After leaving our friends the Ramsons in Masterton, we gassed up and drove west to Wellington, only 120 KM or so, but along the way is a twisty curvy two-lane mountain road that makes it somewhat tricky? But we managed to survive it, about a two-hour drive. We had tickets for a tutorial tour of the Te Papa Tangarewa Museum,
so we drove directly there, and parked underneath in the Museum’s parking lot. This is an AMAZING museum! It has 5 accessible levels of exhibits, covering many facets of New Zealand history and society. We learned a lot about Maoris there, and how the Waitangi Treaty meant something different to the British settlers and the Maori natives at the time of its signing.
One display that really touched me as much as any other was one called “Refugees.” In this exhibit are testimonials and photos from refugees from many of the world’s countries in great turmoil and strife. These people have somehow made their respective ways to New Zealand, and are sharing their stories. Like children from Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, you name it. The sad part is that they became refugees because of political actions taken by individual politicians and governments with very little empathy for the consequences of their actions on the little people, the children, their parents, etc.
Well, we coulda spent the whole night there and maybe another day or two as well, but the durn place closed at 6! So we stayed until then, and then met Bruce Green (Dave from Tauranga’s brother) at our hotel, and together we walked out to a harborside restaurant and had a nice Asian meal. Architect Bruce designs commercial buildings, and seems to be quite good at it; a few examples of his work are evident in the downtown Wellington skyline. After dinner, we all jumped into Bruce’s car and he drove us to the top of a hill overlooking the harbor and the Wellington downtown district. It was warm enough to do that in shirtsleeves that evening, but by the next morning, it had started to rain, and did so as we flew down to Christchurch from Wellington.
We’ve all heard of Christchurch’s recent quake history; there was a large 7.1 quake in September 2010 that caused quite a lot of damage but few fatalities; Then, in February 2011, a 6.3 magnitude quake struck much closer to Christchurch’s heart. 185 people were killed in the quake, and essentially the entire downtown region of Christchurch, every store, building, cathedral, etc, was rendered unsafe. We had visited Christchurch in late 1990, and the big cathedral that we remembered? Well, it’s now being “deconstructed” for possible future restoration. Two years after the 2nd quake, the whole area is still a demolition/construction zone, and probably many years will pass before the physical scars are all healed.
But there is hope! Christchurch has implemented a “Restart” program, where new stores and other businesses are being built of container boxes. We visited the Restart business district and were quite impressed! Inside this “Simply New Zealand” shop, we engaged Teresa, the proprietor, in a conversation about what had happened, how she felt about the future. It turns out that her original store, like so many others, was totally put out of commission. But within a few months, she was offered the opportunity to open one of the Restart container-based stores. For those doing business in the Restart zone, business
can be brisk, as the stores are a tourist draw, not to mention a draw for residents who simply need the stuff carried there. So Teresa said she could have left completely, but decided to give it a try, and likes being a part of the resurrection of the downtown district, and she’s excited about the future. There she is with Jane, after she sold me some socks made of Merino Wool and Possum fur. They’re great!
We stayed overnight in Christchurch and then headed off by train to the West, stopping at Arthur’s Pass for a couple of days. A beautiful lodge on a sheep station high in the Southern Alps. To find out more about that adventure, tune in to future installments! 😉