Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cycling New Zealand 2014 Day 15 : Of Festivals & Melancholy

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Cycling New Zealand 2014 Day 15 : Of Festivals & Melancholy
At Dunedin's Intercity Bus Terminal waiting for the bus to Christchurch.
Central Otago, New Zealand : 29th November 2014
Small Group Bike Ride: Around Christchurch City.
Today is a day of mixed feelings, it was a day of festivals as we saw the New Zealanders start their celebration for Christmas. It was also a day of sadness, as when we cycled around Christchurch, we saw how the city was still coping to recover from the earthquake of 2011Today will also be our last day in New Zealand, a tinge of melancholy has started to creep in.

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6:45am - After checking out from the Chalet Backpackers (actually it was just a key-drop into a box as it was early and the staff had yet to come in), Yong Sin dropped the girls their bikes at the Dunedin Bus Terminal at Hasley Street, he came back to pick me up. We drove over to Pegasus Rental to drop off the rented car and cycled over to the bus terminal; together with the girls we waited for the bus. We were rather quiet and not that chatty with each other; I guess it was probably because of the thought that today will be our last day in New Zealand and we were deep in our thoughts of our past two weeks here.
Nevertheless, we looked forward to the six hours bus ride that will take us along the eastern coast of South Island. We hoped to catch some sleep/rest and some scenery along the way, and just not far out from Dunedin we went pass Blueskin Bay (see above photo), a scenic spot with waves breaking along the coast with green hills in the back ground.

 At a quick coffee stop at Oamaru, I noticed a number of tractors, construction back-hoes, etc. all of which seemed to be delivering Christmas decorations to some homes.
But I was wrong...

... they were not delivering but were in fact all decked up with Christmas decorations heading for the sea-side road where all sorts of vehicles, buses, vans and even concrete mixer trucks were queued up in a long line. This is the Oamaru Christmas Parade, too bad we were just passing through, it would be great to be part of the parade, to mingle round and share the joyful spirit.

Another coffee break at Timaru and sat with one of the early settlers of this town, Captain Henry Cain.

2:05pm - We arrived at Christchurch at were dropped of at Victoria Square. After unloading our bikes and luggage from the bus; we looked at them, after sixteen days in NZ we had quite a fair bit of more luggage than what we came with from Malaysia (some shopping etc.). We could cycle carrying them the ten kilometres to Leon's B&B Hostel but it wouldn't be easy.
Fortunately, our local friends Andrew & Dorothy were there to meet us and they had the foresight to come in two 4-wheeled drives and our problems were solved. They were god-sent kind souls, God-sent angels; and to think that I have met them only once! 

Having coffee with Andrew & Dorothy.
We had met six months back in Phnom Penh when I had carried my folded Brompton up to the first floor of the FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club) for that beautiful view of the Mekong River. Being avid bikers themselves they saw my bike and struck up a conversation, we have been friends since then. They drove us over to one of the Westfield Riccarton Mall where we had coffee, chatted and caught up on the last six months.
Andrew & Dorothy dropped us of at Leon's; we said our goodbyes and thanks to them and invited them to come over to Malaysia anytime they are free so that we could also show them the same hospitably they had given us.

After unloading our stuff into Leon's garage - it's time to cycle! We will be heading down to Christchurch city centre as we did not had the time to do that on our first day here. But the first thing we did first was to ride back over to the Riccarton Mall to do some shopping for New Zealand food stuff (mostly chocolate stuff) to take back for friends back home.
"Huh? Shop now and carry all the stuff around Christchurch? Why not do it after viewing Christchurch?" No, we are not shopping fanatics, the thing is in NZ places close early and so does this shopping complex which closes at  6:00pm. Best we do our shopping first lest we disappoint our friend back home.

As we approached the city centre, we began to see the effects of the damage done by the earthquake - dark lines of repaired cracks on the roads...

In the city centre itself, sorry sights met us, half fallen buildings...

.. a church partly destroyed by the earthquake.

In sections of the city, we saw flattened lots where buildings used to stand. The rubble has been cleared, for us who had not visited an area affected by an earthquake before it was a touching sight. We can only imagine how it was really like just after the earthquake struck, and said some silent prayers for those affected and hope it does not happen again.

Surely and steadily the city is recovering, most of the debris has been cleared. Construction equipment can be seen attending to repairs, and containers filled with load are used to buttress an affected building. More importantly, the people have recovered, their spirit united in rebuilding themselves and their city.

One of the recovery signs is this Cardboard Cathedral has been built to carry on services while the damaged on is being rebuilt.

It's called a cardboard cathedral as the roof rafters are made from semi-cylindrical rafters.

Posing in front of Captain Cook's statue.
From there it was a short distance to Victoria Square, yup we are back to where the bus dropped us.

Over at the Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park, residents were coming in hordes, many of them carrying food, tables and even barbecues sets. Happily they are here to attend a public Christmas gathering.

7:30pm - It's time to end our tour of the city, we have a plane to catch later on but first some dinner bites. This was at the Saigon Star Restaurant at the Windmill Centre off Riccarton Road. I went for the spicy Pho noodles, spicy but it was not spicy enough for me Malaysian palate and I added on lots of chilli oil from the sauce bottle.

We also shared a plate of Vietnamese spring rolls, this was very good and comes close to those from Vietnam. This is to be expected as the restaurant is operated by a Vietnamese lady. We liked it so much that we ordered another plate!

Back at Leon's B&B Homestay, we collected our bike bags from his garage. Also the honey we had ordered from the Hunny Bee shop in Garston a few days earlier had arrived (...see blog). Together with our luggage, it was quite a load that we had to lugged on our bikes to the airport. Fortunately, the airport was just about three kilometres away, so it was just a short lug.
We were quite tempted to take a shower at Leon's but as we would not be staying the night here and as Leon was not around too, we thought the better of it.

9:30pm - We arrive at at Christchurch Airport. Our flight out will only be at 7:00am the following day, not wanting to having get up early in the morning we had opted to come here and pass the night. This will also save us some money in accommodations.
We folded our bikes, packed them in and got ready for some sleeping on chairs. Was it going to be an uncomfortable night? Perhaps not, we will see...

(For more photos see FaceBook photo set - Click here)

This is page 15 of a 16-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
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