Network Before Travel: My Christchurch Tour
I'm big on asking for help when I do my initial research and throughout my travels. Being on a budget means staying resourceful and sharing information. I expect nothing when I ask, and then I jump on any lead offered. My efforts paid off big time in Christchurch, with two friends-of-friends who welcomed me into their homes, allowed me the time and space to recoup, and showed me all over town.
From Lake Tekapo, it's an easy 3 1/2 hours into Christchurch. One more hot day and hot bus ride later, a few failed attempts at finding the right bus, and finally I arrived at a friend of a friend's house. This may have been the end to a rough few days of travel, but I knew I needed recovery time. I dropped my bags, spread out in my own room, (no shared dorms or shared bathrooms!), and I cooled off in the pool...followed by a healthy dose of TV.
Christchurch has taken its time in rebuilding after the 2011 earthquake. The city has made the most of a difficult situation and is making sure to build earthquake-friendly structures, while restoring historical buildings, and implementing new communal designs along the river and other outdoor spaces.
This city is spread out, so hopefully you can find someone to show you around the outlying neighborhoods.
Sumner is one of the cool neighborhoods along the water. (Just down and around the hill in the above photo.) It's a great place to picnic and has a cute village with all you need for the day.
These new friends took the time to walk me around and experience a city that is often overlooked because of the extensive renovations. Having a local tell me inside information made a place like Christchurch much more interesting because they knew how things were before the earthquake.
This city has so much potential, especially considering the modern feel of the new builds. It seems like they're doing it right.
Shortly after the earthquake, the city began opening up shops to get commerce going, using shipping containers. This area is aptly named the Re:Start Mall, and is modern and friendly, not to mention a very useful way to get the city functioning again. We stopped for a look around and a cup of coffee.
A stroll through the botanical gardens in massive Hagley Park was so relaxing and a great way to spend few hours. There's even a stylish new cafe by the river that looks like a perfect spot to try out.
The hidden gem around the corner is a small industrial part of town, Lyttelton, slightly reminiscent of Seattle.
My other new friend picked me up and introduced me to the decently priced Lyttelton Coffee Company. Afterwards, we wandered the Saturday farmers market, where a sweet community of locals convene for a catch up on their lives and current events, while shopping or enjoying a coffee.
Christchurch has art everywhere, and I can see so much potential. It will be interesting to see how things develop.
I had a great experience here because I asked for ideas and help beforehand. Don't be afraid to reach out when planning your trip. People are often very willing to respond, lend a hand, and roll out the red carpet, especially in New Zealand. When Kiwis offer hospitality, they mean it. The worst that can happen is someone says no or simply can't help -- you're no worse off than you were before!
I was told that the TranzAlpine was a must-see, so I'll be journeying by train from Christchurch to Greymouth, with a stop in Arthur's Pass next.
Links and information on Christchurch:
Map from Lake Tekapo to Christchurch.
Sumner Village has a beautiful beach, parks and cute shops.
Re:Start Mall has the shipping container stores and cafes in the city center.
Hagley Park contains the sprawling botanical gardens and cafe.
Lyttelton is on the other side of town and is a must-do, if possible.
Lyttelton Coffee Company is delicious and decently priced.
The farmers market in Lyttelton is a happy time with locals and fresh produce.
Jailhouse Accommodation is quirky and in the center of town, and part of BBH.
TranzAlpine train is easy to get to from the Jailhouse.