I would love to write some deep and insightful post about our time in NZ, now that we’re officially out of NZ and in Australia, en route to home in Tucson, but the 3:15 wakeup call to nearly miss our plane compounded by some quality beers last night isn’t really encouraging, ummm, deep emotional insight. Pretty much my brain can process: Where’s the next coffee, and when we can get on the next plane to sleep, but not much past that.
But, a final entry about our last two days in Christchurch, which were amazing.
When Scott and I first flew into ChCh, we were so overwhelmed and jetlagged that instead of staying and exploring the city, we did what we know how to do best, we pedaled. We were excited to come back and see the place, even if only for a few days.
We had an immensely generous offer from Scott Emmons, to be referred to here as MultisportScott, and his wife Jo to stay with them in ChCh. They were the ones who’d chased us down on our way to Omarama. They organize the Kiwi Brevet and both he and Jo are members of the rad community of bikepackers.
Our plan was to eat our way through ChCh on the way to their house on the other end of the city. Our first stop was frenchfries and a flat white at the gorgeous botanical gardens in the city.
I particularly loved the center rose garden. Reminded me of my grandparents’ houses in Budapest.
The whole garden was filled with color and people wandering around enjoying the day.
From there, we went to the Lucky Ninja food cart in front of the cathedral in the center of town. The sheer destruction from the earthquake in 2011 was still apparent. Empty lots, condemned buildings covered in graffiti, the cathedral half collapsed. The grayness of the day led to a very glum atmosphere, somber. Sad.
The population of ChCh dropped from 500,000 to 300,000 after the quakes, and it sounds like building has been slow but steady, and at least Jo and MSScott seemed to think that the city would be amazing after the rebuilt.
Our next stop was the Re:Start Mall, which is an outdoor space where all the shops are made out of shipping containers. I think it was a big part of getting downtown ChCh back into business. Lots of neat little shops, a coffee shop for another flat white, buskers, lots of people. It was definitely a happy place.
We ended up running into Jo on our way to their house, so we got a guided tour in, which was awesome. We rode by a giant concrete stadium, unsafe to use, that sat lonely and sad. Step by step, I guess. Earthquakes are scary.
We all took Indie the Heeler on a walk on the trails in their neighborhood. Their house is backed up against the Banks Peninsula, and there are both walking and mountain bike trails nearby.
After a night spent in a bed, the first since Athol two+ weeks ago, we faced our last full day in NZ. We delayed the cleaning and packing of bikes by visiting MSScott at his place of employment, where they all take a 10:30 tea break together. Lunch is on your own there, but work stops during morning tea. I dig it.
We met Scott’s “adventure ride” doppelgänger, Dave Mitchell, who told us that NZ has the best adventure riding in the world. He also had Scott’s selective memory about hike-a-bike levels. This scares me, but we promised to be in touch when we came back. Sounds like he knew of lots of neat connections between places….if you were okay with the occasional bike carry.
And then on to packing.
Indie helped. She also stole our tape several times to aid in the process.
MSScott and Jo went far above the call of being amazing hosts by offering to drive us to the airport in the morning for our 6:15 flight. Having a quiet place to pack bikes and to not have to worry about getting a shuttle made the entire process of getting ready to leave so much more bearable. Hopefully we can return the favor someday.
The line for check-in was already heinously long when we got there two hours early, and then we had to repack the bikes because they were both a kilo too heavy, which left us sprinting for our plane, which actually didn’t board on time. We did get to watch the bikes get loaded, so we know that they at least made it to Melbourne, where we are now waiting for our connection.
Soon, home. I’m trying to convince Scott that we should just escape the airport in LA and ride down to the Baja Divide, but I think rest will be good and Tucson is awesome. It’s a big world to explore…and I need some sleep.
I’m sure more will come from this trip once we’re back in the States. NZ is a special place filled with amazing people. I can’t wait to go back.