May 17

We woke up intent on continuing our journey to Akaroa. The weather was still dismal, but we were anxious to see Akaroa (Zhoel has never been there before either). However, after about 15 kms of driving we pulled over. We agreed that we didn’t want to drive all the way out there to spend another miserable night in the wind and rain.

I am not joking when I say that the moment we turned the car around the sun started to shine over Chch. Zhoel actually made one of those “Ahhhh” noises. So taking our cues from Mother Nature, we headed back to Chch for the day. We drove into town and had a beautiful day. The air was brisk, but the sun was shining and the city was lovely.

Chch has a unique dynamic. Due to the damage caused by recurring earthquakes, there is a huge amount of construction. The dichotomy between the red zoned areas, fallen in buildings and broken windows, and the newly built, glass fronted structures is stunning. I couldn’t decide whether the city made me feel hope or futility. The residents care so much for their city that they continue to rebuild, with massive amounts of time, energy and money, despite the near certainty that another natural disaster will hit. The city is covered with a mix of graffiti and commissioned art, but it all seems to add color and life to a half destroyed place, as well as a character uniquely its own. Even the Re:Start Shopping Center, a variety of boutique shops and cafes constructed from brightly painted shipping containers, contributed to the tentative common ground forged between normalcy and uncertainty. One mural painted two stories high on the side of the building seemed to say it all to me, “I knew you would come back again.”

I found myself contemplating these thoughts while sitting in a bench staring at the half destroyed cathedral. A man playing a traveling piano (appropriate in Chch) added a soundtrack to my afternoon, interspersed with construction noises in the background. This seemed to be Christchurch to me. I recorded the moment, for anyone who wants to relive it with me.

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From here, we visited the Botanic Gardens and Canterbury Museum–both worth a visit. The Gardens are extensive and well maintained, particularly the conservatory and rose gardens. The museum has a number of excellent exhibits, one of which is the Paua House, with a reproduction that you can enter.

We continued our journey south, with one more stop. I have been waiting for this stop since I was first told about its existence, months ago–my new favorite place, the Cookie Time Factory store. I left with 6 kgs of cookies and a happy heart.

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