After two weeks back in Whangarei on the North Island of New Zealand sorting our treasures from our Astarte life and adventures, we have made our way to the South Island. Our time in Whangarei was busy getting the packing done but then we enjoyed time with friends and even a steam train ride! We stayed in our first “airbnb” accommodation and were quite happy with the apartment we chose. It was a bit sad to leave one of our favorite places but time to move on.
We landed (via Auckland) in Christchurch on the eastern coast. Christchurch was devastated by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. It was the second greatest natural disaster in New Zealand's history. Killing 186 people and destroying many homes and buildings, the city shows the scars of this event. Construction sites abound and this is seven years after the event. Many historic buildings are still being shored up by massive steadying beams and the cracks on the rock walls and structures remain visible.
We spent a full day exploring the city via trolley, foot, bus and even gondola. Right after earthquakes, the city cheered itself up with community art projects that popped up in unlikely sites. Sides of buildings were covered with murals; empty spaces were filled with impromptu colorful, creative and even crazy installations of sculpture made from found objects; and, performance art popped up. This gave the city a new flavor.
We went to the art museum, botanical garden, history museum, “cardboard” cathedral (Transitional Cathedral built in 11 months to house the main Anglican Church that was destroyed by the earthquakes). It is called the “cardboard” cathedral because some of the beams are made from cardboard. We saw an interesting tribute “185 chairs” - one of the gap filling art pieces – but quite powerful. There are 185 chairs of every shape and size, all painted white on 185 square meters of grass. This represents the 185 people who died in the quake from all walks of life on grass which represents the new beginnings. Quite moving.
We then took the local bus to a gondola about 20 minutes outside the city. This was a fun ride to see the city and the ocean from above. (It was the first time Michael didn't make me climb up a hill and I arrived at the top without a red face!) The plains of Canterbury are quite flat with series of hills and the view let us sea the ocean to the east. It was beautiful to get a 360 view of the area from on-high.
The botanical gardens were beautiful even in fall. So we enjoyed a stroll through the well maintained and varied rose gardens, large trees, river walk, grass areas and conservatories. We lucked out with a warm (even hot) sunny day for our Christchurch exploration. The trolley was a fun way to get about the city – you could hop on and off at the various stops. They were historic old cars with knowledgeable conductors and drivers that pointed out the highlights (and some lower-lights).
After a full day in the city, we downsized our baggage to make the trip via the “Tranzalpine Train” across the island.
The adventure saga will continue...