Christchurch isn’t what I expected. Then again, I’ve been so absorbed with the process of getting ready to go out to the ice, I hadn’t put any thought into actually having expectations about CHCH. It wasn’t until we were milling our way through sushi and bento in the food court at AKL that I had the presence of mind to think about it. Shawn offered that Christchurch reminded him of Burlington, with a bit of London stirred in.
Relentlessly cheerful shuttle drivers at the CHCH airport herded the addled pack of us into their waiting vans and deposited everyone at their respective USAP-selected hotels. Once I’d showered, shaved and changed, my ambling survey of the streets around my hotel seemed to support Shawn’s assessment. The wide, clean streets of the downtown area seem to be populated with an unusual number of outdoor fitters and travel shops. Cozy bed-and-breakfasts interleave the modern, experimental architecture of Japanese-style business, and an enormous, two-storey bouquet of steel-and-glass flowers stands abeam the centuries-old city cathedral.
I think I tend to reduce cities to cameo activities: Seattle is Queen Anne Hill, blackberries along the Burke-Gilman trail, and kayaking in the Montlake Cut. Pittsburgh – walking down Schenley Park at dusk. So whenever I visit a new city, somewhere in the back of my head, I’m dowsing for that experience I will forever define it by.
So far, the CHCH experience is encapsulated by nachos, beer and sweet potato fries at Dux de Lux. Word filtered through by email that Dux was the place that Polies and other Antarcticans pre- and ex-pats gathered, a few blocks off Cathedral Square. I found the usual suspects from our group at an outdoor table on the back patio, preminiscing (I just made that word up) about the season ahead over beer kiwi-style appetizers.
Ben arrived a few minutes later, with Megan-the-firefighter in tow (yes, another Megan). Megan was just coming off the ice having wintered over at McMurdo and taken the previous summer at the Pole. She was breathtakingly pretty, with hair cropped short in one of those stands-up-in-front styles that’s so popular with boys around California. And she had arms and shoulders that looked like they could snap the top off a tractor like it was a tin can.