Christchurch (November 8 - 10, 2016)
Let’s get this post started with a money saver tip! We successfully dropped off our free relocation van at the Christchurch airport and were ready to take the public bus to our Couchsurfing host’s home. They advised us to avoid the bus station at the airport and instead catch the bus at the station few minute walk outside of the airport. Taxis, buses, Ubers, shuttle services, all charge an extra $3.44 (5 NZD) to pick up/drop off on airport grounds. Ironically, even though we followed their advice went to the outskirt station, the bus still halted at the airport before moving on to the city core.
At the Couchsurfer’s house, we didn’t have long before we took off to the local bike race the family was hosting. The family were all avid cyclers. I curiously observed the effort needed to put on such an event. Roughly 40 bikers, mostly local, attended. I got to hear about how the tracks were created and even stood in as a time caller (meaning that I yell the countdown as cyclists lap). With no instructions, I had plenty of room to improve, especially compared to the guy who called out the next round. Fun to have participated, but I was glad to come down mountain to end the cold, windy weather exposure.
Actually, a couple from the race took us to the Halswell Quarry Park after the event. The park is gigantic and excellent for runners and bikers. The park has different collections from each of Christchurch’s 7 sister cities, meaning that that few typical emblematic statues, mini bridges, benches, etc. were erected in each section depending on the country. As a tourist, not much to write home about though. We did get a good view of Christchurch and heard more about the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that severely damaged the city in 2011. A chair memorial is erected in the city center in remembrance of the earthquake. 185 unique, white chairs symbolizing 185 deaths. The aftermath of the earthquake was still visible during our visit. Some buildings still haven’t been fixed, probably due to insurance reasons. Also, city workers were tearing up parts of the road to fix pipes below. After 5 years, the city was missing businesses and services they offered before and a huge population shifted from one side of the city to the other.
I heard that before the earthquake, Christchurch was amazing. Personally, I didn’t find too much to do during my visit that was worthwhile. I saw a free art gallery, the park, the remaining earthquake damage, and other regular sights while roaming the city. We tried to locate a movie theater, but all the ones we went to were no longer there due to the earthquake. The city had some lovely spots, but more geared to locals and not tourists wanting to see something new or exciting. During my visit, I often wondered how Christchurch was before the earthquake destruction. Not only was the city in recovery, but 3 days after my departure of New Zealand, a bigger 7.8 earthquake hit nearby the city! I was lucky to be out of the danger zone. I hope for the best for this city struggling to keep their citizens and economy safe. Predicting the development of this city could be tricky in its current, wobbly state.
New Zealand Overall
The first striking point in New Zealand for me was the lack of cars, low population, vast greenery, boundless mountains, and abundant number of sheep on the North Island. (Maybe you can go outside to count actual sheep if you have a hard time falling asleep.) This country is perfect for nature lovers who want to hike their way through a country. There was one hiking path after the other. Some cities were worth checking out, but they weren’t typical cities as many other countries have them. My favorite city was Wellington and favorite town was Wanaka. Excellent vibes. We spent way more time in towns, because there weren’t that many cities here.
I was fascinated how the immigrated European population had embraced the Maori natives. The only country that I know of where white people wanted to learn the native language, had respect for the culture, and were interested in protecting that heritage. Mostly due to the beginning how the Maori reacted when whites first landed at their shores. In other colonized countries, the natives have been rejected and neglected, to the point where their bad reputation is pinned on them and not on the oppression that left them no choice, leaving them in an endless cycle of poverty. Though the Maori still suffer from unequal economic and civil rights, their situation is a step in the right direction.
All in all, New Zealand is mainly for nature freaks who want to see some of the best spots nature offers or utilize fantastic terrain for various sports. The crew from Lord of the Rings recognized the countries beauty and shot many scenes in this stunning countryside. Many filming sites are available for sight and tours. Besides landscape, this country doesn’t have much else. So, if you aren’t into the great outdoors, you will probably want to skip this pricier country. If you love the outdoors, you’ll also love New Zealand. The country awaits your visit.
Cost breakdown of Christchurch (2 days with total cost of $42.14. Average daily cost is $21.07.)
- Transportation: $23.32
- Bus: $6.50
- Taxi: $16.82 (no bus to airport available early morning)
- Food: $18.82
- Meals: $11.79 (2 meals)
- Groceries: $7.03