Necessity is the mother of Invention and an Antarctic Storm in Christchurch.

Wed 8 Mar 2017 20:09

Necessity is the mother of Invention and an Antarctic Storm in Christchurch.

The grunting hedgehog was tucked up in his warm bed after a night of hunting around our tent for one, when we drove Vicky to her hospital appointment and left her hoping her problem would not be a major one.

We walked across a railway line and vast park to get into the centre of Christchurch and the I Site, relocated in a college building since the last earthquake in 2011. Armed with ideas we re-emerged and boarded a tram for the 50 minute circuit of the city, unless one hops on and off of course, which would extend that time. We opted to stay on for the duration, listen to the friendly driver chatting about his shattered city and decide where to re-visit afterwards.

The elderly but perfectly restored tram was built by a company called Boon and since that is my maiden name I wondered if any of my direct ancestors had emigrated out here. Our tram driver changed in their depot and the new one took a wrong turn, which was amusing, as it showed us some parts we would not otherwise have seen and messed up their schedule completely. We had to change trams as a result and start all over again. Ah well, all in a day’s sightseeing.

Seventy five percent of Christchurch will have to be re-built after the earthquakes and progress is slow for a number of reasons including the on- going wrangling over whether to repair or demolish and start again. The Re-start scheme is impressive. An entrepreneur decided that a quick fix for the loss of amenities such as high street clothes outlets, cafes, bars and shops would be to take 60 containers of the Mersk kind and lay them out in a cleared site of the city and let commerce and social intercourse thrive. Then when all the planning for that site was done and the cement lorries start arriving they move the 60 commercial units to another site.

We were sitting outside a pizza bar munching our way through our thin mushroom and feta pizza when Rob’s phone rang, “I’ve found where your car is pissing oil,” our mechanical saviour said, “the seal around the cam shaft is gone and someone tried to fix it with silicone sealant. It’s no problem, I have a new seal and I’ll fit it and do the service this afternoon!” All with a slightly Eastern European accent.

Perfect, $61 for the new seal was well within our budget and a permanent fix to boot, we were destined to enjoy the rest of our day.

Rob enjoyed buying himself a new pair of walking shoes at Ballantynes, his old ones had been smiling at us for days and as it was now raining hard the gap between the toes and soles were letting in water. We walked past a five floor apartment block in the process of construction and designed so that even people on the fifth floor could park their cars outside their own front door.

In the Earthquake centre I watched the video of a civil engineer who sent a drone into the damaged cathedral to do a remote survey of the damage. The main entrance is badly damaged but that was caused by the modern steel girder insert vibrating during the seismic event and shaking the stones to the ground. The drone pictures showed that not a single supporting column in the building is damaged and the debris on the floor is rubble from the carved decorations. Such a clever idea to use a drone as well.

The religious council wants a new cathedral, the secular council wants it repaired as part of Christchurch’s history and society in New Zealand not being overtly religious is mixed in its view. So the congregation goes to the cardboard cathedral that could be in use for some time yet.

Such inventive ideas and a city full with mankind dressed in orange and yellow tunics, wearing white helmets, working on sites and relaxing on chairs outside the cafes in the re-start centre. Necessity is certainly stretching creative minds in Christchurch.

Instead of squelching back through the park to the garage we caught two buses back to the garage. At one stop a young lad hooked his bike onto the rack on the front of the bus before paying for his ride. After collecting a healthy Vicky we arrived back at the camp for an unexpected social evening chatting to an Australian couple who we would meet again in Invercargill and German youngsters taking a break from freedom camping and enjoying a nice kitchen and hot showers.

The next day we drove the short distance to the Antarctic Exhibition near the Airport. It is also the HQ for the Italian, USA and NZ Antarctic project planning and the supply route, via the airport, to the bases out there on the cold wastes. For us we struggled into rubber overshoes and oversize jackets to experience a simulated Antarctic Storm. A young mother had her tiny baby strapped to her front as the room full of novice explorers became dark and the fans increased the wind to gale force and the temperature dropped to minus 42’. Brrrrrh.

Another intelligent scheme I liked in this inventive city was the free bus from the Antarctic Centre to the City Museum and back, so we didn’t have to find a parking space ourselves. We spent two hours wandering down re-created streets, a young lad posed on a penny farthing and we could peep into offices and living rooms and see how earlier generations lived. There were fine collections of furniture, glass, porcelain and even a room full with everything oriental.

