Journey was not too bad. Got upgraded to premium economy for flight to sydney so had hot towels and metal cutlery. How the other half live. Bonza! No though I’m sitting in in Denny’s, Christchurch, having breakfast. Never has a picture on a menu looked so different to what you got on the plate. Eggs benedict. A third of the size, eggs hard boiled. I don’t recommend. Still, fills a hole. Doesn’t feel like I’m on the other side of the world though, feels like I’m in florida. Went off on a little wonder of Christchurch yesterday evening once I’d showered and put on some clean pants. Had a beer in every pub I passed. 5 hours walked, 6 beers drank! Earthquake demolished the city centre and with it the nightlife and bars. The liveliest place I saw was a private function in the United Croquet Club in the centre of Hagley Park. And despite my best efforts I wasn’t allowed into the kids party. Hagley park however is HUGE and beautiful, so nice walking in the sunshine with its lakes, river and botanical gardens. It even has a golf course, which I discovered when I nearly got knocked out by a golf ball! Anyway I finished the evening with 12 ‘mama dais’ dumplings in Westfield Shopping Mall and a bk whopper on the walk home… Then passed out around 10pm. Slept ok but woke up at 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Still seems incredibly bizarre that I’m 13 hours ahead. Weird! Going for a drive today to see what’s out there, maybe try and visit some wineries, see the coast. They drive on the left here and I’ve got an automatic so happy days. Hostel seems to be full of old hippy types that won’t share their milk. I did try to strike up a conversation but didn’t get much of a response. Just told me I have to buy my own coffee. Generally people seem to be pretty friendly and happy despite the lack of drinking establishments. I tried to talk to some kid on the pool table when I got in last night but the words that came out of my mouth were indecipherable (is that a word…? It is now) and he ran off pretty sharpish.
Just waking up on Sunday morning now, it’s around 8.30am. I woke up at 6am unable to get back to sleep for some time but managed another hour I think. My head is pounding and I’m fairly well sunburnt! After Dennys yesterday I took a drive through Port Hills just south of the city then east along the coast. Summit Road is outstanding. It is closed someway along due to loose rocks from the Earthquake but the views are absolutely stunning. Surrounded by green hills and dense forests look North and you have the city of Christchurch with the backdrop in the distance of the mountains. To the East you have the coast. South you have the Lakes. When I get on a computer ill send pictures. It is breathtaking. The drive is a little hairy in places and at times I found myself unable to look at the sheer drop to my left. Once I had doubled back along Summit Road I drove South over Port Hills and down to the lakes. Passed through several glorious small fishing villages before the harbour town of Lytlleton where I saw the biggest cargo ship I think I’ve ever seen on its way to or from Panama. Onwards through the tunnel under Port Hills into Sumner beach. Again a lovely little place with a fantastic wide beach and free wifi! A lot of people swimming and surfing but it looked a little too cold for me. Continuing my drive I came to South Brighton beach, New Brighton beach and Waikiki beach. Walked along the pier, through a little market in New Brighton with buskers singing Oasis and Christmas songs. Seems very strange hearing Christmas music in the sunshine. As I was driving I heard on the radio about a Wine and Food festival in Hagley Park. Dropped the car off and walked over around 4pm. 28 dollars (£14) to get in and I got 5 free wine tastings plus a voucher to try a variety of gourmet foods and the correct wine along with them. There were 50+ wineries showcasing their talents and for an extra 2 dollars (£1) per half glass you could try them. By 5pm I was drunk. By 7pm I was on my way to a house party with my new best friends carrying a fantastic 2009 Sauvignon Blanc from Keitani vineyard or something. Ill have to look it up! Anyway the festival was fantastic, so many great wines from so many different vineyards. Pinot Gris, Reisling, Savis, Pinot Noir. Meats and cheeses. Music. Awesome atmosphere! I think with the damage in the city centre these gatherings are hugely important to the locals. This became even more apparent as we walked to the bus station through the city centre and saw the devastation up close. One woman was in tears telling me how she used to visit these places regularly and she seemed angry at herself when she could not remember what building should have been standing in the crater in front of us. It was humbling. The sense of shock creeping through the deathly silence as we stood in awe at the ferocity of mother nature. Lying in my bed now I am instead in awe at the friendliness and hospitality of the people I met last night. I was invited into their homes. I met their kids. I was offered a bed to sleep in. And once the wine got the better of me, around 10pm tsk tsk, and decided I should return to my hostel it was insisted upon that I have a lift home. Christchurch is a city that looks more at home in the states but surrounded by wonderful scenery. I can’t begin to imagine how it felt and still feels for everyone living in the city during and since the earthquake. It will take many many years they say before their city centre is restored. But the community spirit, the friendliness, the hospitality of the people still stands tall. Top place!