Hello from New Zealand! I made it to the end of the world 🙂 I actually arrived in Christchurch a week ago now, but it’s been a very busy week. So far, I have to say that I am loving it!
First of all, I must mention the flight over. I’m not one of those people who finds flying very exciting, so I don’t usually have much to say about the actual journey. This time, I somehow managed to swing the perfect seat. Front row of economy class (meaning extra leg room for my short legs), window seat just in front of the wing (meaning an amazing view out of the window). Now, this was only a short flight, and most of it was over the Tasman Sea, but as you can see from the picture above, it was worth it. Plus, I got some pretty cool pictures of clouds! This was also my first trip on one of the big Airbus A380s – both of my Etihad flights out to Australia were on smaller aircraft with only one deck, how common! Now, I ordinarily wouldn’t really care much about being on a double-decker plane unless I was rich enough to travel in first or business class. The only reason I mention it is that, due to a slight technical issue with the bridge, we had to exit the plane via the top deck. This meant we got to walk through the fancy bit. If I was rich enough and flying long haul, I would totally get one of those cocoons (sorry, “suites”) – having said that, I’d be a bit disappointed if I got the one in the middle without a view out of the window!
Enough about planes, let’s get back to the important stuff. I think you might guess what’s coming next… MARTY IS BACK! Well, he wasn’t here before, so back isn’t the right word, but we are reunited at last 🙂 Thanks to Mum for posting him to me! I’m sure there’ll be some pictures of Marty’s crazy antics to come in the next few months 😉
Christchurch is a difficult city to describe. A lot of people staying at my hostel (more on that later) think that it’s quite boring, others like it. Of the people I know at home who have visited New Zealand in the past, only one has been post-earthquakes, and that was in 2012, so very early in Christchurch’s regeneration. To anyone who is considering coming to New Zealand, I would definitely recommend a trip to Christchurch, but I will say this: do your research before you come. Yes, there are a LOT of roadworks and building sites. OF COURSE THERE ARE! They have basically had to rebuild their entire city centre. That takes time and money, and while it may have been 6 years already since the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes, those in charge of the regeneration have had to prioritise what comes first. I hope to go to Quake City at some point either this week or when I’m back in Christchurch in a couple of weeks. There’s only so much you can learn about the Canterbury Earthquake(s) from the Internet. The new bus interchange only opened in late 2015, a couple of the new shopping centres are only just opening now. Many buildings haven’t even been demolished yet. On the walls bordering the empty lots, street art is popping up everywhere. And it is very clearly street art, not graffiti. The city may be essentially a building site, but the people who live here are trying to make it beautiful in its own way. Christchurch is still here, still open, and rebuilding. I would happily live here, but maybe that’s because everyone here is so friendly. Also, it helps that it reminds me a lot of the place I lived on my year abroad. If you’re a big city person who thinks the centre of the universe is in a place like London or New York, and couldn’t imagine living anywhere smaller, maybe give it a miss. But if that’s the case, why are you in New Zealand anyway?!
One of my favourite places in the city centre (such as it is) is the Re:start mall. Not for the shops, just for the vibe and the colours. In case you didn’t know, it is a small shopping centre built out of shipping containers. From what I understand, it started as a way to give businesses whose premises had been destroyed a temporary base from which to trade. Over the years, the shops in the units have changed as some went on to a more permanent location. The location has even changed as a new mall was built on the original site. These days, around half of the shops are tourism-based, with a bank, post office, awesome street food court and a load of other quirky shops as well. In a city that can make you feel incredibly sad in some places, it is unapologetically cheerful.
On the other side of things, there are the cathedrals (not actually next to each other, it is worth noting). For the moment, the old cathedral is still standing there… well, crumbling, really. A decision is still pending on what to do with it. I understand that the money has been promised by the government to the Anglican church, but from speaking to the volunteers in the temporary cathedral, no one really knows for sure whether a new cathedral is going to be built from scratch or whether they will try to rebuild around the original building. Of course, there are lots of other factors involved and it’s all very complicated. Either way, it is a shame to see a half-destroyed building left there to rot. I hope that, whatever they decide, the work starts soon. The volunteers didn’t seem particularly hopeful that this would be the case, and said that at the moment there is a big sense of frustration at the whole situation. They do like the new building (apparently the acoustics are fantastic and concerts regularly put on in the cardboard cathedral have been very successful), but I got the feeling that they just wanted the closure that a firm decision would bring.
I’ve been very lucky that, aside from the first afternoon, the weather so far has been brilliant sunshine and the perfect temperature for me (ranging from 21 to 30 degrees). Also – STILL no sunburn! What madness is this?! Of course, I had to make the most of the weather and get the bus to the beach. 2 beaches in 2 days, in fact. This came as a shock to me, too. I’m not usually a beach person, but there are so many in New Zealand, so I’m learning to become one. They make a good place to read your book if it isn’t too windy.
A word about the hostel – if you are the hostel-going type and you come to Christchurch, STAY AT KIWI BASECAMP! I have a strong feeling that this will ruin me for all other hostels in New Zealand. It’s only small, but recently refurbished and so friendly. The owner and manager both remembered my name after the first day (Chris is originally from Jersey and Laura is Scottish), and they both made me feel so at home here. They will definitely be getting a glowing review from me when I leave. Christchurch Botanic Gardens
I’d rather not go on and on about everything I’ve done so far in Christchurch, as it will just turn into a list. Hopefully, my pictures will speak for themselves. If you want to hear more, let me know in the comments and I will do another post. One thing to add – if you ever do go to Christchurch yourself, go to the Botanic Gardens, the ice cream is fantastic!
Up next: Dunedin! (Next week)