Day 8: Christchurch

Words by Andy | Photos by Chris

Day 8: Christchurch

Today was another movement day, with an early rise in Wellington. After breakfast at the hotel we headed back to the car park, juggled some luggage (the kilo of feijoas made it!) and made our way to the airport. We whipped around to the Beehive on the way, the home of New Zealand’s parliament and had a brief wander through the garden and admired the unique building and its historic neighbours. Even with the detour, we were quite early dropping the car back and checking in. It’s really weird not being x-rayed and scanned to within an inch of your life: just scan your ticket, drop your bags and wander on through.

Exiting Middle Earth, aka Wellington, continued the Lord of the Rings vibe with massive hanging sculptures of eagles in the departure lounge, one of which is being ridden by Gandalf the Grey, created by Weta studios.

Our plane was significantly smaller than what we’ve been flying in. It’s over twenty years since I’ve flown in a blade propelled plane and was expecting a bit of a bumpy ride, but it was smooth, even though it was cloudy the whole way. Looking out the other side of the plane, rugged brown peaks jutted through the clouds, so I think we’re in for a real treat over the coming week.

Christchurch is smaller than I imagined, but a really sweet city, bursting with autumn colours. It feels very English compared to where we’ve been so far, and the impact of the 2011 earthquake is ever present. Reconstruction and restoration are slow, and some areas will remain undeveloped because the ground is prone to liquefaction.

We rode a vintage tram around the city loop. It was an old R class tram that used to rattle around Sydney. The original ads from the 1950s are still intact and in position above the windows. Rolling along the loop track we passed many buildings under repair, and just as many that survived unscathed. The wooden buildings had a much better survival rate than the stone ones, as it turned out.

Regent street is just around the corner from where we’re staying. The shopfronts are a Spanish architectural style and were heavily damaged in the quake, but have since been beautifully restored. The cathedral will take many years yet to restore, it’s remnants pinned by steel girders to protect the little structure that survived while restoration works continue.

It only seemed right we should visit Quake City, a museum dedicated to the earthquakes experienced in the region, with a particular focus on the 2011 quake. There’s a haka that plays as you enter which runs for about 30 seconds, the same amount of time the earth rumbled and shook which, in context, felt like a really long time. There’s also a documentary video playing in which survivors of the earthquake recount their experience, some having been rescued from the rubble.

There’s a range of interactive displays, and some artefacts from damaged buildings, including the spire from the cathedral. The pieces are being stored with the intention of putting them back in place when their supporting structure is repaired. With some restoration work not due to start until 2032, some pieces will be waiting a good while.

Dinner tonight was at the Little Fiddle, an Irish pub in the centre of town, followed by dessert at Waffle Haus. Lucky we got our 12000 steps in today!

Tomorrow we get to explore more of Christchurch.

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