Saturday 27 August 2022

Back to South Island in 2022 (3): Christchurch & Akaora

Along the way from Tekapo to Fairlie, the snow got heavier as we ascended the mountain. That reminded me how I got the idea mapping Babylonia in Osu! with the first snow in 2012, maybe one also generates idea from such snow storm...? 

This is...New Zealand.

Truth be told it's very tiring to sit in a car for multiple hours though. When we though the road closure was off and drive to the stateway they closed the road again due to heavy snow. At least we were allow to go after another 1 hour or so, but that means we will be in the car for almost 5 hours before reaching our destination.


I still remember the days when I got awoke by quakes. Christchurch was a broken city back then, with functionality of CBD largely moved to suburbs. When I come back again few years later nothing much had changed: the city is still to be rebuilt especially the cathedral, and the city centre somehow became an area of art exhibition. 

This is no more when we came in 2022. The rebuilt is largely done and what was a ruined field in 2011 is now a brand new commercial area. You will find buildings with big accounting company names on it just like what you can find at Britomart Auckland. The tram is still running, but riding on a tram travelling through these commercial buildings is just like trams in any other big cities. Even worse, the commercial area here feels strange because there weren't many people around, inside buildings or on the streets. 

I can understand city centre being the most valuable piece of land for a city that commercial development would be nice, but it simply doesn't feel like Christchurch and to me it would be much better to fit more suitable elements -- historical marks or botanical stuffs -- in order to distinguish itself from others. I walked through city centre and I couldn't really find any attractions other than the park and the museum. Not even the Cathedral junction would I consider that as an attraction: it's not when you don't see trams passing there in 20 minutes and people aren't gathering at the shops along the tramline!

So what else can we do for another free day in Christchurch? It's always the two options: Lyttleton or Akaora, and the choice is pretty clear here.

We took the same connection bus to Akaora just as in 2014, but we didn't see any bus coming. Instead a minivan picked us up along with a driver and 4 passengers on board. It must be hard for them to strive with virtually no travelers coming. The driver even said she has another job during our free time!

Akaora is amazing as usual. Some may say that it's just another coastal vacation town even with the French influence (which is nowhere to be observed nowadays), you immediately feel the difference when you come. 

It's seaside versus lakefront.

Everything is so different: the lighthouse, the sea breeze, the habitat, the way the haven is constructed -- they showed that this is a seaport, and a seaport that carries the history of early settlement in New Zealand.

Walking along the driveway, I have to say that this is the least changed place among places I visited this time. Things looked just like 2014, or 1980, or perhaps earlier...with other tourist towns fiercely developing amid the covid, why are changes so rare here?

Is it because people are not visiting here anymore? When we walked along the driveway we only meet one or two people every few minutes. The restaurant was so empty that it only served 8 people including us during lunchtime but the same restaurant was so full that we couldn't walk-in last time in 2014. It is so hard so explain why Queenstown is full of visitors just as before while Akaora took a big hit...

As a transient traveler there wasn't much for me to do though, we had a nice meal, bought some nice fudges, took another walk on the other side of the driveway and called it a day.

There is just one thing that I missed: I showed the picture of a pebble beach to the driver and ask if she could take us there which should be somewhere between Christchurch and Akaora. There driver unfortunately said that she couldn't recognize where that was so she couldn't bring us there.

That is the Birdling's Flat.

Taken in 2014 as in my past diary.

The bays along the way to Akaora looks more like a sound with hills on both sides of the bay. Birdling's Flat distinguishes itself from other bays just does the opposite of that. It's long and flat coastal line means that you can see a coastline extending to infinity, facing the Pacific right away with just blue sea and pebbles in sight.

The flat stands as one of my top rated scenic spot among all my trip in the South Island, so it's such a pity that we missed that.

50 Bistro in The George serves some good food. The hotel is so nice and meets its high standard!

Ma Maison's affogato in Akaora. This is affogato of a bistro/café, but I have no idea what the blueberry sauce was for.


After all the bad weather we encountered in Queenstown and Tekapo, Christchurch serves as a nice and relaxing conclusion to our trip.

We missed so many things: originally I wanted to book a 5 day trip which also includes trip to the west coast like Greymouth then the Tranzalpine, but then the travel company doesn't run that anymore; we had both flight cruise cancelled; we couldn't stay overnight in Hermitage as it was fully booked; and we missed Mt John summit and the Birdling's Flat. On the other hand we also have some wonderful encounters, especially in Tekapo where we had the snow and had the couple that generously brought us out there.

This is the nature of travelling when what wasn't expected often become the most treasured part of your trip. I am sure I will remember this 2022 trip for a long time, just like the 2014 one.

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