New Zealand 1: Christchurch

I flew into New Zealand from Sydney, Australia, at 6:45pm with the flight due to land local time of 23:55pm. However we landed into Christchurch Airport 25 minutes ahead of schedule and therefore 20 minutes before I reached the end of watching Ghostbusters – had it not been for how exhausted I felt and desperate to get to the hostel I was, I would have been having words with the pilot as I was gutted to miss the end (plus I’d already spent most of the film huffing every time a “flight announcement” interrupted the film; they really know how to stress you out on flights, don’t they?!)  The only saving grace was having a window seat, which is my absolutely favourite as the sky is so incredible and mesmerising to watch.

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Due to the buses into the city not running after 10pm I had booked an airport shuttle bus for $24 (NZD) so arrived at All Stars Inn on Bealey at around 12:30am. After showing ID, filling out a form and paying a $20 key deposit I went up to my dorm room and got into bed – a bunk complete with plug socket and personal light. After spending more than 2 months staying in a house it was actually really nice to be back in hostels again, however it did make me pine for Asia, where the hostels are cheaper and more rustic and basic, yet more exciting and where image means very little. All Stars had great facilities but at $33 NZD a night (not actually bad for New Zealand) I would take the Asian hostels any day.

Claire flew into Christchurch from Wellington the next morning; I lived with Claire back home in London and she moved to Wellington on the North Island of New Zealand a few months ago, so the timing worked perfectly to combine her travels around the South Island with mine. After arriving at 10:30am and dumping her stuff in our room we headed out for a walk into the city centre with the intention to explore the pop-up projects and the various walls covered with art-graffiti. About 15 minutes into our walk, however, we had to turn around and go back to put on more suitable clothing – the sun had disappeared, the wind had reappeared, and the rain made its first appearance. I’m certainly not in Sydney anymore.

Back out on the road again half an hour later, it wasn’t long before we were meandering around Gloucester Street and Worcester Street to discover the art graffiti on the side of various buildings. It felt surprisingly derelict and desolate, and whether or not all the areas of construction and demolished buildings had anything to do with the 2011 Earthquake it certainly had the feel of somewhere still being rebuilt, both physically and in terms of identity. 

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We then continued through the high street and cathedral square where we stumbled upon pop-up food stalls, before grabbing a hot drink to go (my body is no longer prepared for this sort of weather!) and making our way towards the Botanic Gardens. Before making it there we passed by Christchurch Art Gallery and decided to take a look inside – like many in Australia this one is free entry (donations appreciated) and as someone whom isn’t “into” art enough to necessarily pay for it this is perfect for me, as I do often discover pieces that I am drawn to or moved by. Plus a lot of the pieces and works on display were modern, which is where my taste and enjoyment tends to be focused. We came across work by Jordana Bragg and at first we found it to be bizarre and slightly self-indulgent, until we read the info and understood the meaning behind the photographic images and the appreciation of them being stills from a video recording. There also seemed to be a hidden theme of identity and gender in there, which lead to a discussion between Claire and I about the personal significance and diversity of this. Anything that creates a discussion or a debate, or opens you mind, is worth it for me. 

My favourite piece was a pigment print that I was immediately drawn to from the other end of the room of a messy, used art studio, seemingly temporarily abandoned due to the just-used glasses left on top of an open book. Upon closer inspection and reading the information provided, it was the attic of the Father to the artist, taken 3 months after his Father had died of cancer. Death, loss and grief have played a huge part of my life over the last 5 years and have significant vibrations to my everyday life and the choices I make, so suddenly it had so much more meaning but it is no surprise to me that I was drawn to this piece.

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After leaving the art gallery (and deciding that we were absolutely equipped to open our own art gallery where we are both the artists and the muse) we walked towards the Botanic Gardens, stopping at newly-opened Zen for some sushi and dumplings on the way. Despite the pouring rain we circled the perimeter of the park before crossing through to explore the Rose garden, taking obligatory photos along the way. 

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We decided to give the gondola ride a miss – one of the top Christchurch attractions but at $30 each and with such foggy, miserable weather it just didn’t seem worth it – and instead headed towards the second best attraction. PAKnSAVE. Ok so not really, but as New Zealand’s answer to Asda (or Coles if you’re from Oz) it was a highlight for me – plus, on the way, I bought a smoothie with feijoa in it (a fruit native to South America but very common in NZ that has a sour taste) and really enjoyed it, so a good afternoon, really. We picked up some snacks for our tramping over the next couple of days (tramping is New Zealand’s word for hiking/walking) and then decided to walk back to our hostel via the “Welcome to Christchurch” wall graffiti. We spent about, oooo  I dunno, half an hour wandering down and around Welles Street desperately trying to find this listed street art before giving up and heading home, to then stumble across it by accident – well, across the corner of it that was still visible behind the new high rise building that was under construction right in front of it. 

After a full day of walking we cooked dinner at the hostel, did some research on Queenstown and Te Anau to make some travel decisions (we made none), packed for the next morning (my accumulation of crap during my time in Sydney is not boding well for being back on the road) and went to bed before waking up at 6am the next morning to start our journey into Mount Cook.

LS

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