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Christchurch – The Brave Heart!

A Sudden Plan

In the busy Melbourne life, suddenly I got two weeks break while changing jobs. Being a traveler at heart, immediately decided that am off to somewhere for a week! Considering its winter in July in Australia, the cheapest and best option was New Zealand. Within couple of days I booked my week-long trip to South Islands, New Zealand.

I wanted to have a relaxing trip and hence decided to visit only two cities – Christchurch & Queenstown. This was a solo trip, so I kept the itinerary simple. In no time I found myself in the JetStar flight from Melbourne to Christchurch! I had dozed off during the flight and woke up with the Captain announcing that the flight is landing. I opened my eyes and looked out of the window, the view was breathtaking. Something inside me said that my trip was going to be amazing!

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Landing at Christchurch, NZ

The TranzAlpine train trip

Checked-in to Ibis, Christchurch. The hotel is located at the heart of the CBD (main city). My day 1 was just walking around the city and getting myself used to the cold. I called it a night pretty early as I had an 8am Tranzalpine train to catch the next morning to visit Arthur’s Pass National Park.

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Kiwi Rail – TranzAlpine journey

The Kiwi rail personnel picked me up at around 7.30 from my hotel and dropped me to the Christchurch station. The Tranzalpine train was already standing there and looked very striking and impressive. This train is operated by ‘The Great Journeys of New Zealand’ in the South Island over the ‘Midland Line’; it’s often regarded to be one of the world’s greatest train journeys, for the scenery through which it passes. The journey is 223 kilometres one-way, taking almost five hours. I had decided to go half way till Arthur’s Pass and then return back the same day.

The train left the mainland and soon was running amidst the mesmerising Southern Alps. We crossed snow clad mountains, rivers and waterfalls. There was a pantry inside the train, from where I got a nice coffee while I enjoyed the views. It felt both peaceful and exciting at the same time! The co-passengers were from different countries and they seemed to love New Zealand as much. With every turn the train took, there were more mountains and sometimes tunnels, overall this was my best ever train journey!

Arthur’s Pass National Park

The train reached Arthur’s Pass at around 11am. Few of the passengers got down here. The scenery was breathtaking! I couldn’t believe nature can be so beautiful.

fullsizeoutput_8aa2It was freezing though, but I was all wrapped up in my jacket and beanie. I found my way to the Visitor Centre, collected some maps of the area and chose to do a hike to the Devils Punchbowl Waterfall. My return train from Arthur’s Pass was around 4.30pm in the afternoon, so I had around five and a bit hours to myself, to explore this beauty.

 

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Arthur’s Pass

Started my hike, there was ice on the way but no one else around! I was very excited as I have not seen much snow in Melbourne or in the other countries I have visited, so it was a very different experience. Kept walking on the trail, was getting exhausted as it was uphill, but then I met some tourists coming from the opposite direction, who said it’s worth finishing the trail! The track crossed through a sparse forest and I could see snow-clad mountains from some points, the cold was getting intense but when I heard the birds chirping yet felt the silence of the place, I was feeling happy and ignored the cold. It was an experience I never had before! Finally, I reached the Devil’s Punchbowl waterfalls.

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The waterfall was massive and really worth the hike! On one side was the waterfall and on the opposite side was this huge snow-clad mountain. I felt an immense happiness inside me. Nature had waved its magic wand again and made me ecstatic! I spent some time by the waterfall, just hearing the sound of water gushing down and then forming a stream. The return trail felt shorter as I was already so gratified and had all my energy back from the picturesque magnificence around. I reached back to the base and grabbed some food in the Wobbly Kea Café and Bar. Then I explored around little more and soon headed off to the station for my return to Christchurch. Chatted with the co-passengers on the journey back and shared my solo journey experiences with them with a glass of wine! Nothing feels better than telling your stories to strangers, who are your friends in a strange way! Arthur’s Pass had made my day and so did the transalpine train journey. After a quick dinner at Christchurch, I crashed off to bed.

The city which recreated itself

As many of us know, the intense earthquakes in Christchurch in 2010 & 2011, created widespread damage to buildings, infrastructure and human life. My third and final day in Christchurch was exploring the city and enjoy a laidback day before I head off to Queenstown. I walked down to the Canterbury Museum after a sumptuous breakfast and coffee.

