Greetings everyone, it’s been a bit.
I’ve officially made it through my first term at University of Canterbury, which means I’m basically halfway through my time in New Zealand. Wow. I’ve missed a couple weeks of documentation thanks to the wild juggle of academics, the social whirlwind, and recharge days, but today marks the first day of my three week break so now I have no excuse. Cue the rewind.
So as I should touch on at some point, the school system here differs in many ways from what I’m used to. This includes Saturday tests. It’s understandable for maximizing class time, but also frustrating when weekends are usually set aside for exploring in a study abroad student’s mind. Luckily, weekends are two days and the only limit is your imagination.
Yet being forced to stay in Christchurch isn’t the end of the world; it gave me a chance to experience some local flavor. Since there was no use in sitting around staring at the walls until our test later in the afternoon, I headed to the farmer’s market with some friends to find literal local flavor in the massive amounts of free samples I took advantage of. The food at any small gathering of local people, free or not, tends to have the best flavor–it’s something that I hope my wallet will always be able to afford. There’s nothing like a little artisan porridge and chai served by cute boys for pre-test brain food.
We made it through the test and almost immediately hopped into a rental car headed to the tiny town of Methven. We’d found an Airbnb as a halfway point to the gem of the trip: Mount Sunday.
Methven was exactly what I expected: a handful of shops down one road and rows of houses down the other. Our straight-out-of-the-70s Airbnb was not more than a few minutes from the town and the bars (we only found one though) so there would be no need to spend money on an Uber home. The town itself is supposedly more of a ski town, so I’d love to come back in the winter and see if it’s any more populated. But, probably not for more than a night, as my priorities lie in the mountains.
Unfortunately, the idyllic quiet of Methven didn’t rub off on us–one of our crew got food poisoning the next day. I expected us to simply turn around and head back to Christchurch, but we powered on.
A few pit stops later, the road turned to gravel, winding up and down soft hills and stirring the dust under our wheels. The dust cleared as we rounded a bend, and the valley bloomed before us. In the distance, a small mound of earth rose in the valley center. Mount Sunday.
For all those Lord of the Rings fans who don’t already know, take a gander at this picture and see if you recognize it:
It’s Edoras! Capital city of Rohan! Ahh! For the amount of time I’ve been here, this was my first LoTR location, and my inner nerd was thrilled.
Once we arrived, the walk was short and sweet to the top. However, the view was a breath taker. A tour group was already there–equipped with swords and axes, which I would consider paying money to do. Instead, I stole a picture. After the group left, we had Edoras mostly to ourselves and our camera shutters clicked away.
We were a little worried about the weather hiding the mountains from us, but we lucked out, just beating the rain looming in the distance. The views granted us their majesty and it wasn’t hard to image watching the beacon of Minas Tirith light up in the hills.
Fittingly enough, we had a Lord of the Rings movie night back when we got home. (only the first one though, we finished the trilogy in the rest of the week).
The next weekend was filled again with local exploits. I didn’t mention earlier, but unfortunately my ankle has been bothering me since my hike up Cass-Lagoon and my foolish attempt to continue to push it on runs wasn’t the best way to help it recover, so I decided to keep away from the mountains for a bit to remedy it for later adventures. Since I hadn’t explored Christchurch at all yet, this was the perfect opportunity.
I went to the farmer’s market again with a group of friends, picked up my now ritual bag of apples, and had a delicious, enormous, utterly stuffed bacon and chorizo breakfast sandwich. We stopped by one of my now favorite cafes, Park Ranger (yes, the name has something to do with it), for your typically hipster lattes and smoothies. I’d been here for brunch a few times and each time leave happier than I came in.
This was the morning. The night was for downtown. I haven’t really talked about the bars in Christchurch because it feels like some sort of taboo to mention alcohol while here for academic reasons (in the States, that is), but it was a casual, fun night so I do have to mention one of the bars.
I’m a beer person (most of my friends are not) so when we went to Dux Central, a bar with multiple bars, one of which was dedicated to beer, it was heaven. Even their cocktails incorporated beer in some fashion. I was told to get a cocktail with stout, chocolate, and some liqueur. I can’t remember exactly which, but I do remember it was unlike anything I’d ever thought to drink. Super sweet and smooth. (I haven’t had a fish taco in a while, so I have to review something..).
The next day, a friend and I tried to go to the flea market. Tried, but the day had other plans. We hopped on a bus and missed our stop to switch buses and didn’t realize it until we were in the middle of a suburb pulled straight out of the 1950s. Eerily identical, clean, and quiet, sitting under a bright blue sky. However, not to be discouraged, we wandered towards a set of fresh looking buildings to try and figure out where we were. Turns out we were in Wigram, a place I’d seen in the glowing letters of buses going by but never given a second thought. We were there and we were hungry, so we did what millennials do best: brunch. And a damn fine brunch it was at a place called Joe’s Garage, themed after what I think was American race car culture. I didn’t take a picture of my breakfast burrito, but I will without a doubt be back since there’s actually one right down the street from my flat. Happy brunch accidents are a fine way to start off any Sunday.
I spent the rest of the day on an aimless wander through Christchurch, checking out places I’d read about and getting a lay of the land before my parents come (they are on the plane as I write!! Eep!). I did something similar this weekend, as the majority of my friends are off on their breaks and the downpour of rain we endured this week made me itch to get out into the sunshine. After two jaunts around the city, I got a feel for the place. Christchurch is still a city very much under construction. Nearly every road has a building strapped with railings and construction workers buzzing about like bees or a building whose shattered façade hasn’t been touched at all, only by street artists and time. The streets are a maze of fences and cones, dotted with impressive murals. Despite this the streets are full of oases, fresh shops and stores rising out of the ashes. It’s an oasis city. I’ve heard many people complain about the city’s small size and quiet nature but if you search hard enough, the life is there. Comfortable cafes offering picturesque brunch, bars glowing with warm light, coffee shops filled with cheerful people. That’s what I got from my meandering. Little pockets, slowly growing bigger.
Sure, there’s a lot of construction lining the streets, but there are splashes of art everywhere to brighten up the concrete:
My highlight of Christchurch probably isn’t that original. New Regent Street doesn’t have to try hard, boasting plenty of hip eateries and places to get a drink, not to mention pleasantly pastel buildings adding a bit of color to the day.
Plus, you never know when you’ll have a random wizard sighting around here..
This weekend has been fairly similar. Finding a neat coffee shop that delivers food via pneumatic tubes, sniffing out a good bookstore, and enjoying the sunshine (it has felt a little bit like a monsoon, for a Californian, this week). A recharge weekend to a T, catching up on some much needed sleep and some of that precious introvert alone time, which I discovered I can even find in a city, reading in a coffee shop or sitting in a park. My parents (hi Mom, hi Dad) are currently headed my direction and I can’t wait to show them around, to the best of my ability.
“Aragorn: The Beacons of Minas Tirith! The Beacons are lit! Gondor calls for aid.
Theoden: And Rohan will answer. Muster the Rohirrim. Assemble the army at Dunharrow. As many men as can be found. You have two days. On the third, we ride for Gondor… and war!”
(Not a book quote, I think. But too fitting to not use)