New Zealanders mourn the loss of all the fine buildings but many will be rebuilt using quake resisting methods like cutting the stones in half lengthways so the walls are thinner and more flexible. The building will look the same as it used to but will absorb vibration rather than resist it. The Women’s Hospital was built on isolation pads made of rubber years ago and has not suffered any earthquake damage in the two major events of recent times.

The Port Hills fire had been raging before and during our stay. Helicopters with their bags of water underneath worked from first light and one pilot had been killed when his helicopter inexplicably crashed into the blackened hills. As we sped out of the city the next day the car was soon filled with reek of smouldering fires and another ‘copter crashed, but this time the pilot survived. So many knocks for one city to endure.

We were heading for Akaroa, a small town nestled on the shores of a lake in the caldera of one of the two volcanoes on the Banks Peninsula not far from Christchurch. Just as the Nelson Lakes were the Riviera for Nelsonians at weekends and summer holidays, Akaroa also had its Riviera era. Now it is a destination for foreign visitors and is on the bucket list for the new Asian tourist market as well.

Maori tribes thrived here, Cook stumbled upon the safe anchorage in 1770 and French sealers and whalers were amongst the first settlers from the early 1800’s.

In the yacht club we met a German couple from their red steel yacht who had just arrived from Whangarei after an 8 day non-stop sail. They needed to clean up and do some repairs before continuing on around the south island and then turning north for Japan. Whenever we were near the coast we noted from the agreeable winds and flat sea that this year would not have been a bad one for doing a circumnavigation of the two islands and we wished them safe sailing.

Akaroa is a pretty little place and has turned out a hero or two. Born here, Frank Arthur Worsley, “Now who is he?” You may say, was the Captain of Shackleton’s ship Endurance, which was crushed by the ice during his ill-fated expedition. Captain Worsley then navigated the 23’ James Caird clinker boat 800 miles to South Georgia and returned to rescue the rest of the crew many of whom would later die in WW1 or the Spanish flu epidemic that followed.

We don’t often eat out but amongst the restaurants whose prices were way out of our league was The Akaroa Fish and Chip Shop which sold Elephant fish with chips for $6 and then next door we watered that down with a pint of Original Monteith’s beer at Bully Hayes bar! These are all famous places you understand. Yes that was news to us as well!

Meanwhile, back at camp, the same French family with the twin girls we had met in Mac Donald’s Farm Campsite next to Abel Tasman back up north, had pitched next to us. They were on their last of 20 nights in their tiny pop up tent, living out of their hired saloon car. “It has been alright, we are all slim so we just fit in the tent, but the girls they do wriggle so!” Their mum revealed. “We are off to stay in our friends’ apartment in Sydney tomorrow,” she continued in a tone of relief.

The view from our tent on its little terrace looking towards the lake was beautiful. Immediately in front of us was the robust children’s play area which included a climbing wall leading up to the top of the slide. One of the French girls met the challenge with confidence but her twin sister was more wary. She watched her sister a few times and tried to start the daunting climb. Early the next morning, with no one else around she steadily took each handhold and footstep with care until the vertical bar of the slide was within reach and then with one quick pull she was up, triumphant, bless her.

A very tall German father held his baby daughters hands as they bounced on the trampoline, 123 and up she went, above her dad’s shoulders at arm’s length, she squealed with glee. It was infectiously funny.

The next day we took in the Museum and learned about local immigrant artist Menzies fusion of European and Maori art to charming effect. Then it was time for a coffee and shared Danish pastry in the charming rose garden at the Brasserie Restaurant, the garden enjoyed by customers and mice alike we found, before moving on to the cemeteries, Catholic, Anglican and Pagan! We just wandered around the Anglican one and I noted a grave in which the husband buried both his wives in the same grave, one after the other. We just hoped they got on!

Over the rim of the volcano and in a valley approaching the shore with the sea was some of Menzies artwork at Little Akaroa. But as we approached the summit of the road the fog came down and since the road was gravel and very bendy and steep we did a wheel spinning turnaround and went back to base.

The next morning we burst from the confines of our little tent to go to the shower block and find a couple next to us who have a yacht at Whangarei too, The Ariadne of Stockholm. After a short chat we promised to look them up on our return.

Akaroa is like Christchurch’s well known secret; an expensive little jewel tucked away and yet welcoming to locals and foreigners alike. It sparkled with interest unlike the flat, agricultural land we sped through the next day on our way to Dunedin in Otago Region.