Here I am again, this time from the airport in Christchurch, on my way to Sydney (Australia).
Christchurch is kind of a weird city, because of the serious earthquake 5 years ago: it has a lot of empty spaces (where there used to be big buildings); 70 % of the buildings came down that day. And there are also still quite some ruins to be seen, e.g. the cathedral and another catholic church. The new shopping mall is built with shipping containers put besides and on eachother, which is a funny sight. But all in all it’s not (yet) a very inviting town, in the center anyway. Impressing it was, yes, but inviting… No, not really.
It gave me a kind of spooky feeling, as if in a way I was walking through a ghost town. The buildings that are being rebuilt now are not allowed to be higher than 8 stores high; I understand now too why there are so many low wooden bungalows where the “normal” people live: they are far more earthquake-proof, and ìf they collapse they most probably won’t kill you (hurt and wound you, probably yes, but not kill you), ànd they’re built up very easily and quickly.
It is in one of those bungalows that I had reserved four nights (via Airbnb), and that appeared to be quite a nice choice: it was a house with five rooms, where bathroom, kitchen and living room were for communal use. The owner (Miriam) was living in one of those rooms and was also like a mama stimulating us to eat together and talk together in the living room (no obligation though, just an invitation), and that formula worked very well for me: one night we had a chat-night with two canadian young ladies, a young man from China (Hugo), Miriam and me, with Hugo playing the guitar and the rest a bit singing along; the other night we had a very nice dinner cooked by Hugo. And when I went away from there with an Ubercab this morning, I was waved bye-bye by everyone known present! Now that felt like a nice good-bye!
There were also some nice things in Christchurch of course, like the Swiss restaurant (run by a real Swiss), where I ate Bratwurst mit Rösti und Salat (und ein Bier natürlich!). And there was the new cathedral that had a triangular form and didn’t look very big from the outside, but where there was space for 6- to 700 people, they said. And again some wonderful parks and the botanical garden, and the zoo with only New-Zealand animals (and another “normal” one, where I didn’t get to).
But the most nice thing I did during last week where my train ride between Auckland and Wellington, my one day stay there, the boattrip to Picton (on the South island), and the train rides from Picton to Christchurch, and between Christchurch and Greymouth (at the westcoast).
It is a beautiful country!
And I was lucky, because it has been sunny all the time! Most of the landscape between Auckland and Wellington and between Picton and Christchurch was hilly, with lots of green pastures and wide fields with a lot of beautiful views across the land; the towns that we came across now and then were small, most of the time just with a few thousands of inhabitants. The rest was lots of space around, space, I loved the space again. It’s quite a big country, and the trains are mainly there for touristic purposes and have names like “The northern explorer”, “the coastal Pacific” and “the tranzalpine” (yes, with a z). With the northern explorer we were riding a while along the tasman sea (between New-Zealand and Australia), we were sailing with the boat on the Cook Strait, which is the edge of Tasman sea with Pacific Ocean (amazing how this boat remains floating, with everything on it!), and with the coastal Pacific riding along the Pacific (I suddenly realized that I indeed crossed the Pacific totally and looked at it now from the other side!).
In Wellington I’ve been walking in the very beautiful botanical garden, one with a few hills in it, so I walked my legs off that afternoon… Wonderful happening on what was called “Druid hill”, beside the oldest pine trees of the garden, where I felt in a strange way a strong connection with all the people that had lost everything in their lives or that were at a “point zero” and could start all over again, be it forcefully by circumstance or willingly, out of free choice. And I was standing there at sunset, and had the urge to sing an improvised song for them, which I did, in all the four directions. I was so happy to sing again, and feel this flow of free tones coming out of my heart and mouth again! It had been too long that I didn’t sing anymore, and I was happy to rediscover this inner space in my lungs again, that makes me so joyful! And it was great to connect with the world through my thoughts and heart, feeling a certain oneness with everyone.
The train ride from Christchurch to Greymouth (and vice versa) was beautiful, because it went right through the mountains and we had some magnificent views of valleys and river beds and gorges; I loved especially the way back, because I finally decided to not take any pictures anymore and not listen anymore to the audio commentary (that we could listen to through our headphones) about the route we were following, so the restlessness I had been feeling within could slowly subside and relax into that nice quiet peacefulness that I love so much.
But lately a new feeling is coming up, that wasn’t there before: at the farthest point from Europe, I start to really long to go home, I miss my friends and normal life; I think I’m starting to get a bit overfed with all the impressions while travelling, I’m starting to be fed up with this travelling in airplanes or whatever, with all those queues for check-in, security- and passport-control, always being on the way to somewhere else, never having the chance to really sink in…
Well, I guess I chose to do it that way, and I will go on with it, but maybe just with a bit more of quiet days with reading or whatever (last 2 weeks I didn’t read a word). And hey, it’s just two months more to go, and from now on I’m really coming closer in place and time, so there is hope!
And with that hope (and the knowledge that I still will enjoy the rest of my trip, be sure!), I send you all the love from my heart,
Nico –Traveller of The Earth
Next, follow Nico on his explorations of Sydney and the native Australian culture…!