Sunday 9 November 2014

A trip to South Island, New Zealand (1): Christchurch

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen. I don't have much to talk about academic stuff recently simply due to the high workload I have had in the last semester, which is now over. I've now got some time to write about my trip, which is an amazing experience.

The trip included some typical spots but not all of them. In particular most of the time was spent into outdoor activities so I didn't have much city experience this time (except Christchurch I guess). Anyway I guess people who travel in New Zealand expect such kind of tours right?

I planned to write a series of entries about the trip and hopefully this will be updated weekly. I hope this serves as a guide for those who are interested to travel like me, who do not used to spend a lot in the tours but to enjoy the pace of a place. And of course, to enjoy the food.

Christchurch is not totally new to me. I have been stayed there for a period of time but mostly in the suburbs or the highlands. Basically I have never been to the city centre possibly except some city tour.

For most tourists it make sense that city centre is always one of the most attractive place to go for because city centre shows some of the major characteristics of the city itself. Christchurch is surely one of the exceptional case. The earthquake completely ruined the city and in particular the city centre so that it was closed down for some time. Naturally they don't have the money, power or efficiency to rebuild everything they have had, and of course they have abundant land resources so that they can do so. Since the earthquake people moved outwards to various suburbs and it is still a vivid city after all, but that really depends on how the city is observed.

Hagley park is one of the largest urban open space in the world and is one of the land that stayed pretty much the same after the quake. In weekdays it's simply filled with various trees, flowers, ducks so you can enjoy some time with yourself inside the park (yeah you don't really see someone else as this is too big), but during the festivals the park is filled with people all around the city and this is probably one of the rare chance that is able to persuade you that there are still 300 thousand people living there. Strange, they are celebrating festivals all around the world, but this is possibly a way for them to gather and consociate.

Outside of the park the city centre is simply dispirited. No people walking on the street and no one is living there. I was in a backpacker hostel around the city centre and it took me an hour to walk to the nearest Park n'save and you won't feel good for that...

That actually reminded me about the song Boulevard of broken dreams by Green Day. I don't pay attention to western pop a lot so I first encountered with the song, without much surprise, from Osu!. I have thought about the actual scene in such kind of place for a few times (particularly when I am riding my bike around) but you can't really have a consolidated concept about that if you are simply grow up in a metropolis. But for the city centre of Christchurch it is really something that perfectly match the lyrics

I walk this empty street
On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Where the city sleeps
And I'm the only one and I walk alone

The city centre is broken and the buildings are broken everywhere, but no one is giving up. City centre is what people observe and conclude that the city is declining, but if you go to the rest of the town you would find something totally different, even the less damaged part of the city centre:

I kind of like the big chess set like the above one. This is quite common in New Zealand, both in Auckland or Christchurch. It's even better that you can always find people who is playing around it --- entertainment as a higher hierarchy of the living needs reflects the fact that they are used to it, and they enjoy how the town is recovered using their own hands.


Yeah the trip to Christchurch was pretty boring despite the fact that I liked the place and I appreciate them. This was partially because that we didn't have a car so that it was extremely hard to travel around (and different from Auckland some of the bus stop does not give any due time). We went to the Canterbury museum and the Antarctic centre besides a walk in the city centre, but that was all.

Christchurch (or, Canterbury) is one of the earliest foreign settlement in New Zealand so without any doubts the museum has so much to tell us. Pretty much like an integrated historical museum they starts from some prehistroical facts, then early human behaviours, then the great sailing era and this little Island and discovered. The treaties and the early settlements are all interesting to know but of course these are too much for me to talk about here.

The Antarctic centre is somewhere you can take a free shuttle bus outside of the Canterbury museum to go to. New Zealand is one of the leading place on Antarctic research partly because of its geological advantage. In the old days Christchurch is one of the main gate towards Antarctica and even in the present day people used to take ships from Christchurch to Antarctica, so it is quite natural to have such a museum here.

Other than some regular exhibitions there are a few interactive facilities in the Antarctica museum as well. The most interesting one is a simulation on Antarctic storms. Those who have studied Antarctic science will know that Antarctica is the windiest continent in the world mainly due to the katabatic wind which pulls the dense cold air down by gravity, and these winds can be as strong as storm force (89+ kmph). Such a simulation is simply a device that delivers strong indoor wind and snow. It is pretty exciting for those who are used to see snow, or snow under strong winds. The wind these could be as strong as about 50kmph --- of course not as strong as what we would expect in Antarctica, but any strong winds maybe dangerous, and I was already completely frozen after a 5 minute simulation.

Oh of course, the penguins were cute.

Since I was mainly in the city centre and there's no significant land planning within the city centre after the you can't really find many good restaurant (well they don't even go to the city to have their meals). I didn't find any noticeable restaurant here, but it was a surprise that I will meet a lot afterwards. In fact, Christchurch is the most boring part of the trip I would say, so let's look forward to my next entry.

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