Today was another day where we just had to get up and go. So we got up and went and were on the road before 9am.
The journey showed that it should take about 2 ½ hours but as I correctly guessed the road was still being repaired in many places with Stop/Go boards, the journey took much longer.
Now one of the many interesting things about NZ is that wherever there are road works they have Stop/Go boards with people operating them. These all look like students. Every single one of them seem to be enjoying what must be a tedious job. They all have their own individual wave that they do to every single car going in either direction. We have been through dozens of them. It is quite infectious and we both always now wave back and get a beaming smile in return. Sometimes its the little things that make a real difference.
After being on the road for 2 hours, I was ready for a break. I missed the first cafe we then came across but then spotted a coffee sign a few miles later. It was situated in a winery called Waipari Springs. We were the first visitors of the day.
A charming young lady then took our order for coffee & tea along with a sweet and savoury muffin. We sat in the garden area. It was wonderful. The sun was out and it was picturesque. I couldn't believe we had accidentally stumbled upon the place. I took a quick wander into the winery and found that you could partake in the sampling of 5 of their award winning wines for $6. Karen took little persuasion.
All 5 were excellent. I had the merest of sips as I was still having to do all the driving since Karen's license had still not turned up (indeed in Wellington we had left instructions that should it do so - then it was to be posted back to us in the UK). Even to our uncultured palates and noses we could recognise the flavours and smells of the different wines. Karen was so taken that we bought a bottle to drink later on the trip. It is possible to get hold of this wine in the UK and we may well look to do so.
After this we continued to Christchurch where we checked into our very nice motel. After a quick lunch we decided to head for the Gondola. In the UK we would call it a cable car. Now Karen gets really nervous in these and we had the usual panic of her getting in and gripping the seat tightly. This was a nice gentle 1000m ride up the mountain. The view from the top was 360 degree marvellous. We could see Christchurch beneath us, over to the coast at New Brighton, the port and bay the other way.
We then rode the Time Tunnel ride which was included as part of the large admission fee onto the cable car. This briefly told the history of Christchurch. It lasted 7 minutes and was well done. After a necessary coffee and tea we took the cable car back down to the car. We thought we would go and look at the beach resort of New Brighton. It had a nice pier which is about its only real redeeming feature. It had potential, but none of it have been realised. It needed more shops, restaurants and well just more stuff. It reminded us of some US beach places. It just needed investment. It also needed more people. Considering this is still the peak season and that the kids do not go back to school for another week, the whole country seems deserted.
As it was still early we then drove into the City Centre. It was like a war zone. Now the outskirts were sprawling and not pleasant. The centre was worse. Of course this is mainly due to the devastating earthquake in 2011 where 185 people died. The damage is everywhere. Many buildings standing are condemned, others have been flattened whilst some are being rebuilt. But I cannot see it was much in the first place and I'm not too sure it will be much when it is all rebuilt. It is a grey industrial commercial town. It has no soul. It is the first place in NZ neither of us have thought that our time here is too short.
We walked round the 'cardboard' cathedral which is a transitional arrangement, really built out of cardboard. We walked to find the moving memorial of 185 empty white chairs for each of the earthquake victims and then to the container city (temporary shops made from shipping containers). The artist invited anyone to sit down on any chair to remember those lost.
Today we also learnt that the NZ Prime Minister has announced her pregnancy. With my limited knowledge of world affairs I cannot recall another Prime Minister who has had to take maternity leave. Apparently her deputy will take over for 6 weeks. She found out she was having a baby 6 days before the election. She only took over as leader of the opposition 6 weeks before the election whilst her party were being trounced in the polls. Her elevation to leader turned around the polls and although she didn't win the election she won even to able to form a minority government in coalition with the Greens. Another interesting fact is that on Election Day, everyone gets 2 votes. The first vote is for your local MP and the second for who you want to Govern the country. The Parliament is then constructed using both votes in a form of proportional representation. I like that approach. I always want the best person to represent me personally, irrespective of the political persuasion. I may want a different party to run the country.
Anyhow we decided upon an early night so had a nutritional KFC for supper before retiring for the day.