Zipping Down South

I was anxious to get away from Christchurch for a few days just to catch a few  zzz’s.  Insomnia had gotten the better of me and all of the waiting for the predicted whopper wasn’t doing me any good either!  So, we hied off to the Waitaki Valley, down South, and spent a few days there enjoying a long drive of four hours, broken up by visits to the famous Temuka Pottery showroom, and the Wild Bean Café!  Since Iain was going to do a lot of driving, I borrowed an mp3 audio book from the library.  It was tantalisingly called Inspector Singh Investigates: The Singapore School of Villainy by Shamini Flint, featuring the portly, beer-swilling Sikh Poirot, Inspector Singh. Jonathan Keeble was an excellent narrator, and we fell about laughing at his accents (some of which were more successful than others!)  This audio book successfully accomplished its aim of keeping Iain awake and alert on the four-hour drive to Duntroon in the Waitaki Valley.

We sought sanctuary at a lovely Bed and Breakfast called Windhaven, run by Brain and Margery Deaker.  Oh my, but it was lovely!  So restful and peaceful, set in a lovely white converted farmhouse embraced by a gorgeous garden.  Our room was luxuriously spacious and beautifully appointed.  Charis enjoyed the privacy of her very own bedroom! 

The Honeymoon Suite at Windhaven
Nestled in the Waitaki Valley

I love being surrounded by beauty and, in this case, was not disappointed.  Everywhere the eye rested was harmony of colour, texture, and design.  French doors opened on to a balcony where we enjoyed a scrummy Continental breakfast when the weather allowed, and imbibed Sauvignon Blanc by the light of the full moon at day’s end.  The house is set way back from super-highway 83, and patrolled by sentinels of pine, eucalyptus, and various fruit trees so that our dreams were undisturbed.  It is a half hour’s drive from the nearest large town, Victorian Oamaru, but well worth the commute.  You could not do better for hosts than charming, friendly, and knowledgeable Brian and Margery Deaker, who armed us with valuable information and wonderful suggestions regarding places to eat and venues to visit. 

With our charming hostess, Margery Deaker
Charis on Brian's home-made obstacle course

Charis especially loved Benson, their black cocker spaniel, who welcomed us with the mad frenzy of a speeding bullet on steroids, and Toto, their sleek blue-eyed Siamese feline who curled up in bed with her.  Other attractions Charis loved included an obstacle course and a home-made flying fox, constructed by The Man Himself, master builder and joiner, Brian.  If you’re ever on holiday in the heart of the Waitaki wine valley, you couldn’t do better than Windhaven.  Check out their website here:



After the heartbreak of seeing the lovely heritage buildings of Christchurch lying in ruins, it was such a do-I-dare-to-believe-it-pleasure to witness the grand, stately neo-Classical buildings of Victorian Oamaru.

We loved Oamaru.  It is a city by the sea, and the light was beautiful.  We followed the heritage trail of buildings that lined the broad avenues of the city centre.   Here, have a peek:

The buildings were constructed during a time of unprecedented growth in the 1880’s -1890’s.  The newly renovated Opera House was stunning, but, it was a difficult choice to pick a favourite heritage building.  It was like attending a Miss Universe beauty pageant where every contestant looked like, well, Miss Universe!

Highlights for us were the heritage trail; the art galleries (i.e. the Forrester Gallery, The Woolstore Galleries and Cafe, and the Whisky Art Gallery); Totara Estate (from where NZ  first attempted to export frozen meat to England with great success); the Vanished World Fossil Trail (We saw whale fossils in the same place where The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was filmed!); the Whitestone Cheese Factory where we sampled 18 varieties of scrummy cheese; the Kurow Wine Cellar where I  tried 14 varieties of aromatic wines from Pinot Gris to Rieslings (It was a challenge to walk straight after that!) ; and, the Blue Penguin colony, where our patience was rewarded (after a 2 1/2 hour wait) by seeing a foot-high blue penguin with two downy chicks not two metres away from us.  We, the remaining die-hard viewers, held our collective breath at this breath-taking miracle! 


