Punting on the Avon

It’s a cool, crisp morning as we head out across the road to an art memorial.

It’s known as 185 Empty Chairs.

185 different chairs, spread out across what used to be the floor of St. Luke’s Church. Now, all that remains is the bell tower and the installed empty white chairs. One chair for every person who lost their life in the 2011 Canterbury earthquake.

It’s early morning. The birds are waking. The air is still. This is a place of rest. A place for remembering.

As I stand there in the silence, looking around me, I notice a couple of tiny chairs. And it hits me. I knew young children and babies also lost their lives, but to see it displayed like this, it stopped me in my tracks. Each chair in fact tells it’s own story, of a person, of a life, one that ended too soon. It’s a very powerful memorial. I take a moment to be grateful for the life I have.

From here we head to Hagley Park for a walk along the river. I love how the Avon River runs right through the city. The park is full of deciduous trees. The last of the Autumn leaves are scattered on the ground, leaving the tall elegant, leafless trees to creating silhouettes against a bright blue sky. There is something very magical about Winter, when the day is dry and clear, the air is cool and there isn’t a Wellington gale force wind blowing.

The water in the Avon is surprisingly clear. I am so used to seeing dirty polluted streams. I hope this becomes a more common sight. The ducks are enjoying the water too and from a bridge, I watch a couple of piwakawaka (fantail) darting about, skimming the water, presumably trying to catch their breakfast.

We reach the Botanical Gardens and come across a hot house which we take a stroll through. The warmth is a welcomed change. Inside is a lush oasis of green. There are several rooms and each seems to get a little warmer. There is one with cacti, another with orchids. The last room is the most impressive though. It has a high ceiling and is filled with plants. There is the sound of running water and climbing plants growing right up to the top. I feel like I am in a jungle.

And I don’t want to leave.

Partly because I am enjoying all the plants, but if I am honest, it’s mostly because I know how cold it will feel outside. But we can’t stay here forever and we have 1 more stop to make.

We brave the outdoors and follow the river down to the Antigua Boat Sheds. I don’t want to leave Christchurch without going for a punt on the Avon River. It’s just the 2 of us on the boat with our guide. We are given a blanket and hot water bottle to keep us cosy and warm before we set off. Our guide shares the local history of the area and all about punting, as we glide ever so gracefully down the river. The boat moves so smoothly through the water. We had just walked the this way alongside the river, but seeing it from this level gives another perspective.

After half an hour of soothing punting it’s time for us to leave the warmth of the hot water bottle and blanket behind. What a great way to experience The Garden City.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Christchurch. It’s an exciting, re-emerging city that is colourful and vibrant, filled with an amazing selection of cafes, restaurants and bars. It has done an incredible job of moving forward and looking to the future, without forgetting it’s past. Christchurch has seen some pretty dark days but it has risen up and is claiming it’s place on the tourist map once again.

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