Friday, April 13, 2018
Our morning started in Wellington at 5:45, and we were at the airport with the car returned by 7:15. Getting the bags back up to the car ended up being easier than expected. There was no elevator, or “lift,” as they call it here, so we simply walked up the deserted ramps, rather than try to lug everything up the stairs. John loves showing how strong he is, so he carried our hiking backpack, while Jeremy and I wheeled the two big suitcases. I am currently questioning whether we really needed everything we brought, but this is the first time that we have taken a trip of this length and that spans weather from late fall, to the equator, to spring. I am hoping to post my insights into this in a later post.
The flight was brief, the views were amazing, and even though we were among the first off the plane, our bags were waiting for us by the time we got to baggage claim. I wish flying was always this pleasant.
Our introduction to Christchurch was very mediocre, but by the end of the day, we felt like it was a very pleasant stop and worthwhile to visit. After arrival, we decided to drive straight to the site of ChristChurch Cathedral, which was severely damaged in the 2011 earthquake and has yet to be either demolished or repaired. The area around the church was also severely damaged and at present is mostly parking lots and construction sites. Not exactly what a tourist is hoping to see. I also almost got run over by a trolley, not noticing the trolley tracks mixed into the sidewalk that I was standing on, but luckily the driver rang his bell and I was able to dart out of the way.
Next, we decided to follow Lonely Planet’s suggestion of going to the “highly rated” Art Gallery, but it was mostly modern art, which none of us particularly care for. There was a nice cow made out of corned beef cans, and there were a few rooms of nice European paintings, but the best of them probably would have been found in the back sections of art museums in Europe.
At this point, we decided if this was a top site, what must the other sites be like? We debated between the Canterbury Museum and the Earthquake Museum, and decided to head towards the Canterbury Museum first. We stopped by the Tourist Information (TI) building on the way, and they told us that the Canterbury Museum and the Botanic Gardens should be top on our list of things to see. The Art Gallery was much lower on their list.
As it turns out, the Canterbury Museum was amazing! We started out by learning about the extinct moa bird and the prevalence of moa hunting in the early settlement days. If you didn’t know what you were looking at, you might think the bones were from a small dinosaur. There were some really cool dioramas or Maori life. The WWI section had some nice displays with some really interesting stories. The kids loved the bird room and were particularly excited to see their kakapo and kakariki from John’s research report. I enjoyed the European history section, and the boys loved the reenactment of Christchurch Street, complete with a high wheel bicycle. There was also a dinosaur, and much more.
My blood sugar was completely out of whack by this point, so we decided to try to find the dining area that the TI told us about. About half way there, we encountered some food trucks and had some delicious Malaysian Noodles. The area was quite lively and fun.
Next we headed back to the Botanic Gardens and spent quite a while wandering them. It was a bit like the Boston Common, but much better. First we stopped by the peacock fountain, then we went by the stream that had punting boats floating around. The kids agreed that they would only be fun if they were allowed to use the stick to move and steer the boats, but they were fun to watch.
We walked over to the peace bell, where James and John were anything but peaceful. Luckily they calmed down by the time we reached the rose garden, which greeted us with a wonderful aroma. The colors were beautiful, I can only imagine what the garden might look like in the spring. (Remember April in the southern hemisphere is actually fall.)
We wandered back through the Botanic Gardens, enjoying the birds, the vegetation, and other points of interest.
John was enamored by the TI’s description of the Margaret Mahy Family Playground, a playground designed by children of the town. It lived up to its expectations, complete with a zipline, a large twirly slide with rope ladders leading up to it, and many other features that any kid would love.
At this point, we decided to check into our 2 bedroom apartment, at Aalton Motel, and rest before heading to Lake Tekapo. The rooms were a bit dated, but it was clean, spacious, and it appeared that they were making gradual improvements.