
If you are not in the car or under the desk you will be crused for sure. I have seen crushed cars in Christchurch in which people have died. They would also have died had they stood beside the car.
2) Cats, dogs and babies often naturally curl up in the fetal position. You should too in an earthquake. It is a natural safety/survival instinct. You can survive in a smaller void. Get next to an object, next to a sofa, next to a large bulky object that will compress slightly but leave a void next to it.
Fetal position is good, and a void is always good. Had I curled up next to my sofa, a cupboard might have fallen on me. Another falling cupboard created a triangle of life - but how do you calculate in a millisecond if the cupboard would be tall enough to hit a chair or table or sofa to create this triangle, or if it would miss these objects and crush you?
3) Wooden buildings are the safest type of construction to be in during an
earthquake. Wood is flexible and moves with the force of the earthquake. If the wooden building does collapse, large survival voids are created. Also, the wooden building has less concentrated, crushing weight. Brick buildings will break into individual bricks. Bricks will cause many injuries but less squashed bodies than concrete slabs.
100 per cent correct.
4) If you are in bed during the night and an earthquake occurs, simply roll off the bed. A safe void will exist around the bed. Hotels can achieve a much greater survival rate in earthquakes, simply by posting a sign on the back of the door of every room telling occupants to lie down on the floor, next to the bottom of the bed during an earthquake.
Only if no piece of furniture can fall on you when you are lying there.
Another very dangerous thing are flying objects, like pictures falling from the walls and hitting your head, and lots of items flying out of cupboards because the cupboard doors open when the earth starts rocking. In hotels you will notice framed pictures over most beds.
They should probably provide helmets in the nighttables ;-)) Have you noticed in the footage of the earthquake/tsunami disaster in Japan that many people ran to the streets wearing helmets or with pillows around their heads? Not a bad idea to grab a pillow when an earthquake strikes while you are in bed.
5) If an earthquake happens and you cannot easily escape by getting out the door or window, then lie down and curl up in the fetal position next to a sofa, or large chair.
See above. Best protection is a door frame. Just make sure to protect your head from smaller flying objects.
6) Almost everyone who gets under a doorway when buildings collapse is killed. How? If you stand under a doorway and the doorjamb falls forward or backward you will be crushed by the ceiling above. If the doorjamb falls sideways you will be cut in half by the doorway. In either case, you will be killed!
This is heavily disputed by New Zealand authorities.
7) Never go to the stairs. The stairs have a different "moment of frequency" (they swing separately from the main part of the building).The stairs and remainder of the building continuously bump into each other until structural failure of the stairs takes place. The people who get on stairs before they fail are chopped up by the stair treads – horribly mutilated. Even if the building doesn't collapse, stay away from the stairs. The stairs are a likely part of the building to be damaged. Even if the earthquake does not collapse the stairs, they may collapse later when overloaded by fleeing people. They should always be checked for safety, even when the rest of the building is not damaged.
There might be truth in this - but also depends on whether the stairs are made of wood or concrete or whichever material. In one of Christchurch's high-rise buildings that survived the earthquake the stairways were seriously damaged.
8) Get near the outer walls of buildings or outside of them if possible. It is much better to be near the outside of the building rather than the interior. The farther inside you are from the outside perimeter of the building the greater the probability that your escape route will be blocked.
If you had remained next to an outside wall of a brick building in Christchurch, you would have been killed for sure because most of the bricks and the decorative elements of the outside walls and roofline fell down right there. There were piles of bricks lying on the footpaths. Most buildings had a wooden frame on the inside which kept the bricks from falling to the inside.
A dangerous place inside a house is the chimney breast if the house has a chimney made of bricks. Most chimneys in the affected areas collapsed, with the outside part crashing onto the roof and sliding down the roof onto the footpath where someone could have been hit, or crashing through the roof into the house, and the remainder of the chimney crashing into the house anyway.
9) People inside their vehicles are crushed when the road above falls in an earthquake and crushes their vehicles; which is exactly what happened with the slabs between the decks of the Nimitz Freeway. The victims of the San Francisco earthquake all stayed inside their vehicles. They were all killed. They could have easily survived by getting out and sitting or lying next to their vehicles. Everyone killed would have survived if they had been able to get out of their cars and sit or lie next to them. All the crushed cars had voids 3 feet high next to them, except for the cars that had columns fall directly across them.
This might be correct in certain circumstances. It depends how fast you would get out of the car, if the earthquake would not rock you away from the car, how fast the highway above collapses, etc. In Christchurch there are nearly no such constructions (there would be in not so earthquake-prone Auckland and only a few in our earthquake-capital Wellington). The biggest danger for motorists would have been cracks opening in the roads, liquefaction shooting up through these cracks, and rockfall. You would rather be hit by a rock sitting in your car - on the right side, of course... - or huddling outside the car on the side which would not be hit... But if the rock hits the car and pushes it away you would be smashed by the car. If you are in the car and the rock hits the car from the side you have a chance to be pushed aside in the car and survive. If the rock crashed onto the car from above... Well, anything you do can be right or wrong. New Zealand authorities recommend to stay inside the car because it can protect you from falling rocks and debris.
10) I discovered, while crawling inside of collapsed newspaper offices and other offices with a lot of paper, that paper does not compact. Large voids are found surrounding stacks of paper.
This surely is true. But there are less and less such stacks in our age and time.
I had long thought about the logics behind the theory of "The Triangle of Life", posted on the internet by a guy named Doug Copp who introduces himself as the former Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of the American Rescue Team International (ARTI), the world's most experienced rescue team. He says the information in his article will save lives in an earthquake.
