Posted by: marymarthatours | March 1, 2011

Thinking of New Zealand

(by Mary)

My friend Sue, from our miniature club “The Sue’s Day Girls”, has just left on the trip of a lifetime. She has long dreamed of visiting Australia and New Zealand, and this is the year she’s making her dream come true. While seeing Australia is her primary goal, she’s starting her trip in one of my all-time favorite countries, New Zealand.

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New Zealand tree ferns at Ship Cove, Marlborough Sounds

Sue left the United States on the day after Christchurch, New Zealand, was rocked by a massive 6.3 magnitude earthquake. Now, instead of following her travels, I’m watching the news and live updates from Christchurch every day on http://tvnz.co.nz, seeing with increasing admiration, the bravery and determination of the people of this beautiful and devastated city. While watching the news from Christchurch today, I’m remembering my two wonderful visits there.

My first trip to New Zealand was in November 1985, when my husband and I spent three weeks touring both the north and south islands on our own. We especially loved Christchurch. My journal entry for our arrival day there says,

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“We started our exploration of Christchurch in the Cathedral Square, a marvelous, big pedestrian plaza in front of the Cathedral. Though we weren’t entirely entranced with the Victorian Gothic exterior brickwork of the Cathedral, we did like the bright interior. We could tell from the displays, artwork, flags, etc. that this Cathedral has had a vibrant life as a parish church for many years.”

Christchurch Cathedral, Nov. 1985

In the square in front of the Cathedral, we joined the crowd watching street performers. We looked at the display in the pavement of the passenger lists of the first four settlement ships that arrived in 1850 and marveled that here was a country even younger than our own.

After walking through the downtown area, we visited the Botanic Garden. We wandered through the rhododendron and azalea area, the water garden, the rock garden, and the indoor hot houses.

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Christchurch Botanic Garden, 1985

Then we drove the narrow, winding road to the harbor town of Lyttleton, stopping at the summit to look back over the Canterbury Plain and to see the trail called the “Bridal Path” by the arriving settlers as they crossed over the mountain ridge from the sea.

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The "Bridal Path" from Lyttleton to Christchurch

On our last day in New Zealand that year, we visited the Christchurch Botanic Gardens again, now with roses in full bloom. We walked from there to the amazing Canterbury Museum where we enjoyed the NZ bird exhibits, the Antarctic Exhibition hall, and a Christchurch street scene from city’s Victorian days.

In 2001, sixteen years after that first visit, we returned to New Zealand for another three week adventure. We had signed on to a tour called “New Zealand by Land & Sea”, which traveled mostly via the small cruise ship, the Clipper Odyssey, and included Neville Peat, noted New Zealand naturalist, among the leaders (www.nevillepeatsnewzealand.com).

Before joining the tour group, we spent 10 days on our own, starting and ending in Christchurch. After flying into Christchurch, we stayed several nights at the lovely Hadleigh House B&B with its beautiful arts and crafts decor. We visited the University, the Aquarium on Cathedral Square, and the Botanic Garden. We stopped at the marvelous Antarctic Museum, traveled again to Lyttleton, and visited Ohinetahi Garden.

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Hadleigh House B&B, 2001

How many of those sites have been damaged and how badly, I wonder? How many will be gone the next time we return? How many of the people that we met in Christchurch have had their lives turned upside-down?

My heart breaks for the people of Christchurch. My thoughts are with them.

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