Let’s start where I left off…getting off the ferry from the North Island in Picton. I looked at the mountains in our path and recalled thinking that this is what people had told me about the South Island: More mountainous.. It also reminded me a lot of my home town of Mill Valley, California. We have a mountain (Tamalpais) that rises up from sea level in much the way this New Zealand peak does. So, being optimistic of our journey to come, and being really tired, I settled into our transportation and immediately fell asleep. Imagine my surprise when I woke up and we are in a long, flat, wide valley, in a town named Blenheim, that is the home to the New Zealand wine industry!!
As was the case in Australia, we spent the better part of two days here so our co-travelers could hit a bunch of vineyards for wine tasting. I get it, and I sampled some the first evening…but, as was the case in Australia, I opted out the next day to sample their area’s golf course. Mrs Bear found the town’s beautiful natatorium, and swam herself into a blissful relaxation. And that night, a local pub had an ale with my name on it !!
While hopeful they named it after me, Barry R Brink, it was really Boundary Road Brewery. But how often do you get to have a brew with your initials ?? And in the middle of wine country!!
The next day, we were back on the road, headed to Christchurch. We left New Zealand’s Sonoma Valley behind and drove stretches of beautiful coastline. We saw seal colonies on the rocks and dolphin pods beyond the breakers. We then followed the east coast to the city of Christchurch.
Christchurch was named after Christ Church in Oxford. It is the largest city on the South Island at 355,000. I was surprised at how flat the city was after traveling through lofty mountains further north. We were scheduled to stay for only one night here, as the city is still recovering from a series of devastating earthquakes between 2010 and 2012. The most serious caused the collapse of a couple major buildings, resulting in the deaths of 155 people.
The city’s cathedral was severely damaged in the quakes, and the resulting insurance conflicts delayed reconstruction. I snapped the above pic as our bus drove by. However, a Japanese architect designed a temporary building using large plastic tubing, etc. Our driver, a Christchurch resident said it was “Easy, breezy, Japaneasy.”
We spent the afternoon in the city’s beautiful Botanical Garden. I am always surprised and pleased to discover Redwood Sequoias outside of California. They were interspersed here among other transplants: Oaks, Cedars, and Eucalyptus, as well as their native vegetation. Christchurch is called the city of gardens, and it lived up to its name.
A few more pics from their gardens. The Avon River flows through it and people were cruising in row boats, kayaks, and their version of gondolas. The city seems to be recovering from its natural and human-caused tragedies of recent years. I would expect that people will want to stay for more than a single day in the near future.