I had purposefully planned today as a “take it easy” day and for the most part that’s what I did.  I spent some time in the morning figuring out where I wanted to go in New Zealand.  I had a general idea but did not know any specific places/sites/towns.  I planned my route to Franz Josef Glacier (more on that later), made breakfast, loaded up and struck out to see Christchurch.

Since I was not planning to rent a car until I left Christchurch (tomorrow) I choose a place close to CBD (central business district) so I could easily walk.  So I walked from my place down Hereford St. and came across and interesting looking church.  I took a few minutes to tour the church but was actually more interested in what was behind the church.  But before I get into that I need to provide some background information…..
For a long time I was aware that the country of New Zealand lies on the Ring of Fire (GoogleWiki)…

Pacific Ring of Fire

If you’re not familiar with the Ring of Fire it is a ring of volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean that result from subduction of oceanic plates beneath lighter continental plates. There is a string of volcanoes and sites of seismic activity, or earthquakes, that form a horseshoe around the edges of the Pacific Ocean. Roughly 90% of all earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire, and the ring is dotted with 75% of all active volcanoes on Earth. Ok, so that part I knew.  

What I didn’t know was that Christchurch had a sizable earthquake (6.4 I think) on Feb 22, 2011 that caused a large amount of damage to many of the buildings in the CBD (Google). They have a project called “Rebuild Christchurch” (Google) and almost everywhere you look there are cranes, construction equipment and construction workers. I say “almost” because many of the old historic structures have been fortified but are not being rebuilt at this time.  I’m not sure if they plan to leave them this way, they are trying to raise money for them or if they are just not the priority right now.

So that was 5 years ago.  But more recently a 5.7 quake occurred on Feb. 15 (I saw that one on the news in AU) and another 4.3 on Feb. 29 (the day before I arrived).  Now these are just the quakes that people actually feel.  There are dozens of small quakes that occur in that area every week that no one feels.  They have a web site where you can track the quakes (Web Page).  My host, who has only been in Christchurch for a couple of months, told me about the 5.7 quake and his German guest who slept through it. šŸ™‚  Anyway, needless to say earthquakes are a part of the everyday life for the people in Christchurch….like millions or other people in many of the other cities that lie on the Ring of Fire.
So, with this background information I can now tell you what is behind the church….I wasn’t aware this was here until my host told me.  A block behind the church, prior to the 2011 earthquake, there was a multi-story office building that also had a day care (maybe for the employees children?).  The building came down during the 2011 quake and 185 people (including several children) were killed. As I “temporary” memorial (until a permanent one is built) they placed 185 white empty chairs where the building used to stand (Google).

 Needless to say it was quite moving to stand there and think about what happened at this spot 5 years ago (almost to the day).  It reminded me of standing at Ground Zero shortly after 9/11.  I was impressed that each chair had a fresh flower on it (see pic 4).

After this I spent some time wondering through the CBD and checking out the shops and little side streets.  I have to say that in spite of the geological stresses on this area Christchurch is a cool town and someplace I could see myself.  It’s big enough to have everything you need but not too big so it’s easy to get around and not too crowded.  Also, being in New Zealand there is a HUGE outdoor activity vibe to it with lots of outdoor shops and hiking/camping stores and information everywhere.  Yep, my kinda town.  šŸ™‚

 Ok, so I’m going to let those of you who are actually taking the time to read these things in on a little “insider Stephen secret”.  šŸ™‚  I’m sure this came from my mother and/or my great aunt and also has something to do with why I love the outdoors but I have a big appreciation for plants and flowers. So much so that I have taken the time to tour all of the botanical gardens I have come across in my travels (Sydney, Mebourne, Hobart, Christchurch).  And I have to say, with all due respect to the others, I have definitely (hands down) been the most impressed with Christchurch. They have a large park with a fantastic botanical garden.  Now, insider Stephen secret #2, my favorite flowers are the Lilly and the Rose (due mostly to smell but also beauty).  I LOVE smelling Lillies and Roses. And it just so happens that the Christchurch botanical gardens has 2 rose gardens!  So yes, at the risk of imparting a tacky cliche I did in fact take time to “stop and smell the roses”.  šŸ™‚  Actually, I not only stopped once but had to leave to go pick up my rental car before they closed and I came back to the park just to go through the rose garden again.  All together I probably spent 2 hours in the botanical gardens. So yes, that’s me.

Here are a very few of my favorites (there are many more if you click the View Photos to the right)….

Here are a “few” of the other things I liked (and photographed) at the botanical gardens….

I took the fern pictures for my mother.  I know I inherited my love of ferns from her. šŸ™‚

One last thing I saw before leaving the gardens and I just could not believe my eyes.  I haven’t researched this but I think this may be the first time this has ever been captured on film….I honestly can’t believe my luck (and yes Heidi I was “punching” myself, ha ha).  
To the untrained eye this may not look like much but this is actually a picture of the slowest people on earth eating ice cream while standing on a bridge!  
Yeah, I mean, can you believe how fortunate I was to be in that exact spot….FOREVER, while they stood and ate their ice cream?  I mean, I didn’t even know ice cream could last that long in 70 degree weather.  I just stood there (and stood there, and stood there, and stood……) and couldn’t believe what I was witnessing.  The amazing (you didn’t think I was going to go through a whole day and not say it did you, ha ha) things that I just keep seeing on this adventure.  What luck.  šŸ˜‰
Where Am I

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