26th December – Mt Cook to Christchurch

I’m not feeling all that better.

Frustratingly, it’s that weird see-saw feeling where one second I feel great and then the next I feel like crap.  I honestly can’t tell if I’m recovering or just going through a truce period.  The conclusion however, is set in stone when I throw up yet again.  I hate it, but there’s no way I can risk rafting – if I get worse I’m not going to be able to enjoy it at all.  Of course, this also means I feel awful because I’m not able to do something I REALLY wanted to do – I can’t win!

Our first stop is in the town of Lake Tekapo, where a couple are being dropped off and we’re picking up a new member.  We’ve got about 30 minutes to walk around its lake before heading to the Church of the Good Shepherd on its shore.  It’s similar to Lake Pukaki, but there’s a lot more lupins here.  It’s a really beautiful place.

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We end up having to go back into town though, as the pickup that never showed is apparently in town.  We scout around, and eventually find her wandering over – turns out she thought the pick-up was later, and is astonished that she’s actually late.

(This seems to be a regular occurrence lately.  I would have missed the Te Anau bus if I’d been on time, and when we left Queenstown, we did see people clearly waiting for a bus and getting astonished when Lolly didn’t stop for them – no clue what that story was, but Lolly didn’t have a pick up on her list, which suggests they were meant to be on an earlier or later bus).

The Mt Cook to Christchurch drive is a frustratingly long drive, but it becomes clear we’re heading in the right direction when the mountains vanish and we hit some of the flattest land I’ve seen in New Zealand.

Christchurch is pretty unique in New Zealand because it’s A) flat and B) one of the few places in NZ that was colonised by white people before the Maori.  I assume because it a lot of the land was swampy, but thanks to this, it’s sometimes jokingly known as ‘the Whitest City in New Zealand.’  The flatness is also why the 2011 earthquake was such a shock for so many people.  Earthquakes cause mountains, and it’s generally accepted that big earthquakes happen in mountainous areas (hence the reason everyone keeps expecting a big one to hit Wellington – in fact many people, during the Christchurch earthquake wondered how bad it was in Wellington for it to be that bad there – assuming the epicentre couldn’t be in Christchurch).  This is also why the destruction was so bad – although New Zealand has strict building laws regarding earthquakes, Christchurch had been known for being notorious lax, since it was assumed a big one COULDN’T hit them.

Normally, Stray don’t stop in Christchurch.  Before the Kaikoura quake, it was just a spot to drop off people.  However, with Kaikoura being ridiculously hard to visit, they’ve now added an overnight visit here in addition to a night in Picton.  Up until the 25th, it was Nelson, but they couldn’t guarantee the rooms, so now it’s Picton, and a lot of people had to scramble to rearrange plans last minute (just before New Year’s, which was fun).

The hostel of choice in Christchurch is the All Stars Hostel, a 15-minute walk from the city centre and just behind a Speights Bar.  It’s pretty cool in that it’s a brand new build – a building designed to be a hostel.  This is rare (though getting more and more common every year).  Most hostels are built in older buildings – a way of preserving the history and saving money.  But these buildings were never designed to handle the sheet numbers and even the best hostel has issues (poor plumbing, limited plug sockets, small kitchens, tight hallways, bad lifts etc.).  All Stars was built to address all those issues – as such, the rooms are long and thin, allowing three bunk beds along a wall with a backpack-sized locker in between them, as well as adequate space on the other side of the room.  They also have a balcony, a plug socket/USB port and light for each bed, and a fridge in each room (given one of the biggest hostel problems is food theft, this is a great idea and one I wish more hostels did).  The only fridge in the kitchen was a free one, and it was very well stocked.  The final icing on the cake?  Free, unlimited and functioning Wi-Fi, gold dust on the South Island.

I’m staying 3 nights, so I’m separated from most of the group on the top floor while they’re on the ground, but still join up with them to start exploring town.  It’s a bit of a hike to get there, and our maps aren’t great.

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It also doesn’t help that a lot of Christchurch is still under construction.  A lot more than I expected – it feels like the earthquake was only a few years ago, not five.  Everywhere you go, there’s half demolished buildings, barriers and construction sites.

Christchurch itself, is also a really weird city in that it’s very hard to find, well…the city.  The centre is Cathedral Square, and in the surrounding area is a collection of restaurants and shops, but they feel predominately touristy – there’s no store or shop I can find outside of the odd pharmacy that a normal person might need to visit.  I learned later that after the quake, much of the city centre was declared a red zone for a few years, so the actual ‘city’ moved into the outskirts, and the centre seems to be focused on tourism.  Even at the square, the Cathedral is covered in construction – its currently in a tug of war between the Anglican Church (who own it and want to tear it down and build a new one due to the structural issues) and the people of Christchurch who want to save it.

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Most of the afternoon is spent just wandering around, trying to get our bearings.  Hunt down the Re:Start mall, a collection of shops and food vans that inhabit shipping containers, in addition to the Quake City museum and the Botanic Gardens.  I figure I’ll visit the museum tomorrow morning, as I’m hoping to meet up with a friend from another trip several years ago in the afternoon.

When it starts getting dark, I head back to All Stars and plan to work on my blog.  Of course, that doesn’t quite work out – unlimited Wi-Fi results in me spamming YouTube for the first time in weeks and most of the night escapes me.  Why am I not surprised?

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About Batale

I am an aspiring writer - though since I haven't written anything original in about 2 years, so calling me a writer is like calling a man who makes dinner every night a 5 star chef. I started this blog to force me to write. From the 1st January 2013, I intend to update this blog every day. If nothing interesting happens, I'll write about something that does interest me, whether that is a movie, a book, something I've heard about, or even some of my stories growing up.
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