Blog4NZ Christchurch-Getting Over First Impressions

Recently, the world has been hit by a few massive crises, one of these being the huge 6.3 magnitude earthquake that shook the South Island of New Zealand on February 22, 2011. In an effort to support the people of this amazing country in a time of dire need, four bloggers have joined forces to create a travel writing phenomenon called Blog4NZ (click the link to find out more). Jim McIntosh, John Reese, Craig Martin and Dan Roberts have united the travel blogging community as a way to honor the tourism industry in New Zealand. Search for #Blog4NZ hashtag on Twitter or visit the Facebook Page to find more information, then show your support by reading and sharing these stories or writing your own!

New Zealand is a place full of warm hearts and stunning experiences. A crisis such as this, rather than a reason to stay away is a reason to flock to the country and show your support. I had a chance to visit New Zealand for a short period in 2009 and this is the first of my posts on my experiences there.

When we first landed in Christchurch, the cold air hit my flip-flop clad toes and I was already annoyed. It was technically still summer in Australia, how could it be so cold here? As an amateur traveler, I hadn’t put to much thought into the possibility of a weather change as we flew nearly 2,200 kilometers across the ocean.

We also hadn’t booked a hostel. My cold feet had to carry my exhausted body from an early morning flight through the streets of a completely quiet city. My sidelong looks at Nell clearly said; what have we gotten ourselves into?

Some nice young men on the street directed us to the affordable hostel in which they were staying and as we set down our backpacks, things were already beginning looking up. We had a few hours to kill until our friend Maud arrived from her layover in Auckland so we set off to see how photogenic Christchurch might actually be.

Not much impressed (I was a different traveler at the time), I didn’t expect to feel much, then I saw it. I was entranced with the city’s cathedral. The way it sat so majestically in the center of Cathedral Squaure, the focal point of the city. As the sun slowly began sinking, the blue lights of the Cathedral were our guiding light home.

The decision was made after not much time that we would be better off heading directly to Queenstown the following morning in order to get our action in. Waking up at 6am the following morning (4am Sydney time) we were quick to get to the bus station and book a ticket. Amateur travelers don’t pre-book buses either, which meant it was sold out.

You’re telling us we have to stay in Christchurch? No way.

After a search for rental cars, bus tickets and alternative modes of transportation (what, is Easter like a National Holiday or something?) we succumbed to the fact that we would have to spend another day in this quiet (seriously, quiet) little town. We’d heard something about a gondola ride and figured it was a good way to pass a day.

Beautiful panoramas of Christchurch and the coastline greeted us at the top of the Mt. Cavendish, alongside approximately 300 friendly sheep. We took some time pretending we were characters from the Lord of the Rings, posing in silly photos, before heading back to town.

Maud had heard of an area of town called Sol Square that was worth seeing, so we headed that way. We were greeted by a fleet of bikes driving up the alley wall and an expanse of ‘closed’ signs hanging in the doorways. It was here that we encountered a friendly bar manager. He told us the best places to see in Christchurch and when we might be able to find them open to the public. We truly were miffed that in two countries that equate beer to everything but work, all holidays around Easter completely close the town to business.

In the end we didn’t get to do much in Christchurch, but we saw the beauty of it. We appreciated the buskers and the friendliness of those we met. I would say that in the moment we brushed over Christchurch. As time went on, as I lived longer in Sydney and more importantly longer with two locals from ChCh in my Sydney home, I started to appreciate it more.

Today, as the city suffers through one of the worst times it has ever seen, I am thankful I had a chance to enjoy it’s beauty. I know that I will return to New Zealand and I’m again thankful that I will have a chance to see it beautifully transformed all over again.

My heart is going out to the families of the area and the families of my Sydney roommates as they struggle still to put their world back together, now in the shadow of yet another world crisis.