Arrival in Christchurch was on time and without incident. We disembarked, cleared immigration without problems, found our baggage despite the expensive electronic signs on the carousels having no indication of flights, and cleared customs with just some short delay for those who admitted to carrying food.
Majella found the phone for the hotel and they had the shuttle ready to collect us soon after we got outside. It was just a short ride to the hotel where they had three adjacent units ready for us. We were sharing with Jim and Fay who wanted cups of tea so I joined them in that before retiring for the night some time well after 1:00 am NZDT. We’d agreed on 8:00 am for breakfast in the hotel restaurant. That was plenty of sleep time for me but some reported difficulty getting to sleep – too much excitement, it seems.
We were up at 7:30 for shower and breakfast. After that Majella herded her 5 male drivers into the shuttle and back to the airport to collect our van. I took the opportunity to pick up a prepaid Vodaphone SIM with 3GB data from my iPad mini which I intend to use as a WiFi hotspot when necessary. I also picked up information about other deals that I thought might interest members of the group.
We drove the van back to the hotel, picked up the rest of the party and headed for the supermarket to buy essential groceries and drinks. Once those were dropped at the hotel or packed for lunch we headed back to the airport for some more SIM purchases and then pointed the GPS toward Akaroa. We brought our own GPS this time and I’d stored some known destinations weeks ago so the first few were easy to get going.
The road to Akaroa winds around hills and along the shore so we made relatively slow progress and there were thoughts of stopping for coffee but we were on a mission. Majella had been told by the guy from Bounce Coffee in Toowoomba that the best coffee he ever had was to be found at the Pepper Tree Cafe in Akaroa. We eventually arrived in Akaroa after stopping once to admire the view across the bay and found The Brasserie occupying the building that had housed the Pepper Tree. The coffee was good anyway, perhaps because we had waited so long for it.
After coffee we wandered back up the street and ate our picnic lunch by the foreshore. The breeze was biting so we were pleased to get out of it and into the car for the ride back to Christchurch. We stopped at the Barry’s Bay cheese factory for a look and to buy some local cheese for later.
Back in Christchurch we dropped some food back at the units and then headed in to see the city. We found a park near the river and walked into Cathedral Square. The devastation of the cathedral and other buildings from the earthquake was evident. It will take years to rectify what can be fixed and demolish the rest. We ate ice cream in the square and then some of us walked to the botanical gardens while the rest moved the car to a parking space closer to the gardens. Our walk in the gardens was enjoyable though some of the party were visibly flagging. Majella and I recreated a photograph I had taken of her on a low branch of a sequoia when we visited with Pat and Laura Ryan in 2007. The highlight of our walk in the gardens was the heritage rose garden where we stopped for many photographs.
From the gardens we drove down to Sumner hoping for fish and chips. Getting past the city was a challenge with so many roads out and we were stunned by the damage at Sumner where remnants of houses are perched precariously on the edges of cliffs where the ground fell away. All the fish and chips we saw was take away or sit outside. We were not prepared to endure the cool breeze so we headed back to our hotel intending to pick up takeaway close enough that we could eat it there. We did find fish and chips just a km or so from the hotel so we picked up what we needed and headed back to enjoy it with the chilled beer and wine we had bought this morning.