Punting on the river
Travel

Re-Visiting Christchurch before the Earthquake

They thought they were safe. Although New Zealand sits atop the “Ring of Fire,” where the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates join, there were no known fault lines where 25,000 people lived for 160 or more years, building beautiful churches, universities and homes. One day, in 2010, that changed forever.

monument 9 11 christchurch

Christchurch, located on the south island of New Zealand, has excellent walking or cycling trails due to its plain-like nature and compact size. The shallow and immaculately clean River Avon runs gently through the city’s centre, and not only boasts trout and salmon in its waters but is flanked by easy, level, walking trails. The age-old Alder, Oak and Birch trees, lining these paths, give the city a distinctive English atmosphere, particularly if you visit during winter.

Christchurch cathedral
Christchurch Cathedral before the Quake

The tranquillity and reminders of English village living are everywhere and I thought Christchurch a cosy place to make a home, that is, until two weeks after my visit in 2010.

Earthquake

The first earthquake registering 7.1 hit the unsuspecting city of Christchurch on September, 4th 2010, causing widespread damage but no loss of life.

The second quake was felt barely six months later and with a magnitude of 6.3, of which the epicentre was a mere 10 kilometres southeast of Christchurch’s central business district.

Killing 185 people and injured several thousand, many of Christchurch’s unique buildings collapsed, water and gas mains burst causing flooding, roads were uplifted. Countless houses sustained damage, especially in the CBD, where we had stayed not long before. Continuing liquefaction issues have rendered many homes unliveable and unable to be sold.

https://cdn.britannica.com/84/152184-050-0C74FF5D/qualities-soil.jpg

Experts thought a new fault line had appeared in the areas immediately surrounding Christchurch, meaning the city was unlikely to be the same again.

Surprisingly, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, retail store owners in the commercial district quickly improvised, bringing in shipping containers so that they could continue operating, albeit in a limited way.

It is a vast change from Christchurch, the way it used to be, just two weeks prior to that day the first earthquake hit. Here are my memories of the way it was.

My Christchurch Memories

Cathedral Square – as it was

An earthquake was the furthest thing from our mind when we ate a delicious and ample breakfast at the Holiday on Avon motel, prior to boarding the hotel’s free city shuttle bus to Cathedral Square to do some sightseeing on our first day in this pretty city.


Our dining room at the hotel overlooked this lovely vista and a 15-minute stroll along the river took us to the City Square, the site of the iconic 170-year-old Christchurch Cathedral.

Cathedral Square – Christchurch City

The Christchurch Cathedral Square, a few weeks before the earthquake devastates the town. Some people here enjoying Chess, on a clean crisp winter’s day. We spent some time examining the ornate tiling and interior of the Cathedral, itself.

A group of Maori buskers performed songs for us, with traditional Maori “Poi.” The performance, they freely admitted, was in its early stages.

A short distance away, we explored the Botanic Gardens – a location I always visit when I am travelling, in order to see the local botany and floral displays.

Botanic Gardens Christchurch

The Curator’s house at the Botanic Gardens, replete with herb garden, was tasked with supplying the herbs for the restaurant. Again, very English.

  • Punting in Christchurch
  • Christchurch
  • Christchurch
  • Punting on the river
  • River Avon

Transport in Christchurch

I guess the city was pleased it kept its city tram network, although I am unsure if this is still operating, as a tourist, ‘hop on hop off‘ tram. Formerly, it stopped at the major sites surrounding Cathedral Square. For a small city, they really looked after their tourists.

Ornate iron fretwork on the bridge over the river captured my attention. I wonder if it is still intact?

Christchurch’s Heritage Architecture

Beautiful architecture was found in many corners of Christchurch.

A collection of 23 heritage bluestone buildings formed the Arts Centre and University. Housing many different artists and crafts from painting, ceramics, to older ladies spinning and knitting socks, the Arts Centre was evidence of multi-purposing these stately structures. Demonstrations were occurring daily whilst I was there.

Note: This area sustained much damage from the quake, so may look different today.

Day Trips from Christchurch

The Christchurch area of New Zealand can be a convenient hub for day trips to Akaroa, Mt Cook National Park and the TranszAlpine Train Trip to Greymouth.

The relatively small population of Christchurch has had support from the New Zealand Government in the slow process of rebuilding. That continues with further earthquake-proof structures, similar to those found in Wellington.

