RTW Day 33 - Christchurch

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March 20th 2018
Published: March 20th 2018
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Today we have a full day to explore Christchurch. It’s a sadly fascinating experience. Sad because of the destruction caused by the earthquakes but fascinating to see the resilience and creativity employed in attempting to regain some normality. From the ‘cardboard’ transitional cathedral constructed round 96 cardboard tubes, to a shopping mall made out of shipping containers to the various murals painted on derelict buildings.

We start with a return to the botanic gardens to visit the conservatory complex. As well as greenhouses dedicated to cacti, orchids and carnivorous plants, there is a large Victorian greenhouse with an array of tropical plants. Next to a banana tree is a sign saying ‘Eat Me!’ so the old man helps himself to a banana. Then we hear an angry gardener bemoaning the fact that people keep stealing her bananas. I am tempted to give her a lesson on English grammar regarding the use of the exclamation mark to form the imperative, using Alice in Wonderland as my case in point. But the old man points out that following instructions to ‘Eat Me!’ did not work out well for Alice. So I make do with furtively secreting the contraband in my handbag and beating a hasty retreat to the Canterbury Museum.

The museum has some interesting collections, apparently much of this is down to the first curator’s success in trading moa (a large flightless bird) bones with other museums; it can therefore boast a mummy and various other treasures. It focuses on the history of the local area and its people. Hence there are sections dedicated to Maori art, a collection of artefacts from Sir Edmund Hillary’s Antarctic expedition, an exhibition documenting Canterbury and its role in WW1, the wonderfully tacky Fred and Myrtle’s paua shell house (a house decorated with shells and other kitsch) and obviously some moa bones.

Next stop Christchurch Art Gallery, which my guide book informs me is bright and bold. The old man only enters art galleries under duress and this one contains a fair number of pieces he feels do not actually count as art. There are a number of (loud) exclamations of “Call that art?!” We do not stay long.

On to the Transitional Cathedral, designed by a Japanese ‘disaster architect’ with its cardboard tube roof and shipping container walls, decorated with colourful triangles of stained glass, it has become an iconic building. Partly because of its uniqueness but mainly because it symbolises a determination to rebuild and move on in the face of adversity.

That’s enough sightseeing for one day, we have walked the entire city from west to east and are exhausted. We return to our motel to refuel and recharge. Then it’s time to stock up, pack up and get ready to move on in the morning.

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