New Zealand holiday – part 9
Lake Tekapo – Christchurch
Leaving Lake Tekapo we travel over Burke’s Pass and the foothills of the Southern Alps. This is the last of the wonderful mountains and lakes as we begin to cross the Canterbury Plains, the largest area of flat land in New Zealand. A couple of hours later the traffic thickens as we enter the suburbs of Christchurch, the end of our journey.
Our accomodation at The Towers On The Park isn’t a designated stop for the Magic Bus so Alan phoned headquarters to ask if he can detour off his regular route to drop us off. He also didn’t know this part of the city so it’s a credit to the character of the man that he went out of his way to help us.
As it happens, today is February 22nd, the first anniversary of Christchurch’s devastating earthquake. This explains why there were so many people streaming towards Hagley Park where the commemoration celebration was to be held. Our hotel is situated near the park, about a kilometre from the Red Zone, the main area where the quake occured. After checking in we decide to walk through the park to take a look around the city.
As luck would have it, just as we emerged from the other side of the park, an old double-decker bus was about to head off on a tour of the Red Zone. It took us around the edge of the zone (which was barricaded off) where we could see many buildings under repair. The quake had created lots of jobs for many people. There were quite a few vacant blocks where the worst of the buildings had been demolished.
Someone had told us of a street with shops made from shipping containers so we alighted from the bus to take a look. We found our way to where a temporary retail center had been established on the site of the shopping mall destroyed in the earthquake. Built out of shipping containers, the precinct is home to more than twenty brightly painted shops, banks and coffee outlets. The area seemed to be buzzing so good on the people who thought up this enterprise.
Do you remember the big bath that sat two way back at the beginning of our holiday? Well tonight, in a corresponding suite, it sat one. I must admit that travelling does tire you out, no doubt about that.
Next morning the young chap on the desk phoned for a cab to the airport. He got the number from a stack of cards on his desk which read: Airport Taxi – $20. As we climbed in the taxi the driver said, “I don’t know why the company advertises that price, it’s always more”. I said, “It’d be to get more fares than your competition, I’d imagine”. At the airport his meter read $26, but he took the $20 in good spirit. If I was a richer man he could have had $30 and kept the change, no problem.
As the aeroplane taxied up to the terminal in Brisbane and stopped, most passengers got out of their seats, took their bags down from the overhead lockers and stood like dummies waiting for the doors to open. Some couldn’t fit into the aisles because they were packed tight, so they stood at their seats with their necks bent under the lockers. How uncomfortable. I sit and wait until they open the doors and the line starts moving, then someone usually lets me cut into the line.
Col’s Airport Transfer bus was a riot on the trip home. The majority of passengers were miners returning home for a break between shifts. And by the sound of them, they’d had a few drinks. I grabbed a spare seat near the driver while the missus had to settle for the only other spare towards the back. The bloke next to me, a miner, said, “Looks like you’ll have to sit apart from the missus”. I said, “Mate, I’ve been in the same room with her for over two weeks, I can do with the break!” I asked him about his job in the mines. He said he nearly tossed it in after the first week but had second thoughts when he saw his pay packet. He said mining jobs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be with mostly hot and dirty conditions. And he said that the petty workplace health and safety laws were costing the owners a fortune.
Later that night at home I reflected on our New Zealand holiday – Stunning!! Magnificent!! Unbelievable!!