The air in Christchurch is as fresh as I’ve ever breathed. The decision to spend the majority of our time outdoors was an easy one for Teresa and I to make. Occasionally we took public transit when we had fair distances to travel, but for the most part we walked absolutely everywhere.
Heading north up Selwyn Street, it was a half hour or so walk to Hagley Park, a massive plot of parkland by municipal standards, bisected diagonally across the waste by Riccarton Avenue. The southern portion consists of spanning fields of grass where a variety of sports are played in the warmer months. It seemed like everyone was out and about, either walking or biking, taking advantage of the mild weather.
After crossing Riccarton, we immediately entered Hagley’s botanic gardens, a beautiful area with a wide array of blooming flowers. We came at the perfect time of year as the colours mingled with the sweet aromas of each and every floral display. Winding paths disappeared behind stone corners blooming with plant life, or vibrant clusters of trees and bushes. Hagley is a heavenly place to be in spring.
We crossed a small bridge over the narrow Avon River. Down below, pairs of teenagers were kayaking downstream, labouring to acquire a rhythm with their respective partner. A flock of ducks swam their way aside and onto the grassy banks.
We spent a good long time simply enjoying our surroundings, and we wound up coming to Hagley Park two or three more times during our eight days in Christchurch.
On the eastern edge of Hagley lies the Canterbury Museum, featuring relics and stories from the history of both Christchurch and all of New Zealand. Ever since I was in elementary school I loved going to history museums. There’s something about the musky essence of the antique items and the calm quiet that comes with taking in a silent past that I’ve always enjoyed.
Teresa and I toured through for a good hour and a half before heading back out into the sunshine. We walked towards Cathedral Square where a great deal of the damage was suffered after the 2011 earthquake. At the time, late October of 2013, several of the buildings were still in crumbling ruins while repair efforts to other structures had been well under way. It certainly seemed like a bit of a ghost town and I couldn’t help but imagine how much more bustling the area must have been before.
Despite what they have suffered, the people of Christchurch are evidently resilient and resourceful in the face of adversity. One sign of this is the presence of a mall made of shipping containers leftover from the cleanup efforts. It’s a really neat setup where these shipping containers are all converted into boutique stores or outdoor food stalls. We didn’t buy any clothing simply because the prices were very inflated compared to what we were used to. We did, however, enjoy a couple of Italian sausages and a slice of good stone over pizza.
On our walk home we went south on Colombo Street and stopped in at a Chinese restaurant before continuing down in search of a bookstore. As usual for me, a bookstore selling books in English still felt like a hot commodity after spending so many months in Asia. I was running low on reading material and wanted some cheap used books to load into my backpack. At the time we were walking on Colombo, though, almost everything had closed, the one bookstore we found included.
But with plenty of chill time left in Christchurch, and a solid few days in Auckland ahead of us, we were in a good place, thinking about but not really feeling the gradual weight that this trip’s conclusion would place on our shoulders.