Heather Hapeta lives in Aotearoa-New Zealand: real travel, real adventures, real stories, real photos. Recent destinations Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan and Hong Kong – now NZ destinations due to COVID travel restrictions
I’m passing thru Whanganui in a couple of days – heading further north – and we will stop to stretch our legs and have lunch. Here are some notes about the lovely little city.
When planning a road trip to Whanganui www.wanganui.com you soon realise the Bridge to Nowhere seems to have no road either. To see it requires a long hike or a jet boat trip up the Whanganui River.
However, there are many ways to drive to this river city. So, if you’ve been skiing or hiking near Ohakune, I recommend you use the historic and popular, ‘Rural Mail Coach’ route. This scenic route, narrow, windy and beautiful, takes longer than the 106-kilometres suggests. Allow 4 hours or longer if you plan to hike or take photographs on your journey.
Leave State Highway 4 at Raetahi, heading for Pipiriki (27ks) where you will join the 1935-built Whanganui River Road. Pipiriki is the first of many historically significant settlements along the way, each o which have good reasons for you to stop. A little further on is the Omorehu waterfall lookout and the picturesque Hiruharama (Jerusalem). This was home to both James K Baxter and Sister Mary Aubert whose catholic mission and the church is still there.
A few more kilometres on is the restored, two-storied, 1854, Kawana Flour Mill, only a 100-metre walk off the road. Back on the road, just before Koriniti, is the Otukopiri Marae and in 1840, site of the region first Anglican Church.
If you want to stretch your legs, the Atene Skyline Track has a 1½ hour track that takes you across farmland and up to fabulous views of the region. Returning to your car, you will soon be driving through an old seabed, the Oyster Shell Bluffs, before moving onto Parakino and your destination, Whanganui city.
The architecture here is varied. Some of the oldest buildings are the 1853 Tylee Cottage (Cnr Bell and Cameron St), the old St Johns post office (Upper Victoria Ave) and the 3-storied Tudor style Braeburn Flat. It’s also worth visiting St Peters Church (Koromiko Rd), the 100-year old opera house and the award-winning Sarjeant Art Gallery (Institute of Architects Gold medal 1961). This magnificently proportioned building has naturally lit galleries and the steps leading to it are the resting place and memorial to 17 soldiers who were killed in 1865. The buildings in the Queens Park area around the Sarjeant are considered one of the best formal townscapes in New Zealand.
Alongside the river, as well as cafes and the River Boat Centre, is the must-visit Moutoa Gardens, site of an old fishing village and where an 83-day occupation occurred in 1993.
Wanganui is compact and all attractions are within walking distance. The revitalised Victoria Avenue has gaslights, wrought iron garden seats, plane trees and wide paved footpaths. The Thai Villa (http://www.thaivilla.co.nz/ ) is in Victoria Avenue, river end, and this fully licenced and BYO restaurant comes thoroughly recommended. Then, while you are near the river, take a cruise on the restored paddle steamer, Waimarie.
Whanganui has many festivals including a book one early in the year. Another is the Real Whanganui Festival http://www.realwhanganui.co.nz/ that includes the Wanganui Glass Festival which showcases the talent of local artists www.wanganuiglass.com in September 2011
The Classic Villa has five stars, is eco-friendly and this historic, beautiful, bright pink villa has lived many lives!
Starting in 1897 – just 4 years after all New Zealand women won the right to vote – it was first owned by Christchurch boys high school as the chaplain’s house and, after many incarnations, including an old-folks home (that I always saw myself as being eventually spending my final years in) through to its current reincarnation as a superb Italian style luxury B&B boutique accommodation – where I do stay! Erected on land during Christchurch’s early European settlement days and known as Ravens Paddock, it’s opposite the old Christchurch Boys High School and Canterbury College where Lord Rutherford studied.
With 5 Stars, it’s friendly, laid-back, efficient, and comfortable with the hosts serving sumptuous Mediterranean, /continental or traditional breakfasts. The kitchen island is almost overloaded with cold meats, avocado, tomato, cheeses fruits, cereals, and juices, it’s a magnificent spread, all enjoyed a communal table with Peter, the consummate host, making sure teas and coffees flow -and of course, answering questions about where to go and what to do.