On official NZ websites I found tips Doug Copp would classify as the most probable way to death – like staying in bed or in a car.
Since having experienced the devastating 6.3 earthquake that destroyed the city centre of Christchurch and many suburbs, in particular the eastern suburbs, on 22 February 2011, I tend to agree with the official stance of New Zealand's Civil Defence.
Duck and cover
If a building collapses completely like the CTV and Pyne Gould Buildings in Christchurch, no theory will really help you. It will be a matter of luck and bad luck if you survive such a disaster. But still it is essential that you duck for cover, best under a door frame or a table. School children in New Zealand learn in their drills to duck under their desks and protect their heads with their arms.
If a building is at the brink of collapse, run to the street. Best get in the middle of the street to avoid falling bricks or stonework or masonry fall onto you.
Do not stand right under a power line.
This is Doug Copp’s text, slightly shortened:
"I have crawled inside 875 collapsed buildings, worked with rescue teams from 60 countries. I have worked at every major disaster in the world since 1985.
In 1996 we made a film, which proved my survival methodology to be correct.
We collapsed a school and a home with 20 mannequins inside. Ten mannequins did "duck and cover," and the other ten mannequins used my "triangle of life" survival method. After the simulated earthquake, we crawled through the rubble and entered the building to film and document the results. The film showed that there would have been zero percent survival for those doing duck and cover; and 100 percent survivability for people using my method of the "triangle of life."
The first building I ever crawled inside of was a school in Mexico City during the 1985 earthquake. Every child was under its desk. Every child was crushed to the thickness of their bones. They could have survived by lying down next to their desks in the aisles.
When buildings collapse, the weight of the ceilings falling upon the objects or furniture inside crushes these objects, leaving a space or void next to them. This space is what I call the "triangle of life". The larger the object, the stronger, the less it will compact. The less the object compacts, the larger the void, the greater the probability that the person who is using this void for safety will not be injured.
The next time you watch collapsed buildings, on television, count the "triangles" you see formed. They are everywhere."
TEN TIPS FOR EARTHQUAKE SAFETY
For quite a while I have wanted to inform you about the cost of life – and therefore the cost of a holiday – in New Zealand. Today the newspapers have published the latest figures of dairy products, so it is easy to show you a trend that makes life in New Zealand more and more unaffordable.
It is not the cars, televisions, computers, or mobile phones that make budgeting difficult. Those secondary products are even cheap at the moment, thanks to the high NZ dollar. But going to the supermarket for grocery shopping could make you cry. Everyday products like milk, cheese, butter, fruit and vegetables are slowly becoming luxury items that people on low incomes are struggling with.
This dairy products policy is a shame. People are required to pay world market prices although New Zealand produces large quantities of this world market and New Zealand’s dairy cows pollute the whole country and the taxpayers have to clean up the mess. So the cost of butter has nearly doubled over the past four months to an astounding $ 4.99 for 500 grams, and I wonder why the world market price in Great Britain (4.72) is lower, and why people in Australia only have to pay $ 2.44 on average. A one kilo block of cheese can cost up to $ 15 (and this is not an outstanding delicacy), and a litre of milk $ 2.40.
Of course, the greedy NZ Dairy Farmers chairman, has explanations for everything. This time he cited the rapidly expanding middle classes in China and India who seem to bathe in milk and rub their bodies in cheese, so the demand has increased dramatically. If I try to understand this New Zealanders are expected to pay those countries’ thirst for milk, and the whole thing is called world market.
On the other hand, meat is still cheaper than in many other countries. This is also world market because we only get second choice quality here. The export quality beef and lamb goes – you suspect right – to the rest of the world, and if an overseas order is cancelled miraculously our butchers sell some old export quality meat at world market prices.
The same applies to fruit, like our famous Braeburn apples. We get stay-at-home quality, and most fruit is not even cheap, except kiwifruit in the peak season. I have started to buy foreign product as this – of course – is export quality and does not rot in the car on the way home, or already looks too horrible to buy at all.
The government is campaiging tirelessly to convince us to support the NZ economy by buying NZ products. This is, as you can see, not really easy. In most cases Kiwi made means: expensive. Pay more for less. Or so. As NZ is a small market most homemade and –grown food are sold at extraordinary prices in delicatessen shops – as if we were all millionaires.
Another extraordinary story is about New Zealand’s wine. I bet also you will succeed to buy a bottle of NZ wine for less in your home country than in NZ. A friend and I once emptied a whole supermarket shelf of Montana Sauvignon Blanc in Germany as it was sold at about half price that it would cost here. Wine really has become a luxury product, due to high taxes on one and the attitude of wine growers on the other side. You even have to pay for wine tasting in most wineries!
And please do not talk about the cost of beer. Imported beer is expensive because it has to be imported – and local beer is expensive because the brewers consider it as something special, and the government thinks both are a good source of income.
Other things that are rather expensive are ice-cream. Dining out has become expensive, too.
It is cheap to go to the hairdresser, hire a car, use the bus, have sushi at a food court, travel by air if you book early, and all rubbish food and drinks like coke that make you fat.
Update 17 Dec 2008
The price of petrol had gone up to $ 2.10 in June 2008 but this has now dropped back down to under $ 1.40. (When I came to NZ at the end of 2003 it was below $ 1.) It is slightly dearer in remote regions.
Update 9 April 2009
We are back at NZ$ 1.65 to 1.70 for a litre of petrol at the moment.
Update 20 March 2011
The price of petrol is back up at about NZ$ 2.10 per litre.
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