I feel lucky to see it in its original state.

monument 9 11 christchurch
Architecture, Travel

Christchurch Cathedral – Now Lost

Church

The Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, was an impressive piece of religious architecture and a tourist draw-card for the small city. Sadly it’s now gone, due to two large earthquakes that occurred back in 2010 and 2011. I was lucky enough to visit just two weeks before the first earthquake.

History of Christchurch

For Christchurch to be declared a ‘city’, with all the privileges that entailed, it had to have a cathedral, so the pilgrims that sailed on the immigrant ships in 1850 and made Christchurch their home, built the cathedral in the historic style of the time. Clearly, they had faith that the city would develop.

The Church though a little damaged, remained intact after the first earthquake, in 2010, but the beautiful tower fell in the second event barely six months later. An earthquake-proof cathedral, presumably of a different design will be re-built on this site.

mosaic christchurch cathedral
Reproduction in mosaics on the floor of the Cathedral depicting one of four pilgrim ships that established Christchurch in 1850.

Early Pilgrims

Some insight into days on board the immigrant ships was provided:

Life on board was cramped. Steerage passengers were confined to a small space below the main deck. Single men slept in bunks. Married couples had a curtain for privacy. This space was used not only for sleeping, but also for storing everything needed for the voyage. There was a lack of fresh air, and dampness was a constant concern. Basic food was provided, such as salted meat, flour, rice, biscuits and potatoes. A bucket was supplied for washing and laundry.

Many suffered from seasickness. The worst, during the first two weeks, but for some, it continued for the whole voyage. Passengers passed the time at sea plotting the ship’s course, writing letters and diaries, sewing, playing cards and games, and dancing. Prayer meetings were held every morning and afternoon, and there was a full church service on Sundays. There were also school lessons for the children. Source: http://www.firstfourships.co.nz/

The Altar

Christchurch cathedral
Before the Quake….

Christchurch cathedral

A door like the Cathedral entry door could withstand any earthquake.

christchurch cathedral


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Christchurch Cathedral’s Stained Glass Windows

Christchurch cathedral
Christchurch before the Quake….

Not able to withstand the quake were the stained glass windows and curiously patriotic cushions on the pews.

Christchurch before the Quake....

Mosaics

christchurch cathedral

The mosaic theme continued all along the wall and floor tiles. They loved these sorts of things in the mid 1800’s. Didn’t they? A real treasure.

Mosaics

Part of the design included a Swastika, a symbol that held a different meaning, prior to World War II.

The Swastika is known as the Fylfot and is an ancient symbol found in the ruins of Troy, Egypt, China, and India. In Sanskit, it means prosperity from the belief that it brings good luck. The Victorians loved the symbol and I have a Victorian hat pin that is a swastika. It gives me the creeps, but historically, that was not the intention.

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Not sure what the relevance of this was for, other than what it says.

Christchurch before the Quake....
Christchurch cathedral

Here is what the cathedral looked like until recently – Reduced to rubble but the door remains intact.

Work was scheduled to begin in 2020, on the re-build.

Linking to Norm’s doors

Community

Sunday Sayings – Courage

Christchurch has had more than its fair share of tragedy in recent years.

gandhi

I could this week have written about hate crimes. I could this week have written about prejudice or racism, or vile acts of terror,such as we have seen close to home. There has been much of this already in the media, and to write more is to give voice to those who espouse these inhuman views.

Instead, this week, I chose to write about an opposing emotion of courage. It is those that show courage in the face of abhorrent adversity that we should acknowledge louder.

Christchurch has had its fair share of tragedy in recent times. Now the residents must show courage in the face of abhorrent adversity.
Pic credit: kassiisaac

We must generate courage equal to the size of the difficulties we face.

Dalai Lama



Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”

– Mary Anne Radmacher


Our morbid interest in these dark events is biological in basis. We are programmed to pay attention to that which we perceive is the greatest threat to us.

This quote is worth remembering:

Perhaps strength doesn’t reside in never having been broken, but in the courage required to grow strong in the broken places.

~Unknown


I find there to be profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and I marvel at the way they are so succinct in communicating messages to the reader.

Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and from across cultures. They speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned.

Quotes, like proverbs, make us think more deeply about something.

Join in the discussion by leaving a comment.

Everyone’s opinion is important. What is yours?

