Photo shows the Southern Alps rearing up in the background across the city and the Canterbury Plain. The Heathcote Estuary is in the foreground.
We are in the South Island of New Zealand, Te Waka o Māui
/ Māui's canoe. Māui claimed he caught the biggest fish in the world, the North island, Te Ika o Māui
, from his waka
while anchored at Kaikoura. Mind you, Māui had about the same reputation for bullshit as Boris Johnson, so there you go.
We have another couple of days in Christchurch before heading up the coast to Kaikoura and then starting a series of walks. The weather has varied from abominable to mildly sunny and pleasant since our arrival, but we have never been down here this early, so we will start in the North and work our way South, alternating between tapping for our kai and heading for the hills.
We haven't been to Christchurch since 2006, before the two bad earthquakes which radically reshaped the city. Christchurch was settled as an uber English colony back in 1856, planned in England even before anyone had a clue about where to place the city. The nearby deep water port of Lyttelton, nestled in one of the two extinct craters that make up the Banks Peninsula, had too little flat land for a city.
The decision was made to build the settlement on reclaimed swampland on each side of the Avon River / Ōtākaro. 165 years later, that decision came back to bite the founding fathers when the soft ground under the city centre and the eastern suburbs liquefied during the two earthquakes, resulting in the death of 185 people and necessitating many of the CBD's buildings, and 10,000 private houses in what is now the Red Zone to the East, to be demolished.
It wasn't the only strange decision made back in the nineteenth century. The settlers cut down what was left of the native trees that survived the depradations of Māori moa hunters, and planted just about every species of English tree that could grow, plus quite a few others,including gums. Just to make them feel more at home, English birds were brought in, like sparrows, blackbirds, thrushes, yellowhammers, chaffinches and skylarks, as well as Aussie magpies.
Christchurch seems to have survived emotionally after the earthquakes and the recent slaughter of 51 Muslims in the two city mosques. The best parts are still lovely and there are huge areas of parks and green spaces scattered around. The Red Zone, all 6,600 hectares of it, between the city and the beach, is finally to be regenerated with wetlands and recreational facilities. There are cycleways popping up everywhere and the number of residents who walk, jog and cycle matches the number of jetskiiers and motor boat users in the Gold Coast - it's a huge contrast.
We've been to see a couple of old friends who live here. Pete and Cathy arrived back in NZ just before us in 2015 on their steel ketch "Waverunner." It's now in the new Lyttelton marina, parked next to Largo Star, Alastair and Vivienne's old boat. Pete and Cathy live 20 km out of the city and are trying to make up their minds whether to put Waverunner on the market. Good luck with that! We also saw Rowan Taylor, last seen up the Ruatiti River at Riamaki, a 1,000 hectare block in the Whanganui back country to the west of the central North island volcanoes, bought by us and several others back in 1978.
Rowan and I (Geoff) shared a tumbledown timber house for a while back in 1975, coincidentally just behind what is now the Al Noor mosque in Riccarton, scene of the March massacre.
Rowan Taylor and Geoff. Rowan was last seen 40 years ago in the Whanganui back country. He now lives a stone's throw from his parents' old place near Lake Ellesmere, where his dad had an eeling business.
Library with a view. The New Brighton library has a great view of the Pacific.
From Red Zone to Green Stripe. The Te Ara Ōtākaro cycle trail is the first step to regenerating the eerie green void that used to once house 10,000 houses along the Avon. The grey shading on the poster is the part of the city most damaged because of liquefaction. It is too risky allowing any rebuilding on this once swampy land, so it will become Christchurch's newest park and wetlands.
A poignant lingering display outside the Al Noor mosque. The Silver Fern flag seems a bit incongruous though.
Can't get away from boats. Largo Star, last seen in Turkey, lies alongside Wave Runner in Lyttelton marina.
Lyttelton Harbour - one of two breached extinct craters (with Akaroa) on the Banks Peninsula
Brrrr! The Haast Pass was closed last night after a wintry blast and the Alps were covered in fresh snow down to 800 m. this morning. That settles whether we go North or South first! Pic from the RNZ website