Another long day in the car today … but we are seasoned travellers on a road trip so that’s how our life rolls!! Just spending one night in Christchurch – best not to stick around too long in case there are any rumbles! Christchurch’s nickname is the Garden City but it also known for suffering a series of earthquakes between 2010 and 2012 – the most destructive of them occurring in February 2011, killing 185 people and leaving severe damage to buildings. There is still now an ongoing recovery project.
Some particularly winding mountain roads again today, lots of vineyards with their vines paraded in neat rows, hills in all shapes and sizes – some green some more yellow and dry. We kept seeing signs saying ‘Expect Trains’ – we weren’t quite sure what to expect but we actually didn’t see a train the whole time we were in the South Island. Driving along we also passed a sign saying ‘Christchurch open‘ – thought that was quite lucky as that’s where we were heading … presuming it’s sometimes closed due to earthquake or maybe snow!? Another sign we passed said that Fire Danger was ‘very high’ – all in all, wondered what we were getting ourselves into!
Our journey took us onto the East coastal road … and it was beautiful …. miles and miles of unused beach, as far as the eye could see. Again, black sand which is not always the most attractive, but the sea looked gorgeous. It was a fair old stretch of road to get through but we were entertained by seal spotting – there were loads of them, including a whole pod of them swimming. Unfortunately, with the car moving and the seals jumping off and on the rocks too, I didn’t manage to capture any on camera – but it was exciting to see them in such great quantity.
Further along this stretch of road we hit substantial roadworks – rerouting of roads due to cliff fall (recent earthquake damage) + repair to the cliff sides. We passed through a succession of stop/go signs (very small signs – we nearly went straight past the first one!) being held up mostly by attractive young girls or young men … and we received lots of smiles and waves – it was like they’d been on a customer service course. And as for cones, I have never ever seen so many – they must be big business in New Zealand. We couldn’t believe some of the workers and equipment working at the heights they were, made your stomach churn!!
Finally we arrived in Christchurch and located our airbnb for the night. We were met by the house owner, Peter, who showed us around his beautiful home (fabulous garden too) and to the annexe that we had booked. You could tell immediately that there was some interior design influence and later when we met Cheryl we found out that it was her line of work. They were exceptionally friendly hosts, we sat and chatted with them in the garden for some time before we went out for the evening.
On Peter and Cheryl’s recommendation, our first port of call was the ‘Cardboard Cathedral’ which is a recent construction as part of the City’s recovery project. All around you can witness remains of the earthquake devastation – damaged buildings and empty lots waiting for development. Many of the new builds are square box modern design and are limited to six floors in height – they seem to be struggling to regain their city character. In the cathedral there was a service taking place with a boys choir singing – it was perfect.
It was the most amazing sky that night – I’ve noticed that the cloud formation in New Zealand often looks so different to back home.
Again, on Peter and Cheryl’s recommendation we had a couple of drinks at ‘Bloody Mary’s’ and then moved on to OGB (Old Government Building) for something to eat. This was a great bar/restaurant – brilliant food, perfect service, fabulous atmosphere, live music. We sat outside … as it turned colder we had to resort to the provided blankets to keep us warm.
Another long day completed, we sunk into our oh so sumptuous bed – each stop along the way seems to bring even more cushions on the bed!! Beautifully styled though 😊