The museum had a beautiful adjoining garden and some really amazing piece of architecture. After spending some time there, I walked up the street to do a punting tour on the Avon river. It was a perfect day for punting! A leisurely trip along the picturesque Avon River, being punted by a friendly, informative guide felt very relaxing. There was lovely scenery in the Botanical Gardens. We were given blankets and hot-water bags to make us feel warm. The short half an hour tour felt even shorter when the surrounding was so breathtaking!

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The picturesque Christchurch

After the punting tour, I walked across the ‘Bridge of Remembrance’, dedicated to the soldiers of the World Wars and then reached the Christchurch Cathedral. As I got to see more of the city, I noticed how much damage was caused by the earthquakes and how the people here had accepted that and bravely rebuilt the entire city! Met many locals, who spoke of their loss during the earthquakes, but they loved this city and embraced all that they had to face because they felt Christchurch is where they belong! Many of them were immigrants from Afghanistan, Israel, Bangladesh and India. You learn so much, when you travel!

I was pretty tired by late afternoon, had some food but kept thinking of how brave the locals were and how much they loved this city. I reached the hotel by evening, went to my room and packed by bags as I had an early flight the next day. I went out to have some dinner in the Indian restaurant just opposite Ibis, called Mumbaiwala and had a happy tummy!

When reality strikes!

It was around 9 pm and I was watching the television in my room, almost half asleep, considering I walked a lot around the city that day. My mind was full of thoughts and my body was tired. Suddenly, my bed, the television, the tables, chairs and everything in the room started trembling horribly! My first thought was that I was dreaming, since my mind was full of those broken buildings which I had witnessed throughout the day. But it took me couple of more seconds to realise, that it was an actual earthquake!!!

I held the bed frame strongly and was scared to death, started thinking of my family back in India and every fraction of second felt like ages! After around 30-40 secs, the shake stopped. I was still immobile on my bed and was having a brain-freeze too. As I regained my senses, I jumped off the bed and dialled reception. The lady from the reception seemed pretty calm and said there is nothing to fear, this was just a minor tremor! I was freaking out on the other side and immediately hung up and rushed to the ground floor! Saw many frightening faces like mine in the lobby, all with the fear of what that city was infamous for! The receptionist calmed us down and after spending an hour in the lobby, anticipating another tremor, I was too drained out and returned to my room and felt asleep!

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The Experience

From the first day itself, Christchurch won my heart! The way this city has faced the most dangerous natural calamity and has accepted that fact and rebuilt itself, is sheer bravery and courage. Rebuilt not just buildings and infrastructure but also their minds, their hearts, their history and their future.

Life’s never easy but happy are those who face their fears and move on! No wonder the receptionist that night was so calm! She has experienced much more intense earthquakes than that minor tremor. Christchurch taught me that history and culture of a place is not only to treasure what was created by our ancestors, but it is also what we create as we progress. The history of Christchurch is not the infamous earthquakes, but it is the people who love that city more than their lives and properties. They say, ‘a thing of beauty, is a joy forever’, and Christchurch, you will be the most dangerously beautiful city I have ever been to! Stay safe Christchurch, until next time!

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Christchurch – The brave heart

This blog post is dedicated to all the brave hearts who were sacrificed in the Christchurch mosque shootings, March 2019. I have visited this city and seen how brave are the people of Christchurch. My heart goes out to all the families who have lost their near ones in the shooting. May they rest in peace wherever they are! Hope the world becomes a better place one day.

Noosa – Sea, Sand and Sunshine

The place

My friends and I decided to travel to Noosa this year January. Noosa is located on the southern end of Queensland, an Australian state and is in the Sunshine coast. Noosa Heads, a town and suburb of the Shire of Noosa is located approximately 136 kilometres north of Brisbane, the state’s capital and is in the main hub.

We flew to the Sunshine coast airport from Melbourne and then rented a car from the airport and drove down to the Peregian beach where we had booked our accommodation. It’s a scenic 24km (approx) drive along the coast with the sea in sight now and then. We had booked our stay through Airbnb and must admit that it was one of best houses we ever stayed!

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On the way to the Peregian beach we stopped for lunch and had some wonderful Thai food. The weather in January was hot and a bit humid too. However, the sunshine was welcoming and the beautiful beaches stole our heart.

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Peregian Beach

The beach was even more mesmerizing in the night! The starlit night, the lashing of the waves, the quietness and the companionship made us cherish every moment and feel at peace.

