Of course I had been to Christchurch many times before, and indeed to Christchurch Airport. However that was Christchurch in Dorset, just up the road from my home for the best part of six years while living at Bournemouth.
The flight was smooth, the time adjustment was 2 hours ahead so by late afternoon I was in New Zealand again, but this time the South Island.
Through customs my shoes and tent were checked, and I was stamped as being allowed to stay until September 2012, which is pretty amazing actually. And until them I can legally work in New Zealand for a period of 12 months…which should work out well, as my plan is to be back in Parramatta in early 2011, with New Zealand probably an option after that.
I had already changed all my notes into New Zealand dollars and so could pay in cash for the Airport Bus, which was cheap at just $7.50 for a 15 minutes ride into the city centre.
I got on board, and enjoyed my second taste of New Zealand. But for the first time I was now on the South Island, bigger in area but less populated than the North Island.
Right by Christchurch Airport was a sign of things to come – The Antarctic Centre is situated there. “Enjoy the experience of Antarctica” said the advertising slogan. “You could just go there instead…” I thought as my bus drove me past and finally left me at Cathedral Square.
A few days before I had booked myself 2 nights into the Base Backpackers Hostel, which looked fairly central. My bags were heavy, so it was handy that I found the hostel after about 3 minute walk. There it was on the far side of the square, behind the pretty Cathedral. I don’t always book in advance as it sometimes spoils the spontaneity and unpredictability associated with travelling, but I had found out there was a massive music festival on that weekend, and right enough it was booked out.
I checked in and was in Room 213. I met 5 American travellers, who seemed to be in a hurry and didn’t prolong a chat. I recall talking to Crystal and Megan. I got unpacked, showered and changed. Suddenly I had no home again and was a “backpacker.”
There was still loads of time to see the city before it got dark and I was back out in the city centre before 6 pm, walking all round. That way I could take the Saturday at a leisurely pace, and not have to rush around sightseeing.
First and foremost and the centre piece of Christchurch is Cathedral Square. A spectacular place, where honestly, there is always something happening in and around it!
You can have a coffee or a beer or some food in the many bars, cafes and restaurants surrounding it.
After that I walked across Worcester Bridge, which is surrounded by pretty gardens, and a small river runs through the city.
I walked up to the Botanic Gardens, again a resemblance from many British things, but that’s natural given the heritage. Christchurch is of course named after a college in Oxford University of the same name.
Just before it got dark, around 8 pm, I was back at the hostel and decided to go for their cheap “curry and beer” option for $12. It sounded like a good feed and came with Naan bread. It was a good feed and I didn’t finish it.
I ate with Helen and Lisa, two English girls from Derby. A bit ironic that I thought, as EXACTLY one year ago, on a Friday night, my first ever night in Sydney I had some food, drink and sightseeing with Charlotte and Hayley, also Derby girls! And of course my main travel buddy and flat mate for my first period in Australia was Daniel Evans, also from Derby. Helen and Lisa were not staying in Base though, they were just having food and drink in the bar there, which is called “Saints and Sinners” – almost a dark, small cosy bar reminiscent of a dingy rock club.
Strange Currencies – New Zealand Dollars and Cents with the Queen of England on them
CROWDED HOUSE – EITHER SIDE OF THE WORLD: