NOTE: I was kind of uninspired to write… and then everything to got exciting and I just haven’t caught up with myself. So I’m writing this one now and I plan to back track in my spare time to fill in the missing weeks – it’s ok, I’ve taken notes as I go!
We are currently staying in a solar powered, own water supplied, off the grid timber house just outside of Little River in Banks Peninsula which is the big sticky out bit on the map next to Christchurch itself. It’s a really lovely place (which is a mahusive relief after the last one) as there are more villages and people around in general in the area; but this is due to the earthquakes which struck Chch and damaged most of it so people moved out but not far. It feels more homely and as its the home of an Architect and a Counsellor you’d expect nothing less! The surrounding hilly and agricultural landscape genuinely reminds me of the Shire on a hot summers day before Bilbo’s Eleventy First birthday party with the wooden fences, wild gardens, dusty gravel drives and sun soaked fields. Randomly, Kurt, the architect, also reminds me of one of my old university tutors in appearance and mannerisms and an old house mate in dress style and drinking preferences! It’s bizarrely familiar to be around. They have a 23 year old daughter who lives in an apartment down the drive in the barn, unfortunately she pushed herself too hard through an illness at uni and now has ME as a result. They also have a 16 year old Jack Russell named Lucy who is super cute as she prances across the floorboard with a little wheezing – she also moults like no tomorrow!
Here, our tasks are predominantly gardening. We’re helping to relandscape the front drive by digging holes for and planing 120 agapanthus bulbs along the slight hilly ditch, tidy up the vegetable garden and keep the grass down, weeding all the beds and around the barn and then to actually clear the barn out as they’re going to be having a party there to celebrate the barn being completed soon – but it’s full of the tractor and it’s accessories at present so we’re going to get our farm on.
We work either 4 hours a day, 5 days a week or we can do a couple full days to get extra days off – they’re pretty flexible. They also like us to join in watching their programmes in the evening if we want and to watch the news with them which is quite interesting to see, it’s much nicer than home! The presenters are allowed their own opinion and be a bit more cheeky which can be hilarious, and they’re much more chatty than ours back home too. Also the topic of conversation across NZ are altogether more pleasant and not as consistantly heavy going which is refreshing! For example, interviewing people who love oysters as the Bluff Oysters happen to be getting bigger as a main feature.
We’ve had ourselves a couple of beach afternoon trips so far in our stay when the weather has been just too hot to do sweet f.a. The first was a 25 minute drive away to a place called Little Akaloa. Not to be mistaken for Akaroa. This is the name of the French based settlement on the biggest bay in Banks Peninsula which we are yet to visit. Little Akaloa is a tiny community who live on one of the most beautiful coves. There are a few houses, a Maori inspired church and a small beach which has refreshingly chilled teal water lazily rolling over it. The other cove we went to is called Tumble Down by the locals. This is due to a strange stack of rock which stands proudly at the mouth of the bay despite being very open to the elements out that far. The cove itself is less pretty than Little Akaloa but the waters are a tad warmer, less surf and shallower so you can swim out quite far before loosing your footing. Strangely with this one is that between where you can park and the beach is a field of cows who have free reign over the beach if they like as there are no barriers – consequently this lead us to temporarily believe that a cow had got stuck in a cave as we could hear this grunting mooing sound coming from the rocks as we swam past. As we got closer however It turned out to be a couple of fur seals! Oops.
Today we went into Christchurch for the first time. We went today because it was the opening ceremony of the Kapa Haka festival. This is a Haka festival in which groups both celebrate Haka and compete against one another to be the best of the best. The festival is over 4 days and happens once every 2 years in a different location each time – this year it happens to be Christchurch. There were hundreds of people on the green in the botanic gardens, many Haka groups and Maori tribe warriors to initiate the beginning of the celebration. Traditional greetings and offerings were made to chanting and singing by both parties along with an acceptance Haka (I think, this is what I’m guessing it means but we’re hopefully going to a Maori experience day at some point in our travels so I’ll be able to tell you for sure) and then there was an awful lot of long speeches by either party, both in The Maori tongue so we didn’t understand a word of it but it sounded pretty cool all the same. Occasionally people would start laughing at what was said, so me and my fellow surrounding onlookers nervously giggled along with the rest of them. Then fell silent pretty quickly again to watch.
We didn’t stay for the whole thing as it was getting pretty hot. So we headed out of the gardens into Christchurch to have a look at it. It’s was definitely both better and worse than I was expecting. Worse in that despite the fact the earthquakes hit 4 years ago, there are still buildings in the very centre of town which are abandoned and crumbling, half standing, cables fraying out the ends of destroyed concrete slab floors and being supported with steel beems and buttresses and being knocked down with shattered or no windows and graffiti everywhere – I mean, I’d heard it was bad, we all did, but wow, kinda very post apocalyptic in some areas.
Having said that, other areas are thriving and look either untouched or are coming back to life with a new view on things. For example the botanical gardens and most along that west side of Chch are looking beautiful, well looked after, look as if nothing had happened. There’s a small river that runs through the centre which literally looks like a slice of Cambridge which it apt due to it being situated between Cambridge Terrace and Oxford Terrace along its length. Again, something that has survived the quakes well and been looked after. The other parts I mention are like the Re:Start shopping centre aka The Container Mall. This is basically a space in the centre which has now got food and clothes and gift shops but all made out of various shipping containers! It looks pretty sweet in my opinion. The idea is that it can move as the land get developed again but that there is a main hub for people to go to. Every container, or collection of containers, is a different colour and all the different types of shop are mingled together rather than put in groups or areas to make walking around more interesting. This mingled with more street art and instalments like tables with solar tops and sub ports to charge your goods is all a little controversial so we’re told as before the quakes it was a very conservative city – it’s all change now. If slowly.
The other really cool thing we went to see today was the Cardboard Cathedral! Just on the outskirts of the city centre stands a tall, long pale prism. Japanese Architect, Shigeru Ban, was asked and designed the supposed tempory building after the neo-gothic cathedral in the centre of Christchurch was a big casualty in the quakes, taking down pretty much the whole western wall with giant rose window and some of the North wing with it. This new cathedral to stand in its place until it is restored is very different from the original. A vast toblerone constructed of cardboard tube framework, wrapped in a translucent sheeting. Everything inside is either wood or cardboard apart from the curtains and candlesticks. At the front it has a rainbow of a stained glass wall depicting various images from the bible as you walk in the door.
It’s the coolest church I’ve ever seen. It’s so light and peaceful.