02.10.2010 - 07.10.2010 17 °C
The first week in Christchurch is spent car searching, couch surfing, exploring, and involves a lot of city walking. Foley Towers (the hostel we stayed at for the nights of Oct 1-4) is about a 10 minute walk from the City Centre, the library (where we use the internet), the bus station, and a variety of cool shops and restaurants. After a few minutes walking about the city, we realized that it is quite dangerous for a pedestrian coming from a country where you drive on the right side of the road to a country where you drive on the left. We had to learn to look right FIRST to cross the street instead of looking left. From the hostel to downtown we follow a path lined with huge trees along the Avon river and past many old stone buildings. Christchurch's has a lot of character with its neo-gothic architecture and even has a vintage tram still running through the city. Christchurch is known for its Cathedral Church, located in the heart of the city. Luckily a few years ago, this church went through some earthquake proofing and luckily survived the recent quake that measured 7.
One of the bonuses of Christchurch is their free shuttle, it's basically a city bus that does a small loop through and around the City Centre, hitting the groceries stores and other necessary places. We turned into regulars on the free shuttle tour. The entire city is under construction for a couple reason, earthquake repairs and preparing for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Getting around can be somewhat frustrating with closed roads and lane reductions. Many of the older buildings and churches and brick buildings had considerable earthquake damage. The clock on Moorehouse Street was damaged from the earthquake and no longer tells the time. It still reads 4:35 AM, the time the quake occurred.
Speaking of earthquakes, we experienced a 5 one evening after just falling asleep at 10:30 PM. Julie awoke first as the bed was jostling from side to side. Just as I awoke it stopped. Another aftershock. We'll get used to this, as aftershocks were happening every day but typically were so small you wouldn't notice them. This one was very close to the surface and so it felt substantial.
The weekend market in Riccarton, more like a flea market, is a great place to find some interesting goods. Julie is really honing her dickering skills. Two dollar jeans, woohoo (about $1.50 Canadian!). We were searching for warmer clothes as we realized we didn't bring enough when we arrived to Christchurch. Spring has just arrived here and we are acclimatized to Hawaii weather.
The first thing Julie notices about Christchurch is how all the toilets are dual flush, even in older buildings. It's really great to see water conservation, but I wanted to see swirling water and poops going in an opposite direction to the northern hemisphere. We also notice that a lot of doors (including on bathroom stalls) are sliding doors, and all outlets have switches on them to turn them on/off. Come on Canada, get with the times.
We also hit up Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. I thought the reserve was in a natural setting but it turned out to be more of a zoo. The highlight was seeing the rare Kiwi bird (Google it for really interesting facts about them) foraging in the leaves in their nocturnal exhibit. Most of New Zealand's native birds are flightless, since naturally there aren't any predators here to escape from. Since humans arrived to New Zealand, they brought all kind of animals (stouts, opossums, rats, house cats, dogs) that prey on the flightless birds and their eggs.
After four nights at the hostel, we spent a couple nights with Brid and Sanna, couch surfers. They had a great place to chill and chat and enjoy a wonderful dinner, and were a walk to downtown. Brid took us to Struthers Road, a really cool road, only accessible by foot or bicycle and full of pubs and restaurants. We headed into a bar for open mic night to take in some local talent and meet other couch surfers that gather there.
Brid also took us to the Port Hills to the 'Sign of the Kiwi'. The hikes here provide panoramic views stretching from the hills to the harbours, encompassing the Cantebury Plains which contain Christchurch. Here we got our first encounter with the popular New Zealand sheep. Immediately Julie wants to take a photo, but realizing that there are more sheep than people in New Zealand, she holds off for next time.
We also headed to the beachy suburb of Christchurch, Sumner, located about 12 km south-east of the city's centre. Here the houses were set into the sides of the cliffs, many had elevators which led from their driveway up to their house.
This first week was also spent car hunting at various backpacker dealerships. We scored a sweet 4x4 Mazda Cruiser Wagon and named it 'The Hobit'. After getting the oil changed and giving it a quick cleaning, we fold the seats down and load our gear into it. Now that we have a car we are freed from the clutches of city bus loops. We head out of the city on our way to Glen's house, our first wwoofing host on the Banks Peninsula.
Next blog entry will be about our first wwoofing (willing workers on organic farms) experience. From October 8th to 15th. See you soon.