Christchurch is a city struggling from adversity to joy. The city is a muddle of building sites, bare patches, rubble and ugly wire fences then unexpectedly we happen upon a pop of poignant sweetness. Bursts of hope flower in bins and barrows, herbs spill out of unlikely corners, things bloom everywhere.
The resilience of this city can be seen in a tangle of brightly coloured shipping containers housing some very funky shops and cafes or a roadside sculpture (titled The Green Room) where a mosaic patterned armchair waits on a battered pavement for someone to sit in it.
And there before us is the cathedral with its roof ripped savagely – crumpled and bashed like a cardboard doll’s house yet still standing.
We stroll down New Regent Street – a miraculous lane of gelato coloured shop fronts built in the 1930s. What magic saved this tiny row of charming red bricked structures from the horror of the earthquakes?
In Christchurch, ducks of every size dabble in a halcyon stream. Kayaks and punts float on a willow tinted river. The Botanic Gardens blazes with glorious colour and Hagley Park sits vast and peaceful – a green haven in the heart of a city where hope and sorrow walk hand in hand.
We get our first sense of the breathtaking scenery of New Zealand on the train ride from Christchurch to Picton. On one side is the ocean, a jade grey surge of wild water, and a shore line where seals bask on craggy rocks and on the other side are the glowing green hills, farm yards and fields that become so familiar as we travel through this country.
Wellington wows us with its urban buzz. We eat delicious modern Asian fusion food at a restaurant called Dragonfly in Courtenay Place. We stay in an edgy little boutique hotel (At Home) on the fourth floor of a city building and we are blown about by those famous Wellington winds.
A highlight for me is a vist to the home of Katherine Mansfield whose short story The Doll’s House is my favourite piece of prose. I am overwhelmed at being in her childhood home and seeing family photos and original manuscripts. There is even a doll’s house exactly as it is in the story a dark, oily, spinach green, picked out with bright yellow. I gaze in wonderment and peer inside to see the exquisite little amber lamp and like Kezia and our Else, in the story, it fills me with inexplicable joy.
How astonishing that this woman died at thirty five and what a legacy of words she left behind.
We leave Wellington on a gusty morning and embark on the next leg of our journey in Aotearoa…
© Anita Patel, 2015