Charis at the Oamaru Botanical Gardens


At Totara Estate

Iain under fossil-studded limestone overhang

Cheese tasting at Whitestone Cheeses. Special plates for a lavish spread.
The Art Car – Oamaru Central



One day, we popped in to the premises of Oamaru Heritage Radio to view their amazing collection of vintage radios.  We were fascinated, but especially Charis, who had never seen radios that were bigger than TV sets!  We met one of the presenters, Wyn Machon, who was all Southern hospitality and charm.  Because he was on-air, I asked him to kindly thank all the people of Oamaru and the surrounding districts for their love and generosity towards Christchurch.  “Why don’t you do it?” he suggested.  So I did.  It was easy to feel emotional about this thanksgiving tribute because everywhere we went in Oamaru and Duntroon, we saw evidence of the love and care of our Southern friends.  Red and black stickers (Canterbury colours) emblazoned with the words “We Care” were pasted on the glass doors and windows of various establishments and retail outlets.  The Vintner’s Drop in Kurow offered a free glass of Sauvignon Blanc to anyone visiting from Christchurch.  (We got called “refugees” a lot.)  The Blue Penguin Colony offered free daytime passes to view the nests of the Blue Penguins.  And Riverstone Kitchen, one of the BEST places to eat in Oamaru, donated a full day’s takings (with all the staff working for free!) and gave a full $10,000 to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.  How could your heart not be touched by such kindness?



On our way back to Christchurch, we visited the Aighantighe Art Gallery in Timaru and were not disappointed.  We were fortunate to catch them before closing hours.

Here’s the blurb from their website:

The Aigantighe Art Gallery in Wai-iti Road, Timaru is renowned internationally for its art collection and innovative exhibition and education programmes. It was founded in 1956 by the Grant family who came from Scotland and it now holds the South Island’s third-largest public art museum collection. Aigantighe is Scottish Gaelic for ‘at home’ and is pronounced ‘egg and tie’.

Aigantighe holds New Zealand, Pacific, Asian and European art works from the sixteenth century to the present day. Its British Victorian painting collection is of great significance. Masterpieces by Goldie, Hodgkins and McCahon (born in Timaru) feature in a room dedicated especially to them and six new thematic exhibitions from the permanent collection are held in the House Gallery each year.

As usual, I loved the Victorian paintings best, along with the masterpieces by Charles Goldie, and the series of lithographs and etchings titled the Labours of Herakles, by Marian Maguire of Christchurch.  They were whimsical, witty, thought-provoking, and skilfully executed.  Think Classical Greek meets Maori in colonial New Zealand.  Check it out here:



Happy to be home again.  Finished the audio book on the way home to Christchurch.  Mystery satisfactorily solved.  End of story. 🙂


Earthquake update

The NZ Herald wrote today that “City officials estimate one-sixth of Christchurch’s 390,000 population – some 65,000 people – have fled, terrified by aftershocks or because their workplace has been damaged or destroyed.”  It’s really hard to believe that number!   But today, we learned that friends from church were moving to Auckland rather than try and start up a new business here.  Their business took a hit with the earthquake and I don’t think they see a future for it here.

The city council has lifted the cordons around the city and people will be able to go back in and retrieve the cars they left behind in parking garages or on the road; see if their buildings are still standing; and, retrieve personal and business items from their places of work.

Aftershocks still rock the region.  We attended a wedding last Saturday and church on Sunday, and both times, at both functions, there were aftershocks.  Sometimes I think a person is rudely or thoughtlessly shaking the table or leaning/sitting on my car, only to realise it was an aftershock rather than human action.  Sleep has become a priceless luxury, and, due to insomnia, I can’t seem to sleep before 2 a.m.  It’s such a weird sensation.  Last night, I finally fell asleep after 4 a.m. and thankfully, Iain let me sleep till after 11 a.m.  I was stunned to see the clock register 11:15 a.m. when I awoke.

It’s like we run on adrenaline and then, when we try to relax, possible horror scenarios just sneak up and fill our minds.  We thought the Sept. 4 quake was already bad, but redeemed by the fact that there were no deaths.  This time round, people aren’t quite so resilient. One lives with a pounding heart as soon as an aftershock strikes, or an image flashes on TV or on a website.

Iain’s office building, Meridian Energy, the government-owned electricity company, has been officially “red-stickered” by the earthquake inspectors, and the building is due for demolition, along with the church that stands on a neighbouring property.  He is now working out of a portacom or porta-cabin which is like a huge shipping container with desks and chairs.  He comes home complaining that space is tight (12 men crammed into a place meant for six) and that his back hurts from being hunched up for eight hours.  I comfort him by saying, “It’s only age, dear.” 🙂 lol


Vigilance.  That’s the key word.  Wherever we go, I look around for the nearest exit or place to shelter if a quake strikes.  If Charis attends an exercise class at the YMCA, or goes to Art Metro, I make sure the teachers tell her where to go in the event of a quake.

Our church, Calvary Chapel Christchurch, meets in the auditorium of a Christian school.  The Sunday after the quake, I kept looking up to see what was above me.  It was a fierce looking long steel spike (I don’t know the architectural term for it) that was jutting out from the ceiling in various places.  I kept wanting to move because, if that thing fell, I would be right under it.  I felt like a wuss, but I didn’t care.

