New Zealand | Christchurch


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new zealand, south island, christchurch, restart, mallRe:START container mall.After our night in Te Anau, it was time to start the journey to Christchurch on the other side of the South Island. The drive from Te Anau to Christchurch is a bit long to make in one day, so we picked out a beachside freedom camping spot in Oamaru on the South Island’s east coast.Unfortunately, we were thwarted by the weather yet again. Even though we missed the snowstorm, our last couple days in New Zealand were pretty rainy, windy and cold. The flat, grassy site where we planned on freedom camping was more like a plain of mud.new zealand, south island, christchurch, christchurch botanic gardensI was determined to go freedom camping, though, so undeterred, I looked up another place a little farther north and closer to Christchurch: Caroline Bay in Timaru. Kail and I joke that the Oamaru-to-Timaru drive was the worst part of our vacation, because we just drove in the rain and were a bit grumpy. (OK, I was a bit very grumpy. Kail’s patience knows no bounds.)new zealand, south island, christchurch, new regent streetNew Regent Street.It worked out well, though, because the freedom campsite at Caroline Bay is really a bayside parking lot, with access to bathrooms, a dump station and freshwater to refill our supply. So in the morning, we were able to take care of all that before driving to Christchurch to return our campervan to Wilderness Motorhomes. All we had left to do was fill up our propane and diesel tanks.new zealand, south island, christchurch, christchurch trolleyIt was sad to part with our 10-day home, but we were looking forward to staying in a hotel (and enjoying some extra space to stretch out) and exploring Christchurch. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 6:45 a.m. the next day, so we had an afternoon/evening to head downtown and see the sights.new zealand, south island, christchurch, restart, mallChristchurch was devastated by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in early 2011 — and an equally powerful aftershock a few months later — that killed nearly 200 people and caused extensive damage to buildings. Some areas have been rebuilt, while others — like the Christchurch Cathedral — are caught in a legal limbo between historic preservationists and owners (in this case, the Anglican Church).new zealand, south island, christchurch, christchurch cathedralChristchurch Cathedral.One neat place we visited is Re:START, a shopping mall built out of shipping containers. It opened in late 2011 as a way for businesses displaced by the earthquake to quickly reopen and encourage economic activity downtown. The process of building permanent, new structures would have taken too long, and Re:START allowed shops and restaurants to quickly pop up and begin operating.new zealand, south island, christchurch, restart, mallIt was like a much nicer version of the compound in Kabul, where people live and work in shipping containers. We did a little bit of shopping, got a snack (bratwursts) from one of the food vendors, then hopped on a trolley tour that did a loop through the central business district.new zealand, south island, christchurch, university of canterburyUniversity of Canterbury.Everything seemed to close up pretty early (not sure if it was because of the season or because of slow tourism after the earthquake) so by 5:30 p.m. it was pretty dark with little to do. We took our own mini self-guided tour of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, whose gates stay open until 6:30 p.m. in winter.new zealand, south island, christchurch, christchurch botanic gardensPeacock Fountain at Christchurch Botanic Gardens.From the botanic gardens we walked over to Victoria Street, where there’s a strip of cafes and restaurants. We had a drink at the cleverly named Tequila Mockingbird followed by tacos at Mexicano’s. We then headed back to our hotel for a short night’s sleep before our early flight to part three of our R&R: Singapore.Have you ever been in a “building” made out of shipping containers?

Published by La Vie Overseas

I'm Natasha -- writer, runner and wife to a Foreign Service Officer with USAID. Current location: Frankfurt, Germany.

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