Monday 24 December - We anchored at 7am and then caught tenders into the port of Akaroa, which was then a 90min drive to Christchurch. Ships used to dock at Lyttleton, which is much closer to Christchurch, but have not been able to do so ... Read More
Monday 24 December - We anchored at 7am and then caught tenders into the port of Akaroa, which was then a 90min drive to Christchurch. Ships used to dock at Lyttleton, which is much closer to Christchurch, but have not been able to do so since the earthquake. As it's a relatively new port, it was hard to organise excursions online before we left, so we winged it and were able to nab a driver to take us into Christchurch for the day. He was another gem, by the name of Grant with a great van (complete with a step that automatically glided out for passengers to alight, we were all impressed by the novelty value of it!) He took us in via the scenic route, with beautiful views looking down on the ship over Akaroa Bay. Grant's contact details are firstname.lastname@example.org with www.toursouth.co.nz
It was very sobering to be so close to the destruction in the Christchurch CBD. So many vacant lots that were buildings now demolished and plenty more still to be removed. The most poignant was a memorial of 160+ white chairs on a corner block -- one for every life lost. Each chair is different to represent the different lives, but it was the white baby capsule that really got me. Our driver Grant was on his way into the CBD when the quake hit, he said the car wobbled so much it felt like someone had shot his tyres out. He ended up being stuck in gridlock in the CBD for hours afterwards. His house at least was on the untouched side of the city though. The damage to both the Catholic & Anglican cathedrals is very dramatic. Both are still partially standings, but bring to mind images of crumpled buildings in London during the Blitz. The main shopping mall has been "rebuilt" in shipping containers, certainly a different shopping environment to what we're used to.
The Botanical Gardens are virtually untouched and so beautiful. 12yo & I had fun finding the most fragrant bushes in the rose garden (Double Delight still the hands down winner). We enjoyed a punt on the River Avon, it was really beautiful gliding along with our "punter" Uni student Felix doing all the hard work. Also visited the Canterbury Museum, which I'd read had an excellent section on the earthquake that turned out to be OK but not as good as expected, still worthwhile visiting though.
On the way back to the ship Grant took us on a detour to Birdlings Flat, an amazing beach area completely covered in flat pebbles instead of sand. Had a freaky start when he drove off the main track and we ended up bogged in pebbles -- but never fear, we 5 muscle bound Aussie's were soon out and actually managed to push him free. A 4WD just down the track was badly bogged and had to be pulled out by another vehicle, it took quite a while and ended up with pebbles all through the brake pads, making the most horrific screech as it finally drove out. The girls tried bumpy sunbathing, but the real highlight was that if you looked carefully at the pebbles many had coloured streaks through them, that when you wet and rubbed brought the colour out even further. Read Less