The Long and Winding Road to Christchurch

On Sunday, I took the Intercity bus from Picton to Christchurch.

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Leaving Picton on a rainy morning

It was another pretty journey, with the area around Kaikoura passing a seal colony that spread over a few miles of coastline. You could see the seals on the rocks by the sea, but also up on the grass above the beach, right next to the road! It was delightful!

Some of the beaches we passed had what looked like grey sand (a similar color to gravel) and I’m wondering whether they are examples of the black sand beaches they have in New Zealand.

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A nice lady sat next to me between Kaikoura and Christchurch and we chatted for much of that leg of the trip. When I asked her what she would suggest I do on Tuesday when exploring the city, she offered to show me around!

I arrived at my B&B mid-afternoon, walking from the bus station via a hip little shopping center where the stores are located in shipping containers, called re:start. This is part of Christchurch’s interim renewal plan after the earthquakes.

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I took a couple of hours walk in the evening. Rebuilding is everywhere, with street art and city urban art sprinkled around. I hadn’t realized how much construction was still going on, five years after the earthquakes. Literally every other block had either a construction site or an empty lot or, occasionally, a building propped up with external supports, especially in the City Center area.  You are continually changing what side of the street you walk on because of the construction. It was rather sobering. I can’t wait to the city on Tuesday with a Christchurch resident. The city inspires great loyalty – people keep telling me how special it is – but with the construction right now it takes a little more digging to find that charm. Even in a quick walk, though, the charm of the new – and old -Christchurch is becoming evident. I get the impression the new is a little quirkier than the old.

When I went out for dinner, I discussed the construction a bit with the waitress (along with the fact that I’m still not used to restaurants with table service in New Zealand expecting you to go up to the register when you’re ready for your bill). She said that the major difference between now and a few years ago is that instead of tearing down damaged buildings, they are now putting new buildings up. Much more hopeful, but I am still aghast and saddened by all the destruction I see, especially in the areas where they have before and after photos, like Cathedral Square.

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