Day 9: Christchurch by foot

Words by Andy | Photos by Chris

Day 9: Christchurch by Foot

It was foggy when we woke up this morning. Eight stories up, we could barely see the park across the road, but it burnt off by about 9:30 and the sun shone all day. After breakfast in the hotel restaurant, we did our first lap of the city: Chris needed a small bag to transport his camera instead of the backpack, and we needed to lighten the load and post a few things back home. Jobs done, we headed back to the room to grab the camera only to discover Chris should have actually purchased the big bum-bag. Lap two of the city began on day two of Christchurch, Adelaide’s sister city! Just like Adelaide, Christchurch is built on a grid, which makes it easy to navigate, it also has a market similar to our Central Market called the Riverside Market and they’ve even got a Victoria Square.

Our first stop was the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetū. There were several exhibits, all contemporary art as the gallery focuses on New Zealand artists, so you won’t see any Classic European art works here. One of the exhibits displayed various printing styles from the late 19th and early 20th century. Wood cut prints, lithographs, lino cuts, wood engraving and etching were all on display, with some incredible detail and colour work. Across the hallway were other modern works exploring shapes and space through die cut methods and a third gallery with an exhibit of paintings and a video installation exploring how the Pacific Ocean connects people between the islands and continents. Upstairs was the main attraction, Perilous, which highlights the untold stories in art from a culture that has been dominated by the patriarchal, colonial narrative.

We’d reached about seven thousand steps by this stage, so thought a nearby café might be a good idea to grab a bite and rest our hooves before heading to the Chrsitchurch Botanic Gardens. After a bit of a reconnaissance, nothing in the locality appealed and the gardens didn’t seem that far, according to Google. But we all know hoe that story goes, and about two kilometres later we were REALLY ready for a break, so grabbed some sandwiches and coffee from the Botanical Gardens Café and found a park bench in the shade. Suitably paused and rested, we made our way around the park, following the river. It’s great to see rivers that actually flow and are so clean. You can see the pebbles and river plants through the flowing water. Ducks and geese swim about or graze on the riverbank in the idyllic setting, which makes for a relaxing walk on a sunny day.

There’s a huge eucalypt from South Australia which is over a hundred years old with a grand, twisted trunk caused by what’s known as wind load, where wind causes the top of the tree to twist while the trunk stands firm in the ground. The World Peace Bell is also housed at the gardens, unveiled in 2006 having been gifted to New Zealand by the World Peace Bell Association in Tokyo for its ongoing commitment to peace. There’s a camphor tree planted near the bell that was propagated from a seed that came from a tree that survived the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki. 

Other highlights were the conservatory, where there was a colourful array of begonias and a host of plants from the south-east Asian region. Peace lilies and bromeliads in flower, with palms and ferns lining the walkways. 

By the time we watched a pack of geese jump, one by one, into the river and catch up with their leader, who was waiting patiently under the bridge for them to catch up, we had passed the twelve thousand step mark, so with tired feet, it made complete sense to walk the kilometre or so back to the hotel, via Victoria Square… a lap of Victoria Square…

The park was reopened in 2018 after extensive damage in the 2011 earthquake and now celebrates the Māori connection to the place as well as the European settler connection. IT features Māori sculptures, statues of Captain Cook and Queen Victoria and a fountain, and is largely a green space designed for public gatherings, having been a popular space for public protests throughout its history.

The hotel is just across the road, and has given our feet some welcome respite before heading back out for some dinner on our last night here. It’s an early rise tomorrow because we’ve got a train to catch! We’re heading to Fox Glacier.

Tomorrow we ride the TranzAlpine Scenic Train.

Bonus cheesy photo at a phone booth, inspired by the Japanese family we interrupted after their 20-minute photo shoot (with director’s notes for the model as they posed and shot from every conceivable angle). Maybe I need some modelling lessons…

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