A Day well spent

The next morning, after a good night’s sleep, we decided to explore Noosa by ferry. We boarded the ferry from the Noosa Yacht & Rowing Club and there begun a wonderful journey in the Noosa river waters. It was a beautiful sunny day, the sky and the river water was clear blue and the weather was impeccable for a river cruise. We disembarked at the Sofitel Noosa Heads and gallivanted in the Hastings Street famous for its boutique shops and restaurants.

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Noosa River journey

We had a wonderful Indian lunch at Kali Gourmet Indian restaurant . The restaurant had delicious Indian food and warm and welcoming staff. We then explored the beach at the Noosa Heads and the colourful boutique shops in the Hastings street.

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Beach in Noosa Heads

We took the return ferry in the afternoon and then decided to view the Sunset from the Laguna Lookout in the Noosa National Park. It was a spellbinding sunset. We were captivated by the landscape and life felt good!

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Sunset at Laguna Lookout

Fraser Island – Adventure reloaded

The next day we had planned a day trip to the famous Fraser Island. The Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island stretching over 120km. We got picked up by the tour providers at 6am and then headed off to our first stop where we boarded a four wheel drive tour bus. We crossed the Noosa river in the cable barge and stopped at the Rainbow beach for morning tea. It was a scenic journey so far and the rainbow beach was true to its name.

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Rainbow Beach

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4WD Tour Bus

Next, we had a rocky ride inside the forest area to the crystal clear freshwater Lake McKenzie. It was an absolutely beautiful lake with tropical turquoise water, fine white sand and surrounded by forest. After our rocky ride, the lake was welcoming and we immediately jumped onto the water. We spend time in the lake exfoliating ourselves with the white sand and splashing water on each other. It felt like we voyaged back to our childhood! Soon we felt hungry and were served delicious “Aussie style” bush barbecue with a varied assortment of fresh salad and drinks. We stuffed ourselves and soon it was time to head back to the mainstream.

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Lake McKenzie

On the way back, we dropped by the magnificent Rainforests. We walked inside the cold, dark pathways of the forest. It was thrilling and we praised nature at every step. The luxuriant canopy of palms and vines made each moment memorable.

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Rainforest

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Rainforest

We returned back by evening, tired yet rejuvenated!

The Experience

My friends and I have a busy life in Melbourne like many others. We planned this trip to Noosa with an agenda of relaxation and holiday. On the last day of our trip, we had checked the boxes! Noosa is not only one of the most beautiful places we had visited but it felt like the sea, sand and sunshine have hitched to make Noosa magical! If you love beaches, Noosa is where you should be! Every moment we spent here was full of awe! Australia has many beaches and I have visited many of them, yet Noosa had its own appeal and will make me come back again when I want to liberate and revive myself! Noosa, you stole our hearts with your charm, see you again someday! Till then, keep travelling!

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Sunrise on the last day at Noosa 🙂 

You will survive….!

Sometimes you are happy! So happy that every part of your body, your mind, your soul is just dripping happiness. Every nerve, every vein, in fact every cell in your blood is just so happy. You feel like dancing, singing, may be even like screaming your heart out and say the world that you are happy! As happy as one can be! Everything feels right, every songs seems to be melodious, every food tasty, everyone around seems wonderful and even a stranger feels like an old friend! Oh the world feels so beautiful!

Then comes some grey clouds and make us sad. You hate everyone around. The same songs feel noisy, food distasteful, and the stranger is as if about to kill you. You don’t feel like talking to anyone because you are drowned in melancholy. No one understands you and you feel like a burden to this earth and the earth a burden to you! Your world collapses!

When I was learning swimming, I was very scared of the deeper end of the pool. My trainer used to say that when I reach the deeper end, I should switch off my mind and just not think anything. I should trust the water that it will hold me within itself and not let me drown. Wasn’t an easy one, trust me! After months of regular lessons, one day I went for swimming and I was a bit sad and unmindful that day. I swam to the deeper end, saw the depth of the pool underneath and was just ignorant and numb about it. I swam back safe and my trainer was smiling. She asked me if I was scared that day as well and I couldn’t honestly recall what was I thinking when I was on the deeper end!

Happiness, sadness, pain, anger, fear, anxiety, ecstasy are all like instructions or lessons we convey to ourselves. Then slowly we start to learn how to react to them. We laugh when we are happy and cry when we are sad. Then there are one of those days, when we just don’t feel anything. We are just  numb! Sometimes you just have to let go and trust that this universe will hold you within itself! That you will survive…..