Christchurch & Akaroa, NZ
Our next leg of the New Zealand journey was to head from Queenstown to Christchurch via a drive across the South Island. We were so thankful to have Penny as our very own tour guide on this trek across the island. We left around breakfast time so that we could ensure time for several scenic stops along the way. Even though our weather was less than ideal (gray and rainy) we stopped at Lake Pukaki. This lake was unlike anything I've ever seen with my own eyes. I kept saying that about all the landscape in New Zealand that we were taking in, but this was an exceptional sight. This glacial fed lake gives in this hue of blue that is just not fathomable until you see it in person--simply breathtaking. On a good weather day you can also take in the view of Mt. Cook from Lake Pukaki, unfortunately we weren't able to get a view that day.
We arrived in Christchurch and headed to Penny's parents house where they greeted us with the most fantastic Sunday dinner, NZ style: roasted lamb with roasted vegetables straight from the garden. Penny and her parents were such great hosts for us and it was a treat to see life from their eyes during our stay.
Day 1: Penny and her parents helped map out an itinerary for our downtown Christchurch sight-seeing for our day. We enjoyed coffee at one of Penny's favorite spots on Regents St and set out on our walking tour. From there we saw the cardboard Cathedral, which serves as a transitional cathedral after the earthquake while the decision is finalized about what to do with the earthquake damaged Cathedral. Just blocks nearby sits the Christchurch Cathedral, we were able to view the damage from afar from the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. We were able to reflect at the 185 white chair memorial that is set up in downtown to honor those 185 lives lost in the 2011 earthquake. Each chair represents each person with personality including armchairs, a wheelchair, a baby carrier and dining room chairs. We both were shocked at the amount of downtown that had yet to "re-build," with all the open lots of buildings that used to be. We had to keep reminding ourselves that most of the area was deemed unsafe and that it takes years and years to demolish unsafe buildings properly and rebuild.
Day 2: Penny was able to secure us some discount tickets to take a day trip on a shuttle bus to Akaroa, about 1.5 hours southwest of Christchurch. We liked the idea of not having to drive ourselves on a windy road, on the opposite side of the road than we were used to driving on. The drive was beautiful as we neared Akaroa harbor, complete with a stop at the top to take in the great panorama view of the harbor. We were dropped off right on the main drag of the town and fueled up with some fish and chips. This day was all about leisure so we took our time and decided to walk to the lighthouse after lunch. I couldn't help but take the opportunity to walk on the beach and fill my hands up with beach treasures along the way. Ara knows the way to my heart is letting me get my fill of hunting for good shells and seaglass. I could have spent the rest of the day right there listening to the water and finding shells. We spent the rest of our day wandering around the little harbor town, enjoying some snacks and wine before the shuttle bus took us back at the end of the day.
Day 3: We couldn't let another area of New Zealand be explored without checking out their wine area! Just north of Christchurch sits the Canterbury wine region. Penny entrusted Ara to drive her car and he made his debut on the left-hand side of the road as a driver! We headed to Black Estate, where we had heard rave reviews about their lunch and views. We sipped a glass of rose as we made our way through lunch--delicious, albeit painstakingly long. The courses we enjoyed were fabulous but they weren't concerned about the rest of our schedule as we were there for 2.5 hours! We had a time crunch for the afternoon as we needed to get back into Christchurch for a buskers performance later with Penny and her parents. We made our final wine tasting a quick stop at Pegasus Bay Winery. We made it back and headed to the World Buskers Festival, where we took in a performance of "busking." You know those groups that do crazy acts of things with their bodies and items that leave you saying, "How in the heck did they do that?!" Well those are buskers and Christchurch holds an annual festival in January for them! It was fun to take in a performance of these artists while we were in town.
That evening, Penny and her Dad took Ara and I to see some of the extensive damage done by the February 2011 earthquake, known there as the "red zone." The earthquake caused widespread damage to the eastern suburbs of the city where the land experienced liquefaction, equating to lateral spreading the land deeming it uneconomic to repair. As we were driving it seemed like land that had yet to be developed--areas that were just dirt and seemed ready to go but in all actuality the land was former neighborhoods. It was awe-striking to see the vastness of the area that was once a suburban area with thousands of houses, just barren. On our way back we stopped to check out the damage on the Catholic Diocese of Christchurch. Through a chain link fence you see a mural of what the church used to look like and in front of your eyes you see container ships holding up one complete side of it and the many large components of the structure missing. The costs for the repairs are so high that many projects in the city remain untouched due to the decisions of fundraising, repairing the old or tearing down to build the new.