PAMELA WADE LETS THE EXPERTS GUIDE HER AROUND HER OLD HOME TOWN
Showing English visitors around Christchurch, my home town, I got hopelessly lost. Okay, I hadn’t lived there for 30 years, and there was the small matter of those earthquakes rearranging the streetscapes – but still, it was embarrassing. I gave up at once and turned the job over to the professionals. Smart move.
The city’s Christchurch Pass makes for a great beginning – four attractions, one price, no time limit. We took the gondola for the big view of the city from the Port Hills. Just a 10-minute trip took us up to the rim of the crater, Lyttelton tucked around its harbour on the inside, Christchurch spreading across the Canterbury Plains on the outside. Sea, sky, mountains… grandeur in every direction.
So of course we turned our backs on it all and went into a dark room. A slow trundle through the Time Tunnel gives a quick flit through 12 million years of Canterbury history, ending with a roll call of high-achievers, from war hero Charles Upham to Richie McCaw.
Back down in the city, though, we’d just learned that the jet boat was a Canterbury invention, so we went retro and took a punt. It was a super- relaxing way to spend a sunny afternoon, gliding along the Avon River underneath the willow trees, past laid-back ducks and with our expert punter behind us wearing his striped tie and straw boater, giving us a commentary.
Plus it was interesting – who knew that Christchurch’s iconic willows are descended from the one growing over Napoleon’s grave on Elba?
“Are you enjoying our city?” called the friendly ladies on a bench on the bank. Yes, we were, and humming around the Botanic Gardens in an electric vehicle was an equally painless way to explore 20 hectares of trees and flowers, fountains and conservatories. We stopped off to smell the roses, admire
‘ The Quake City exhibition was confronting but full of personal stories and hope’
150-year-old giant sequoias, and envy the colourful herbaceous borders.
The last Pass tour was in one of the city’s trams, rattling through the streets, hearing from the enthusiastic driver
about the past and future, and being both saddened and excited by the transition from one to the other. The Quake City exhibition in Cashel Street was essential viewing: confronting and horrifying, but full, too, of heart-warming personal stories and hope for the new Christchurch.
The Margaret Mahy Playground is one definite post-earthquake plus: big, colourful and, above all, fun. Slides, swings, trampolines, ropes, tunnels, bridges, ziplines, sand, water, grass – it has everything a child could want. The laughter continues after dark, when teens and even adults get their chance to indulge their inner kid.
On our way to the airport, we had cool fun at the Antarctic Centre, where it snows every six minutes, there’s a storm once an hour, huskies to pet and little blue penguins to coo over.
The bucking ride in the all-terrain Hägglund vehicle was perfect for getting real with the Antarctic, and the 4D movies put us right there on the snow. We really didn’t want to leave.
A gondola ride from the Port Hills offers jaw-dropping views of the harbour and beyond.
Take a punt and hope for fine weather! Gliding down
the Avon is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
The Margaret Mahy Playground, the Botanic Gardens (above right) and the Memorial Wall (main picture) are must-sees.