New Zealand here I come…
After a week in Australia, I headed to New Zealand from Launceston (connecting in Melbourne). The flight from Melbourne to Christchurch is about 3.5 hours and NZ is 2 hours ahead of Sydney. Unbeknownst to me, daylight savings time kicked in over the weekend in NZ so now I am 17 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone back in the USA. Being that far ahead in time takes a bit to get used to… when I call back home for example, I’ll call around 10 am in the morning on Sunday NZ time reaching my family where it is 5 pm on Saturday evening. I had been doing really well getting up early on this trip back in Australia but going 3 hours ahead messed that up pretty quickly so now it’s a struggle to get up by 8 am. Nonetheless, I was ready for my adventure in Christchurch.
A Visit with Extended Family
My first stop in Christchurch was a visit with “extended” family. My cousin’s wife’s brother, Will and his family, live in the Christchurch vicinity. We had never met but my cousin’s wife connected us via email and we quickly got to know each other. It was a scenic drive out to their farm and I arrived shortly after 5 pm. It was a great visit getting to know them and what life is like in NZ. I always like spending time with local people to get a real sense of what life is really like outside of the major tourist attractions. It was a beautiful sunset that evening.
After a delicious dinner, we headed out to the Balcairn Hall for a folk concert by Adam McGrath. Check out his YouTube video link. He’s traveled all around the world and has toured extensively throughout the USA so some of you may know him. He’s a great storyteller. Aside from a hosting a great singing session, Balcairn Hall is a gathering place for the local community. It was nice to see such a gathering taking place as I don’t see this much in the USA any longer. Midway through the concert, it was time for a break and out came the covered dishes, tea, and coffee for everyone to indulge and converse with each other.
After the concert, we headed back to the house and then Will took me out for a drive on the beach whilst also giving the dogs a chance to run before sleeping. The almost full moon was a bright orange and there were so many stars out. If only I knew how to take nighttime photography, I’d have a photo to share (on the list to learn). It was a great evening with Will and his family and they definitely made me feel like family.
The next day was my chance to explore Christchurch. My first stop was Mona Vale Homestead and Gardens. The gardens are free to the public and the homestead is available for tours and private events. If you have an hour or so, I’d highly recommend visiting Mona Vale. The gardens are amazing.
Earthquake Reminders in City Center
It was February 22, 2011 when a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck the south island of NZ and Christchurch’s city center was greatly impacted. There were 185 deaths attributed to the earthquake and Christchurch struggles to rebuild its city center even after almost 8 years. I had never been to a city so greatly impacted by an earthquake and so it was a bit surreal and haunting to see what a vibrant city can turn into after it’s been shaken by an earthquake. It was eerily abandoned yet filled with hope as new forms of art were everywhere and lots of construction was underway. The main attraction, Christchurch Cathedral, is an eerie reminder of that day in February 2011 as it remains in shambles.
The 185 white chairs photo below is a memorial to the 185 people who lost their lives in the earthquake. It was a sobering experience to think about the lives lost. There were many buildings with shipping containers stacked on the front façade to prevent the building’s façade from crashing down. Parking garages pancaked and are now empty pads of concrete. There are some very large buildings that are structurally not safe and abandoned.
Along with the earthquake reminders, there is also a lot of prosperity in the city with new construction, new entertainment districts, and forms of art. Some historical buildings were spared and the trolley continues on its tracks showing tourists the city.
This cathedral was built as a result of the earthquake to give the community a place to worship as the other churches were so badly damaged leaving no place to worship. It took two years to build this cathedral and its main material used is cardboard, think the cardboard tubes used to pour concrete pillars (see light tan tubes in pictures below). These tubes act as trusses to hold the cathedral up. A visit here is well worth the walk and is next to the 185 Chair Memorial.
Royal Botanical Gardens
I have to say the Royal Botanical Gardens were one of the best gardens I’ve been to in the world. There are so many types of gardens within this city park along with a large conservatory, café, and visitor center. You could easily spend an entire day here if you really indulge in each garden. Luckily I got to walk through it twice as my hotel was on the perimeter of the park and I had to walk through to get to the City Center. Here are a few of my favorite pictures within the Royal Botanical Gardens.
Spring Blooms Overload
I’ve captured a lot of the flowers throughout Christchurch and I have even more from my hotel’s gardens. I stayed at the Doubletree Chateau on the Park and would recommend it. I’ll apologize for the abundance of flower photos but I know some people really like flower pictures. The colors of the blooms are cheerful and a reminder that there is such a spectrum of color in nature.
Next stop… Mt. Cook National Park