Over Labor Day Weekend, which falls in late October here, we went to Christchurch. The hope was to overlap with Daniel’s brief layover on his way to the South Pole. Our coordination was off by about 24 hours, so we didn’t see each other, but we did have a nice holiday. We flew there from our little town of Whanganui. An airport with one check-in counter, and one gate. We were led out the door and across the tarmac to the stairs leading up to the cabin of our tiny plane. On the thirty minute flight to Wellington, there were two other passengers on the 19-seater, making a total of four with me and Peter.
We had five days to see Christchurch and we did a lot. We walked, we took the bus, we rented a car for a day. For three nights we stayed at Chester Street Backpackers where a friend of mine through WWOOF was working. The other two nights we couch surfed with a very nice couple whose “couch” was actually a queen sized bed. It was easy to tell that Christchurch was at one point a very vibrant and beautiful city, before the earthquake. The now deserted city center was still in shambles. Demolition trucks and construction cranes occupied the area. But there was also a sense of re-birth. A new mall made up of temporary and colorful containers was charming and full of life. Pockets around the city housed vibrant re-done cafes, full of tourists and locals, who didn’t seem to mind the temporary buildings and porto-loos.
We explored beaches in the area, we went to brew pubs where Peter enjoyed delicious craft beers that are unavailable in Whanganui. We ate wood fired pizza and explored farmer’s markets and artist’s markets. We got to know our couch surf hosts a little bit. Peter and Simon bonded over their love for craft beer, and Nadene and I shared travel stories over a cup of tea in front of the fireplace. We learned that Simon is in a country band and the couple is excited about their upcoming trip to the U.S. where they want to meet real cowboys and hear live country music as they road trip through the south.
There was a festival of lights happening one night in the dusty city center, with crowds the size of the whole town of Whanganui. Shiny, blinking things and white lanterns and “light art” were everywhere.
Christchurch was a lot of fun, and since we couldn’t see Daniel, we did the next best thing and went to the Antarctic Center. We put on overshoes and coats for the simulated wind storm, and we pretended we were in Antarctica. Then we boarded our flight back to the North Island while waving at the US Antarctic Center and their planes, about to take off for the bottom of the earth.
This is the country band that our wonderful host is in. It’s great to hear new music, by locals, while on the road.