It’s that jittery unsettled feeling that seems to have seized many in Chch.  Nobody wants to be in a high-rise building and I don’t even like being indoors in ANY building unless I’ve identified the nearest exit or place to shelter if an aftershock strikes. If we’re in a mall, I can’t wait to get out, fearing stampedes if an aftershock struck.  This is the main reason I want to get out of Christchurch for a while…just to settle my nerves.

On the comic side, people are constantly debating whether it’s best to be on the ground floor so one can quickly run out in the event of a quake, or on the top floor, which is sure to end up on top if the building came crashing down.  One man who worked at Relationship Services, on the sixth floor of the collapsed CTV building, walked straight out of his office and right onto the street before he realised that his building had collapsed.


This morning, I read about the 8.9 magnitude quake that savaged Sendai province in Japan, along with a 10 meter high tsunami. 

It packed about 8000 times more energy than Christchurch’s 6.3-magnitude quake on February 22, said Professor Polat Gulkan, president of the International Association for Earthquake Engineering.

Later this afternoon, I learned that a 6.8 magnitude aftershock struck Japan, and a 5.8 magnitude quake hit Tonga.  What is going on?


A few days ago, I bumped into a man who claimed Jesus sent the earthquake and all that is happening is God’s judgment.  Now, I know that God is a just God but He is also a merciful God, and I find it hard to believe that God would do such a horrific thing.   After many days of pondering this, here is what I believe.  I believe that God created the heavens and the earth and once he created them, He set them in motion.   They behave in line with the physical laws He instituted that govern the universe…which means that the earth is free to behave like the earth behaves (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides – these are all natural earth activities which have led to the geographical shape of the earth today). 

Being human, however, we need and want things to make sense.  And because natural disasters are beyond our control, humans tend to believe they are caused by “the gods”.  So, we each decide how to view these disasters in ways that make sense to us.  Some of us will view them as the act of a cruel God or a powerless one, and turn away from Him.  Some will say, “It’s just the earth being the earth.”  And still others will say, “It’s the end of the world as we know it since this world will have to fade away for a new consciousness to be birthed in the Age of Aquarius.  We don’t need God.  During the ensuing Millennium everyone will work towards making this planet a paradise again. ”  

From the Fall of Man, God gave human beings FREEDOM OF CHOICE, free will, to decide whether to turn TO God or away from Him.  Each of us exercises that right every day.  Ironically, we give God no credit when wonderful things happen to us.  (Oh, that’s just luck!)  But we have no qualms about blaming Him when bad things happen to us.  (Why did God do this too me?)  As though God were just sitting and waiting to trip us up….

I ran into my friend, Gavin, yesterday.  He told me he bumped into a man he knew who had wrecked a friend’s marriage by making off with his wife.  This man sneeringly asked Gavin, “Where was God when the earthquake struck Christchurch?”  Gavin replied, “God was where He was when you chose to run off with so-and-so’s wife and wreck their marriage.  God gives us all free will, and our choices have rewards and consequences.  The earth is free to behave as the earth behaves just like you are free to behave the way you choose to behave.  God does not intervene and rescue us from our choices.”


I have come to believe that God is graciously giving us a warning before it is too late.  I think it’s fair to say that most of us are too busy for God until our lives are turned upside down by a crisis.  So isn’t it possible that, while the enemy is using these disasters to turn some away from God, God may be using this same disaster to get our attention and draw us TO Himself?  Could He be giving us a chance to see that we cannot save ourselves from ourselves?  That we can only come to a safe haven by turning away from our corrupt, selfish ways and turning to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation?  Jesus is the only way.  The enemy will use these catastrophes to turn people away from God.  And many people who have grown up believing that God is cruel, unfair, autocratic, and tyrannical will fall for the enemy’s lie and turn away from God.

So, the thing is to be prepared, and to remember that, even when we don’t understand why things happen the way they do, God is faithful, and the enemy is a liar.  The Bible says that salvation and eternal life can only be found in and through Jesus Christ, and, although we’ll never have all the answers on this side of eternity, we can pray for the grace to remain steadfast in faith in Jesus who said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. 

I have trusted in my own intelligence most of my life.  The older I get, the more I realise that I will NEVER understand God’s ways. No surprises there. 🙂 

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

While I cannot read God’s mind, I can at least make an effort to understand His character.  And reading A.W. Tozer’s book, “Knowledge of the Holy” is a terrific boon. I know that God is a just, holy, and righteous God, but also a merciful and loving one.  So, I pray and ask Him for strength and protection and greater faith. 🙂  And for the grace to stay true to Him until He calls me home.