We waved goodbye to Kaikoura as we headed south toward the South Island’s largest town, Christchurch. As we drove through the beautiful countryside, Linda told us about the 2010/11 earthquakes which – you guessed it – devastated the city.
I’ve been to Christchurch twice since then, the first time in 2018. That time, I was with my BFF and we got to speak to a number of people who had been through the quake. Rather than repeat myself, here’s a link to what I wrote back then. The remains of a ruined city. In 2019 Peter and I did an Ultimate tour of the South Island, coming in and out of Christchurch, but all we had time for on that occasion was the obligatory city tour, where it didn’t seem to me that much had changed since the previous year. But when Linda drove around the city pointing out the highlights, I noticed that the lovely university which had been badly damaged and was still under repair in 2019 was now back to its former self. The decision has finally been made to rebuild the cathedral. Work started in 2020 but it won’t be finished until 2027.
We arrived in the CBD around lunch time. Linda dropped us off with orders to have lunch and meet her back here at the designated time. One thing I certainly noticed had changed since 2018 was that the CBD was busy. It had been a ghost town when B and I visited. Pete and I went into Market Lane, a thriving boutique shopping area with local goods, food, souvenirs and the like. We decided on Greek and bought a souvlaki each. We were expecting the kind you get in Melbourne, a pita bread rolled around a filling of meat and salad but what we got was a cone with a fork. It was very tasty and the local seagulls helped us with the left over pita.
Peter and I mooched around, looking at shop windows decorated for Christmas. Most of the premises in the mall sported diagonal tube constructions which help stabilise the building if (when) there’s a quake. We’d seen similar devices in Wellington.
We booked into The George in the late afternoon and immediately headed for the highlight of the day – the free guest laundry. We’d been on the road for a while now, and we’d started on our second ‘dirties’ bag. But an American woman had got there first. The laundry was fitted out with two washing machines and three dryers. She had both washing machines going, both with small loads. So we waited, in much the same way a vulture might wait for a meal, circling in the sky.
Eventually the American woman had all three of the dryers loaded and we stuffed all our washing into one machine, leaving the other for one of our colleagues. By now, other members of our group were also waiting for a turn and we were conscious of that. We used one dryer until the clothes were a bit drier than damp and took the garments to our bathroom. It had a heated towel rack and a heated floor. We hung everything as best we could and headed out for dinner.
The George has a very good restaurant but the prices were higher than we wanted to pay so we took up Linda’s suggestion of a nearby Irish pub, The Bog, where the meals were good and the prices reasonable. I think half the people from our bus were there that night. The other half were still at the George doing their washing. We shared a table with John and Jane (Chief and Miss Chief). The meals were enormous. I asked for fish and chips and only ate half, Peter had chicken schnitzel that hung off the plate, and John’s bangers and mash came with a mountain of spuds and three sausages. I hope the left-over food went somewhere useful, like some stray dogs or something.
As tended to happen with this group, Mag and Brian, two of our fellow travellers, came over for a chat before we all wandered off back to The George – where we found George waiting for us. He’s a teddy bear, a gift to people staying in the hotel. I was expecting him, since I have another George (from 2019) sitting on my desk at home.
Tomorrow we would be crossing the Southern Alps. I’ll probably let George see some of the sights.
By the way, if you’ve happened upon this page by accident and you’d like to read more about the tour, go to the tour page where you’ll find the rest of our adventures.