Our 2nd day in the city brought a mix of entertainment:
The Christchurch Gondola
We started our day at the Christchurch Gondola – this is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, & for very good reason too. The cars take you up high over the city, 1500 ft above sea level, where the views are just gorgeous.
The tourist center at the summit sits on the rim of Mount Cavendish, the extinct volcano that had formed Lyttelton Harbour. And around the rim there are numerous walking & mountain biking tracks.
|Lyttelton Harbour from the Gondola station at the summit|
The weather was beautiful when we were there, so we had some great 360 degree views out across the Southern Alps, as well as out toward the Pacific Ocean. We walked a little around part of the rim & then hit the café for a beer & some lunch before heading back down to earth again.
Next Stop Was The Botanic Gardens
This is a fantastic resource for the city. It was founded back in 1863, extends over about 30 hectares along the Avon River, & is open every day of the year since it’s not gated. It is such a beautiful environment – whether for enjoying the gardens themselves, for just walking around in general, or for picnicking in nice weather. I especially loved their Rose Garden though – it contains over 250 different roses.
The Heart Of The Great Alone
As we were leaving, we popped into the Canterbury Museum on the periphery of the gardens. They are currently hosting “The Heart Of The Great Alone” – an exhibition of the most amazing photographs of Antarctica, taken by Captain Robert Scott’s team photographers during their last expedition, “Terra Nova” (1910-1913) in which 5 of the team tragically died trying to return from the South Pole.
This exhibition was remarkable – the photos & narratives from Scott’s last diary remain vivid in my mind. Many were exceptionally poignant – especially the story of one of the team, Edgar Evans. During their return from the South Pole, they encountered life-threatening blizzard conditions which hindered them significantly. Evans also became injured, which slowed their progress even further. He realized he was a burden to the rest of the team, & knew he was reducing their survival chances. Selflessly, he left their tent one night, saying “I am just going outside & may be some time.” He walked to his death in the blizzard. A truly amazing story that still brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.
The Ice Bar
Not content with a couple of hours of Antarctic ice, we hit the Below Zero Ice Bar in Christchurch’s city center on our way back to the hotel. Such a fun experience! Everything in the bar is made of ice – from the glasses for your vodka cocktails, to the seats you sit on! It’s very impressive – all hand-sculpted from about 20 tons of ice. They kit you out with a big furry jacket, gloves & furry boots before you go in though, so you get to stay relatively cozy inside.
So, another fun day in Christchurch for us. We wrapped up the day by heading to a local Irish bar for dinner before finally returning to the hotel to pack, ready for our next venture the following day.