Our time in Wellington was brief because we had more adventures planned! We woke up early and left our hotel to head to the ferry port. We took a 3 hour ferry across the Cook Straits from the North island of New Zealand to the South island.
The ferry was large and had many seating areas, a few cafes and an outdoor viewing deck. We didn't spend much time outside because it was so windy, but it helped with my slight case of seasickness.
From the ferry, we had a brief walk across Picton to the train station. There, we boarded the Coastal Pacific train route. This took us down the Pacific Coast of the South Island into Christchurch. It was a 6.5 hour ride, but the views were constantly changing. A feature on the train was the recorded commentary. They supplied headphones and there was a chime that went off when there was something to look at or hear about.
The first hour was full of vineyards, as we went through the wine region of Marlborough. The train had a viewing car, with open air and no windows, so we spent some time back there enjoying the view.
As we continued farther south, the train rolled by the Pacific Ocean. The waves were massive and there were some areas on the beach that had no people. The recorded guide said that if you went out to sea from here, the next land mass you would hit would be Chile in South America.
The train ride was beautiful, but I was very thankful to get to Christchurch and have some space to stretch our legs.
We stayed at one of the strangest hotels I've ever been to-Chateau on the Park. This hotel had large ponds built into the middle of it, lots of weird angles, and our room had a turret with a separate room with a small bed. It was very strange, but a comfortable place to spend the night!
We walked through the park next to the hotel and into the botanic garden on our way to find dinner. We loved it so much, we went back the next day too! Christchurch felt like a deep exhale-lots of beautiful nature, but still a city where everything was very accessible.
I've never seen this many shades of pink and purple! The varieties of each kind of flower and how many were in full bloom was incredible.
Hydrangeas are one of my favorite flowers and my mom loves them too. I had to take a picture to show her all the different shades they had here. They were huge, even taller than I am!
We stayed in the botanic garden until it closed, then walked through part of the city to Smash Palace and had dinner.
The next morning, we booked a walking tour through Christchurch with Green Kiwi Tours. Simon was really informative about the evolution of Christchurch from its origin with the Maori to the terrible tragedies that have happened here in the last several years, to the rebuilding that is still happening.
There was a huge earthquake that happened here in February 2011 and really changed a lot of the city. Their cathedral, right in the middle of town, had damage and is still being rebuilt.
This area was full of buildings, but they were also destroyed in the earthquake. Instead of building them back, this area is now used as a green space and has outdoor recreation areas. I know all the kids I've taught would love to ride bikes and scooters all over these ramps!
185 people were killed in the earthquake, most of whom worked in a building that collapsed in this area. A memorial park was developed where the building once stood.
In 2019, there was a terrorist attack at a mosque in Christchurch where 51 people were killed. There is a memorial to those people whose lives were lost, as well as a piece of the Berlin Wall that has a graffiti image of the New Zealand prime minister hugging someone who was affected by the tragedy.
These 2 events in the last 15 years have had a huge impact on Christchurch. There is still so much construction and rehabilitation going on from the earthquake. Our tour guide said it has dramatically changed the buildings, the laws for how tall they are building high rises, and neighborhoods around the city. The terrorist attack was a tragedy too, especially for a city that was already suffering a dramatic loss of life less than a decade before that.
Despite so much tragedy, Christchurch feels like it has a lot of possibility! There is lots of street art and murals, including this huge one of penguins! This one was commissioned because Christchurch is the launching point for scientific expeditions to Antartica!
This street had lots of shops and restaurants, all in these colorful buildings. If we had more time, I would have wanted to eat outside here. All the food looked great!
This is known as the cardboard cathedral. It was built out of cardboard, so that people would have a place to worship, when their church was destroyed by the earthquake. The architect designed it for free and now it is still used as a church.
The Avon river runs through the middle of the city and you are able to rent boats to go out on it! Again, if we had more time, I think that would have been really fun to do. Next time!
We ended our time in Christchurch with a walk back through the botanic gardens, where we walked right into one of the couples we met in Fiji! The world really is so small.
We loved our time in Christchurch and agreed we need to spend more time there. The city has a lot to offer, was easy to navigate, and has a great location between mountains and the coast. Hopefully we'll get to go back soon!
We're Brennan & Megan
Since June 2022, we have been traveling to learn more about ourselves and the world around us.