So three months have sped past and it was time for me to leave Australia as per my visa rules. The most logical place to travel to was New Zealand.
I decided to travel to the South Island, since I have been to the North Island before (albeit something like 15 years ago now) and it’s always good to go somewhere new.
New Zealand require a return or onward ticket before they will let you in the country, which is very annoying because I wasn’t sure how long I’d be staying.
Instead I bought a single ticket and then paid US$10 to rent a ticket. I use a company called fly onward to book a ticket in my name to show the nice ladies and gentlemen at Jetstar/border control and then in 24 hours it is cancelled. Job done, and I’m free to decide later on when I’m ready to leave.
A lot of NZ itineraries skip over Christchurch altogether; they just fly in and then go straight out to Queenstown or Milford Sound. However Christchurch is a nice place to spend a couple of days, if you have the time. Since I’m not hiring a car (much too expensive for one person) it is easier for me to head to cities and organise travel out from there, rather than trying to get from one remote place to the next.
For anyone who doesn’t remember, Christchurch went through a major earthquake in 2011, where much of the CBD was flattened and 185 people died.
These things are devastating when you see them on the news, but then the news moves on to something else and unless you have a personal interest you just forget about it. Meanwhile, nearly six years later, Christchurch is still trying to rebuild itself after the devastation and the insurance companies are still arguing.
Christchurch is actually doing a rather splendid job of rebuilding itself. You will find a lot of art dotted around the city, both street art/murals and sculptures.
Free art is everywhere. There is the free-to-enter art gallery on Worcester street.
Then there is the Cardboard Cathedral. Yes, it is a fully-functioning cathedral and yes, it is made of cardboard.
The Cardboard Cathedral was built to stand in for the city’s original cathedral, which was destroyed in the earthquake.
The massive North Hagley Park is great to walk around. The river Avon (yes seriously) runs through it, and you can hire a little paddle-boat or sit back and let somebody else do the work.
Right next to Hagley Park is the Botanical Gardens…
The restart mall is an interesting place to hang out, full of food trucks, artworks, shops and stalls, all built around storage containers.
If I’d had longer I would have headed out of the town; there are some great walks nearby. New Brighton was another possibility I had in my head (their landmark pier is missing at the moment though), but I ran out of time. There is a new bus station in the centre of town that can take you to these places though, so (theoretically) quite easy.