A day spent exploring Christchurch’s gardens, science museum and its comic book store. No surprises as to where I spent the most time.

Thursday 10/04/08

(Writing on the 12th)

(Doing quite well on catching up on the diary writing it seems. I’m in a pub called ‘Sonic’ at the moment, after my trek back from the Seal Colony)

I had an epic lie-in, partly due to the fact that I knew I would be bored today. So, I slowly got up and headed to Christchurch Cathedral and the main city square. I couldn’t switch off that little part of my brain that was waiting for Laurence and Niall to turn up. I have to get used to being on my todd again, but because I knew they’d be coming later, I was ticking down the hours.

Although if it wasn’t for a Facebook coincidence later on, with Laurence being online at the same time as me, I wouldn’t have known where to look for them. But as it was, I was on my own for the day and I took to spending a bit of money on another necklace for Hazel, for some reason, utterly convinced she’d hate the ponamu love heart that I had already bought. I saw a fish hook pau-shell with silver that I think is more her thing, so I grabbed that, as well as a wooden cat (sleeping and reading a book - very Hazel) and a Kiwi ornament for Dad. Will look out for presents for everyone else when I am in Taupo.

I got a Bratwurst for breakfast (random I know) and took a few pictures of their Town Crier and the life-sized chess set. I then found the only comic book shop that I had seen in the country so far. I almost exploded with excitement. I had been desperate for a good book to read the night before, and now I had the temptation to buy a wedge of graphic novels. I was tempted by “Planet Hulk” but at $70 it was more or less the price it is back home. Eventually The Batman novel “The Long Halloween” jumped off the shelf at me, and it seemed like a good buy.

Later that night between tea and meeting Laurence, I had to force myself to read the book slower in case I finished it all in one sitting! I need to save it for another day when nothing is happening and I’m on my own again. It’s amazing how much I recognise in the novel already that will be in “The Dark Knight” film, even though we haven’t seen that much from pre-production yet.

I hit on the idea of finding a cinema, and The Lonely Planet directed me to where the college was. So, I stopped for a pint and diary entry en-route. This diary has been a life-saver! I took a walk through the beautiful gardens adjacent to the Museum. I did oddly feel very much at home walking through the gardens. I also thought that was odd though, feeling at home in beautiful but still ‘artificial’ (or at least arranged) natural surroundings, than in the more natural landscapes. I headed back to the college and saw the famous floating sculpture, and then I visited Rutherford’s den.

After killing all that time, I found the cinema, but both screens were mid-film and were very art-house. I didn’t fancy walking back late at night, and couldn’t be arsed at that point asking or trekking to see if Christchurch had a multiplex, and so I just spent the remainder of my time in the museum. I was doing fine until a large contingent of Japanese tourists, complete with tour guide, took over the place.

So, I trudged back to the Hostel, taking more pictures of Christchurch. All “good” pictures due to the sunshine, but because I nor anyone else were in the photos, and because my heart wasn’t in it, I was just snapping away. I was totally apathetic to Christchurch as a whole to be honest.
Did a bit of internet stuff and arranged to meet Laurence and Niall at Base Bar (ironically where none of us were staying) at 9pm. So, I went to the chippy and bought fries for my re-heated curry. It was brilliant.

Read too much of my Batman comic, forced myself to catch up in my diary, then headed out to “Saints and Sinners.” I was there 20 minutes before Laurence turned up alone. We played pool (I won again as he potted the white on the last shot… Again…) before following the “Quiz Lads” to a sports bar where the offer was TWO JUGS of beer at $9.00. I had four and a bit! I gave one jug to Niall when he eventually strolled in. So, the last night with the Irish tag-team was a little lame really, but to be fair, we had more than partied our way through New Zealand to this point. Laurence gave me a beanie, thinking I needed one getting confused with a conversation where I said I was buying one for Hazel. I explained that to him, but he said “It’s fine, its spare. I’ve got four, and I stole that one.”
So, there you go. That was “the gang.” I went to bed, done in and tired. Christchurch; you were no Queenstown. Sorry.

SOUNDTRACK : “This Could Be The Last Time” by The Rolling Stones.
Because it could, unless or until we have a Dublin or Manchester re-union.


Wow, reading this back, my first thoughts are that I had a serious bromance with both Niall and Laurence! As should be familiar by now, it seems the idea of being on my own was so overwhelming that it soured every experience. I evidently did not decide to explore Christchurch as a full city, geographically I did not seem to move around very far at all.

This was before the age of Google-maps on your phone, and so there was not an instant way of searching for points of interest or things in the immediate vicinity. I remember my ‘exploring’ consisting of looking down sections of really long main roads and making a visual judgement. If I thought the road looked a bit boring, rough or industrial, I’d go elsewhere. Most places tend to look ‘rough’ when you are not from those parts, so I probably judged everything way to harshly, and that explains why I stayed more or less in the city centre.

It seems I was fixated on meeting up with the lads later that evening, and combined with a miserable day before, my Christchurch explorations seemed doomed from the start. I do remember enjoying the gardens, and the exploration of the college and Rutherford’s den would have been better if I had a plan, instead of bouncing around aimlessly. There was a whole city to explore, and I should have made the effort to do so using tourist information centres – but retrospection is easy!

On a side note, I remember a few years later when Christchurch was hit by a major earthquake. We become so accustomed to witnessing disasters and war on the television in places we have never been to, it was a shock the first time that I saw scenes from a place that I had actually been to. Seeing scenes of destruction from Christchurch affected me very differently. I remember my heart lurching as I saw the cathedral damaged in the main square. I was watching it with my manager in work at the time, and he told me his brother lived on the South Island, not too far from Christchurch. His family had felt the quake, and were okay, but many were not. I had instant flashbacks to my time there, in that square, and I just felt so sad, and perhaps a little guilty for not making the most of my time there.
The gardens were great – the weather was nice, I was taking some cool pictures, and just chilling out. I probably spent a good hour or more in the comic book shop! I remember also enjoying the museum, whilst I had it to myself.

After a whole day of building up to this last night out with the lads, it was a rather chilled affair. The reunion never happened (or at least has not happened thus far) but I still have my stolen beanie to this day. Thanks guys – not just to Niall and Laurence, but to everyone on that side of the trip. It was an honour.

Although Christchurch is already north of Queenstown, and I was two thirds of the way through the trip, with the last remnants of the Scooby gang going their separate ways from mine, this marked the end of ‘Phase I’ of my New Zealand trip. The second Phase was much shorter, and different in character from the first – looking back now, I think it was because I actually retained a little confidence and experience from the adventures thus far. At least, once things got underway…