Community

Punting in New Zealand

A Time Warp to the Victorian Era – in Christchurch

The best way to see Hagley Park, the Botanic Gardens and the Avon river in Christchurch, New Zealand, is not on foot but by boat.

This is seriously one of the most serene and relaxing things I’ve done. Punting at the Antigua sheds at Christchurch is something, like the city itself, very English. By way of contrast, the weather was anything but English; we were blessed with the most beautiful winter’s day – it was indeed quite cool but sunny and clear.



A Punt is a flat bottomed boat that does not have a keel. Typically, a punt is approximately 21 feet (6 metres) long and 3 feet (1 metre) wide. It should be propelled by means of a pole – about 16 foot (5 metres) long. The punt and consequently, the passengers sit very low in the water, although at no time do the passenger feel in any danger and I did not even get my feet or anything else wet.

Punting history

The abridged version is “To punt without losing your balance, getting wet, wetting your passengers, while keeping the trip smooth and making sure that the passengers enjoy the ride, is something requires expertise indeed. Punting originated as a means of fishing, dredging, carrying and transporting all kinds of materials.

Punting boat

In other words, the punt was originally a work boat. The punting style consisted of starting at the bow, where the operator dropped the pole to the bottom, leaned on it, and then ran after it, pushing the boat under his feet. It was a method that often left the novice clinging to their pole while the punt drifted away in solitary splendour.

Pleasure punts were unknown prior to 1860 and found in Nelson and Christchurch and a couple of places in England.


A time warp would take me back to the days when men were gentlemen, women genteel, Bota hats, hats and gloves, but it was not necessary to build a time machine,as I simply took a Punt ride to Victorian splendour in the heart of Christchurch.

There are two Punting routes to choose from, one passing through the river as it goes through the main part of the city and the other, which is close to the hop on hop off point of the city trams, just a short stroll past the entrance to the museum and Botanic Gardens.

There you will find Antiqua Boat sheds, which is the starting point for the Gardens punts and Hagley Park. I only hope the historic Boat sheds, which appear to have changed little since early last century have not been ruined by the earthquakes.

We were also blessed to have the punt all to ourselves, not having to share with anyone else except Andrew, “Mr Gondolier” or should it be “Mr Punter”?!!!


Along the way, we all had to duck our heads as we went under a very low road bridge, and Andrew maintained the perfect balance whilst undergoing this manoeuvre.

Andrew, a University dropout with a flare for business, and a love of history and stories, has turned this tourist attraction into a successful part of his thriving business empire. He does not have to work, but does so he claims, “because he loves his job” and who wouldn’t: even in the rain, the guests are protected with blankets and large football umbrellas from the elements.


The ride through the Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park, a 50 acre green zone in the middle of the CBD which is never to be built on, the legacy of a pioneer settler, is a dream for those who appreciate and love nature. Also a wonderful area for environmental oxygen carbon dioxide exchange, a green zone in the metropolis, although Christchurch could hardly be called a metropolis. Just a nice sized city, really.


You also pass by the curators house and herb garden. The punts themselves are very comfortable and Andrew has blankets to keep you warm on cooler days.

Other creatures enjoying the Avon will be the endemic ducks, swans, and other aquatic life, the Daffodil garden which is really a lawn, as the daffodils are not mass planted but erupt from beneath the soil anywhere to the point that they mow a path through the daffodils in spring. They would be a bright point in the city’s current misery, as I feel sure that they would be in full bloom at this moment. (We were a few weeks early for the daffodils and the earthquake and for that I am truly grateful. (But right on time for the Lambing)
A few brave early plants showing their blossoms amongst the grass are seen here, before the mower gets to them…..

The daffodil garden shortly to be cropped by the mower….
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No motor pervades this almost spiritual atmosphere, the water is shallow and clear, rocks form the bottom of the river, and the excellent and entertaining commentary given by Andrew, pertinent and interesting.
Near the end of the ride, you get a good view of the Curator’s house, and adjacent herb garden, seen on our approach to the Punting on the Park Attraction.

“Some days you are the statue, and some days the pigeon….” one of my favorite sayings, so I had to take a photo of one of the important people in Christchurch history, which WordPress has seen to delete from my media library as it is from 10 years ago.

This was definitely a day where I was the pigeon, on top of the world as I knew it then, and felt that in finding a new relaxing pastime, in a foreign city, discovered something new about myself. Surely that is something to ponder about….. even on a punt….