Sunday, 12 February 2012
New Zealand Day Seventeen - Christchurch
It rained the day I arrived at Auckland airport and it was raining as I left. Christchurch however was cloudy and dry. After collecting my luggage, I was met by an AATKings driver who immediately said he’d need my help as the other two ladies he was meeting were both in wheelchairs. He asked the ladies to push the two luggage trolleys while he and I pushed their wheelchairs. We made it to the car without incident, which is surprising as I need L plates when pushing our trolleys at work.
The hotel was situated at the edge of Hagley park and as soon as I’d left my stuff in my room, I walked across the park to the city centre. The effects of last year’s earthquake were evident everywhere and much of the centre was cordoned off for repair. It was sad to see some of the old colonial homes surrounded by fences, warning of danger and much of the business district looks like a demolition site. Amidst all the destruction, there was a sense of stoical determination to rebuild and keep trading despite the problems.
In my long walk around Christchurch I came across a Westfield shopping centre. It was very nice but with nothing like the opulence of the two London Westfields. It was more down to earth with Kmart, Farmers and even a large supermarket, very convenient for stocking up on fresh apricots for the rest of the trip.
I also found Riccarton Bush, which is a park not far from the hotel. In it is Deans Cottage, the oldest building on Canterbury Plains, built in 1843 by the pioneering Scottish brothers, William and John Deans.
My visit there coincided with a celebration of Scottish roots with lots of marching bands, bagpipes, drums and men in kilts. I also found the last remnant of ancient native floodplain forest, full of tall kahikatea trees. The area is protected from predators and is home to kiwis, though of course I didn’t see any.
At 6pm, I returned for the welcoming meeting and drinks and chatted to a few people on my trip. Tomorrow we move on from Christchurch towards Mount Cook.