Wednesday 10 October 2018

Stuff Readers Rail Tour, Day 5 - Air and water

With thanks to Stuff Readers Rail Tour
Naturally, having been to the real thing, the activity offer this morning of the Antarctic Centre held no appeal, so instead I went to do something I'd never done before, despite growing up in Christchurch - kayaking along the Avon River. I went to Hagley Park to meet KT, who set up and runs ChCh Sea Kayaking. She's a real character, and the 3.5 hours I spent with her doing The Big Three tour were great fun. I should say Te Toru Nui, because she is proud of her Maori heritage and there was a Maori element running throughout, beginning with a karakia as we glided along the edge of the Botanic Gardens.
We'd clambered into the double kayak from a step she'd built herself opposite Christ's College, and which she protected from goose poo - "goose bombs" are a hazard on this activity. She'd done the safety briefing (try-hard Air NZ could learn a thing or two from her laid-back humour) and the guys in the other kayak and I felt perfectly at ease. It helps, of course, that the Avon is such a doddle, and we were going downstream on an outgoing tide - but there were distractions.
There were all the neat flowers, shrubs and trees of the Gardens, a bit of a hive of activity at the Boatshed, the tiny thrill of an even tinier set of rapids where the weir used to be, and then the sobering moment we drew alongside the Earthquake Memorial Wall. This marked our entry into the second sector of the Big Three - the city, and new territory for me since I had been punted through the Gardens before. It was really interesting to get a new angle on the city, to slide under the bridges (KT was big on testing echoes with loud cooees), look at the new and the old, the reconstructed and the still propped up, and to discover that there are eels right in the city centre.
We passed a Kate Shepherd memorial I'd never seen before ("That'll teach you guys to go to war and let us learn we can do stuff ourselves") and watched ducks with ducklings scooting across in front of us. We stopped when we got to the Margaret Mahy Playground, and got ourselves a good cup of coffee from the van there before heading off towards the third sector: the Red Zone. Here it got quieter, away from the traffic, and greener, as we passed through the suburbs that were so badly damaged in the earthquakes that the area has been completely cleared and won't be built on again. The gardens remain, though, so there are still trees and flowers, and bee hives, and walking/cycling tracks, and there are heartening plans for a recreational future.
It all looks so different that we passed the site of my school without my even noticing and before long at all were approaching the end of the tour at Kerr's Reach. There had been ducks, geese, swans, shags, eels, whitebaiters and whitebait; history, politics and opinion; some really great stories, and a lot of laughs. I thoroughly recommend a kayak with KT.
Returned by car to Hagley Park, I Ubered then out to the excellent Air Force Museum at Wigram, which was the official tour afternoon activity, and whisked around the professional displays inside the hangars. I especially enjoyed the Captured! section, which recreates the experience of a POW and includes lots of references to Stalag Luft III, with which regular readers 😀 will know I have a personal connection. And then that was it for today - good day. Thanks, Christchurch.

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