Christchurch Revisited

They have built a new motorway at Christchurch since the earthquake disaster of 2011. This appears to have confused the South Islanders somewhat. They are not sure what to do when the slip road runs out.  Mind you, this is probably a fairly general global observation. There are two approaches: foot down and expect everyone to get out of the way, or cautiously adjust speed and pray that an enormous gap develops. Some drivers attempt both of these at the same time, which is not advisable.  We roar down Highway One in the works truck and turn off at the Rakaia Salmon. The hazy mountains grow closer as we zoom past the giant hedges on empty grey roads.

Soon the Methven Mount Hutt Village skis are above us at the crossroads, and the Blue and Brown pubs stand proudly on the street corners.

New Years Eve 2022. Everything closed. Hardly a soul in sight. Just a couple of lost tourists venturing out from their camper van in the optimistic hope of coffee.

I try to keep awake. I make it until 10.30 pm and then my chin sinks onto my chest and my eyes gently close. Happy New Year!

The senior body takes time to adjust as it copes with the release of cabin pressure, the effects of dehydration and permanently bent knees. Our New Year’s Day sightseeing consisted of a slow walk round Methven and a visit to the ATM machine to try my Eftpos card. The Four Square supermarket is still there, along with Dom’s pizza place, a Thai store and several cafes. The ATM said no and spat my card out. We drove to Staveley Store for coffee but that was closed. So we sauntered along the beautiful walkway at Sharplin Falls, watching the river as it bubbled over boulders surrounded by green ferns. They have had a wet season so far. Then we drove down to the Rakaia Gorge and wandered over the grey stones on the shore, watching the blue mountain water rush over the wide river bed.

The next day, feeling more rested, we drove to Christchurch and surveyed the still broken buildings in Cathedral Square, and the demolished spaces. They are still stabilising. There is boarding, metal gates and signs.  Only two hopeful stalls selling souvenirs in the square, but the trams are running. We wandered past the art gallery and college to the Botanical Gardens. The holiday crowds were here in the sun by the river, strolling among the roses and blue banks of Hydrangea and Agapanthus. The trees towered above us. The Avon tinkled by. We waited for a coffee and watched the seagulls prey on the crowded outdoor lunch tables. They swooped and squabbled when people left, smashing the cups onto the ground. The little waitress shrieked. She needs danger money.

We visited the glasshouse and admired the orchids, and saw the Christmas tree and Rudolph made entirely of ferns and red Poinsettas. We visited the much diminished museum to see the carvings, the Colonial Street and the Paua cottage with its shiny shell walls and faded photos.  Then we had a wonderful lunch in the sun.

Finally we drove up to the Port Hills to take in the views. We swayed up the hill in the gondola, looking down at the white surf of New Brighton beach and the glacier blue water of the overflow lakes. Beyond these stretched the white buildings of Christchurch, laid out below us like a tea tray. At the lookout we gazed down at the port of Lyttleton, smaller now, and still missing some of the great cruise ships of old. We ignored the shop, decided not to discover the Christchurch Discovery Experience, chatted to the friendly staff and braced ourselves for the motorway.

Port of Lyttleton

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