We had an 8:45 a.m. excursion, Discover Christ Church. Low clouds were covering the mountain tops when we came into the harbor and a light rain started when we boarded the buses for a 30-minute ride to downtown area. We passed by Sumner beach and noticed many surfers taking advantage of the high waves. The bus went up the Port Hills to the Sign of the Takahe, where we should have had a panoramic view over the city and bay. The low clouds limited the distant views but the rain had stopped.
A short ride to town brought us to Mona Vale Gardens with its famous rose garden, floral beds, and displays. The silver fern is New Zealand’s national flower, it is green on top, but silver underneath the frond. We had about 20-minutes to stroll about and take pictures of the colorful roses and other plants.
The driver gave us a site-seeing tour around the Christ Church city center most impacted by the 2011 Canterbury earthquake, which killed 185 people. Seventy percent of the downtown buildings were destroyed, but now the damage has been removed and rebuilding is in process. Construction cranes identify where new buildings are rising to a limit of seven stories, and most brick and old stone buildings were victims of the quake. Some old stone churches are still partially damaged and repairs will cost many millions. The church walls are shored-up with steel beams while funding decisions and final plans are debated. We saw several memorials to the victims of the quake, such as a riverside mall of names and 185 white chairs, representing the favorite chair of each victim, near the site of the hotel collapse where 112 deaths occurred.
We switched buses at the Botanical Gardens to an open top double-decker. The sun was starting to appear with warmer temperatures. We got a top view and toured the city center and witnessed the vibrant recovery efforts. A master plan had been approved by a citizen vote with the emphasis on businesses with high employment opportunities and greater numbers of residential apartments and homes. You can sense that they are confident that their visions will be achieved. They had a great idea to concentrate similar function businesses in the same area. All the police, courts, and jails are together; all the theatres, movies, and entertainment venues are in the same area and all the municipal departments are together. When you start from nothing, better planning can be done.
After returning to the Botanical Gardens on the double-decker, we decided to stay in town and walk about. We were accompanied by our friend, Anna. She let her husband return to the ship and we stayed together on our walk through the Gardens. We walked a loop, seeing the Central Rose Garden, Dahlia Border, Conservatories, New Zealand Gardens, Peace Bell, and Archery Lawn, which, surprisingly, was bordered by USA sequoia trees. We spent a few minutes and went inside the Canterbury Museum at the Garden entrance to see a special National Geographic exhibit of the 50 Best Photographs of their magazine covers over their 100 year history. By 3:00 p.m., we worked our way over to the rendezvous place at the new Art Gallery on Gloucester Street for the return shuttle to the ship.
The daily trivia games have changed this segment with new faces and different teams. We joined another understaffed team and struggled through the answers. The team scored an 8 and to our wild surprise tied for second place. We went to the top deck to watch our departure and noticed that the ship was heading directly into a fog bank in the seaward channel.
Tonight’s entertainment was the Regent singers and dancers in their production of Tuxedo songs and dances from the 50’s, most of which we had heard at some time. There were some Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin melodies and other numbers from our childhood. Of course, they wore period costumes to add to the authenticity.
Tomorrow we will be in Dunedin, our last New Zealand port, and then have 2 sea days to get to Sydney, Australia.
Yours in travel,
Pat & Mac