Glentunnel, NZ to Christchurch, NZ

43.2 mi / 14.0 mph / 147 ft. climbing
Home: Kristen’s AirBNB

Pre-dawn rain was in the forecast, and packing up camp while it’s raining is something we literally haven’t done in years because it sucks so much. But it was supposed to clear out by 7 or 8am at the latest, so hopefully we could keep that streak going by either staying in the tent or doing breakfast in the kitchen and packing up once the showers had passed. The bigger problem was that we would then be pinched at both ends, since we wanted to get through most of the day’s miles before the winds turned around in the early afternoon.

Sprinkles bouncing off the rainfly woke us up right on schedule at 5:22am, but after a couple minutes, they stopped. Since neither of us felt like we would quickly fall back asleep, and the radar didn’t show anything else imminent, we decided to just pack up right then. The early-morning movement was eased by the unusual warmth, and then we again had the kitchen completely to ourselves. A couple of guys had showed up to cook a meal in there late last night, but still our two former-ice-cream-tubs were the only items in the refrigerator.

So, not only did we get everything packed up dry (the rainfly was already drier than it is on most non-rainy mornings), we were on the road before the sun had even come up. Problems solved!

Well, except that the early start and the helpful wind meant that we kept catching back up with the backside of the passing rain! Dammit!

The gap in the mountains was an opportunity to shoot off to the West Coast and do the loop around the South Island a second time, but…we turned right to Christchurch and the end of our South Island travel.
The problem with cloudy drizzly mornings is the photos are pretty boring even when there are mountains!

It wasn’t really that bad, nothing that soaked us down, so it was mostly just funny. At Darfield we picked up some custard-filled pastries for 2nd-breakfast (more like huge globs of custard wrapped in a bit of pastry), and that seemed to finally give the slow-ass rain enough of a lead on us that it could win the race. Darfield is also where the road from the West Coast drops in and becomes the main highway into Christchurch, so we churned north for four uphill miles into the wind to get to the Old West Coast Highway. That investment paid off when we could then turn back east and cruise at an easy 20mph on a tailwind-fueled gradual downhill that would continue for 28 miles, all the way into Christchurch.

Rett Riding With Rain Covers.

When we reached the edge of Christchurch, a final freak cell came through in defiance of the forecasters, and this one had the ability to actually get us wet. We dove into a gas station, parked the bikes under an overhang, and ordered a coffee to drink at the “bar” while we warmed up and waited for the rain to pass. This felt like a very “bike touring” thing that we almost never actually do, and it worked perfectly. But I realized that we almost needed to be in Christchurch to pull it off, because we haven’t been near an “American-style” gas station in a long time. The big cities have the “convenience store with gas pumps outside” structure that you see nearly everywhere in the US, but in most smaller places, the gas pumps are likely to be in front of a grungy auto-repair shop (which might have a cooler of cold drinks and a few bags of chips for sale inside, but little else), or sometimes near no building that you can go inside of at all.

From there we continued in down Riccarton Rd., which felt like being in an unreleased ’80s side-scrolling video game called Motel Madness, because there couldn’t actually be this many small, similar-looking motels sliding by our left side, could there?! Then we cut through Hagley Park (nice, but one of the least-impressive New Zealand city parks we’ve been through), and exited the trees right into central Christchurch, the heart of the South Island’s largest and most-important city.

It was Monday and nearly all the breweries were closed, but that was solved with a stop at Riverside Market, which not only had the Canterbury Brewer’s Collective (pouring from many area breweries), it held an assortment of restaurants in its upscale food-court setup (Rett got ramen, I got “loaded hash browns”). When I had looked it up on Google Maps, I thought “sounds kinda like the food court at Ogilvie Transportation Center in Chicago”, and it ended up being even more-similar that I’d guessed, even down to the small produce/grocery vendors!

Looking down from the upper level of Riverside Market in Christchurch.

Sometimes when entering a city from the hinterlands, it can feel a bit overwhelming, so I was surprised how comforting it actually felt to be squeezing through the lunchtime crowds of downtown office workers. I realized it was because some of those hinterlands we’ve been in recently have felt like 90% of people there are tourists (with the remaining 10% there to cater to those tourists), and that leaves a place feeling top-heavy, unstable, and artificial (despite being some of the most beautiful natural places in the world!) In contrast, this city obviously has a solid base, with its own reasons for existing, and would continue to exist almost identically even if all the tourists vanished. The New York Times just ran an article about the billions that France spends to prevent Paris from becoming a hollowed-out shell that tourists no longer want to visit because the only things to see there are tourists, and I totally get it!

A healthy mix of tourists and locals on the river running through downtown Christchurch.
This tram thing was apparently a mostly-tourist thing though, and not actual used-by-local transportation.
Unfortunately the 2013 earthquake means that the city didn’t have much of a visual identity beyond the people.

Days 2 and 3

We were both starting to come down some sort of virus, so no more city touring was on the books for the rest of our stay in Christchurch. But our AirBNB had a nice TV, and Rett had been wanting to see the new Dune movie in a theater, so on our first night we finally watched “Dune: Part 1” on the TV, and on night two we walked over to a small mostly-art-house theater to watch “Dune: Part 2”. So even if it wasn’t the recommended giant IMAX screen, our two seats in the 40-seat room were close enough to make the roar of the sandworms pretty awesome.

More importantly, we’ve now seen movies in all four countries that we’ve been in during our nomadacy! There were no unusual differences here; I know that the no-popcorn, and yes-beer were specific to the theater, not New Zealand, though am less sure if the no-ads is an NZ-wide thing.

“Dune: Part Two” at the Academy Gold Cinema.


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