January 4-5: Travel to Christchurch and then Christchurch, NZ

Traveling from the US to New Zealand is a long trip under any circumstances, but when Mother Nature wants to say goodbye to the travelers by blowing in a major winter blizzard that covers the US from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean, travel becomes an arduous task.  Flight delays, crowded airports, sleep deprivation, jet lag and about thirty hours later one steps down on New Zealand soil. 
New Zealand is on the other side of the international dateline from the US, so when traveling in an east to west direction, a day is lost. However, this is a small consolation considering that it is in the Southern Hemisphere, so it is summer! 

Christchurch is referred to as the cathedral city in reference to its once beautiful cathedral anchoring the center of the city.  Unfortunately the city was hit with an earthquake in 2011 and 2012 that turned this beautiful central city zone into a ghost town.  Buildings sit empty waiting for either the demolition team or being certified safe to renovate again.  The cathedral sits half destroyed with the city’s inhabitants in a divided discussion as to whether to rebuild or demolish.  There are many pros and cons on both sides of the argument so the building sits still in wait.  One of the cons is the poor stability of the ground after the quake.  There are large caverns of gas pockets beneath several hundred meters of earth that at any time could release creating giant sinkholes.  Does one take the chance and invest in rebuilding when there is a possibility of collapse again?

The Re-Start project can be seen throughout the quake center of the city.  Artists have painted murals on walls, sculptures sit in empty lots, playgrounds made of recycled material fill in open land and a new shopping mall has been created out of shipping containers.  The rebirth of Christchurch has begun.  Even the cathedral’s congregation, while waiting on a decision to repair or not have raised a new church – built the cardboard church.  The city wants to come back!

With a day or two of free time before the group is to convene for the biking portion, several set out to explore the city on foot.  Sprinkled throughout the city are parks, both large and small.  Hagley Park, sitting in the middle is a huge public park complete with a Botanical Garden, golf course, cricket area, as well as croquet playing area. The river Avon winds its way through allowing itself to be kayaked, canoed, or punting on!  The trees are some of the oldest pines on the island. 

A little further out of the city is the Riccarton Bush.  Here is an only area of native forest left in Christchurch.  Standing tall overlooking the Bush are the kahikatea trees.  It is the tallest tree in New Zealand and releases the heaviest seed crop of any tree. On the property is also the Deans Cottage, built in 1844 and is the oldest remaining building in Canterbury.  The Riccarton House, a stately, old mansion was built in stages from the 1860’s to 1900.  Today it is in a state of renovation as a result of the quake.

Sundays turn the Riccarton Race Course into an open public market – the old and young turn out to buy fresh produce or some article that one can just not refuse! 
After a full day of sightseeing it is a sampling of the local microbrewery and some local venision, then off to bed to try to catch up to the local time zone!

Jackie and the Trolley

Christchurch Art Center

Christchurch Catherdral

Wall Painting

Jackie on the Art Piece!

Sue Against the Red Pine

Entering the Race Course Market

Riccarton Bush

Kahikatea Tree

Kahikatea Tree Base Roots

Jackie Entering Middle Earth

Container Shopping Mall -- Each is a Separate Container Convered Into a Store

Bicycle Repair Station

185 Memorial -- Ghost Chairs for Each Person Killed in the 2012 Earthquake on a Former Church Site

The Cardboard Catherdral. Each Vertical is a Cardboard Tube