Step outside 17 Worcester Boulevard – a quiet one way pedestrian boulevard – and tram – and you’re in the centre of Christchurch’s cultural precinct including the Art Centre, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu Museum, Botanic Gardens, Cathedral Square, historic tram, punting on the Avon River, Hagley Golf Course, and of course, excellent restaurants, cafes & inner-city shopping: see more on their website The Classic Villa
I’ve always stayed in the ground floor rooms which have traditionally polished timber floors, kauri doors, ornate plaster ceiling roses, wood fire effect heater, luxury bedding, and mirrored wardrobes. The walls have art by Rhonda Campbell – which former President Bill Clinton took a fancy too. Good taste!
Evenings are great with a complimentary glass of something and nibbles in the lounge or garden and barbecue area.
Christchurch is the South Island’s largest city. It’s a vibrant, cosmopolitan place with exciting festivals, theatre, modern art galleries, great shopping and award-winning attractions.
Known internationally for award-winning gardens, Christchurch is also a great place for events, festivals and its street art.
The Duishan Art District, near Jemei University in Xiamen, China has a gallery to display contemporary work by regional, and prominent, artists. Like the art I saw at the University was thought provoking and different to our (my) expectations.
Our group, all coffee aficionados, were also happy to drink the excellent coffee served at the café.
Despite the coffee, tea plays an important part in the artists lives – each had a tea ceremony area in their studio.
An artists tea area at Duishan Art District
Janet values the art work shes seeing
this was a challenging and thoughtful piece
A Japanese ‘Marilyn’
Qi Yu 1969 – present. HoD dept. visual communication design
On my recent trip to Xiamen, China I was interested to see local art and, as our Kiwi tour leader, Janet Andrews, had attended the Arts Academy at Jimei University as an exchange student just a few years ago we were lucky enough to visit the Fine Art College there.
She was treated like a visiting rock star and we rode on those coat-tails. An exhibition of the students end of the semester work was very different to our preconceived ideas about Chinese art.
Here are some of their work and the fantastic artwork around the University grounds.
If you have the chance to visit this Uni, grab it!
My next post will be about the Duishan Art District and some of the artists, who graduated from Jemei Uni, and have studios there.
NOTE: thanks for the assitance to travel in this region as part of the cultural delegation from Xiamen’s sister city Wellington, New Zealand.
Happy anniversary to New Zealand – and tomorrow morning (19th Sept) I’m attending a breakfast at Te Papa (Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa) to celebrate, and commemorate the women who fought for the right to vote – and look to the future too no doubt.
It’s 123 years since the woman of New Zealand, our wonderful suffragists, our early feminists, won us the ability to vote in our general Parliamentary elections. Some, but certainly not all, women had been able to vote in various non-Parliamentary elections.
Female ratepayers, that is landowners, had been voting in local body elections from 1875; two years later they could stand for school committees, then in 1893, after years of campaigning, New Zealand women, whether landowners or not, became able to vote in the national Parliamentary elections.
Our suffragists certainly led the way, with the USA, in the face of most states allowing it, granted the same right to their women in 1920 (19th amendment) then, in 1928 all women in Britain were able to vote: before that, from 1918 only female property owners over 30-yrs had been able to vote.
Given our history I get upset at the lack of knowledge by a wide swathe of New Zealand, including the media, using the term suffragette to refer to our suffragists.
That term was coined about 15 years after New Zealand women were voting therefore New Zealand women were not suffragettes. First used in a newspaper it was a derogatory term but eventually was captured by the women of the USA and UK but was and never should be used in relationship to Kate Shepherd and our women ancestors, including my maternal great-grandmother, Elizabeth Rowe: my grandmother, Mabel was born in 1893 so it has always been easy to remember both dates!
One of the great things about the 1893 Electoral Bill was that while Māori women were given the vote too not ‘just’ women with land, unfortunately, Chinese women, in fact all Chinese, did not get the vote until the early 1950s.
Suffrage day (19th November) is often also called White Camellia day, as women who supported enfranchisement wore a white camellia.
Don’t waste the courage and strength of our brave 19th century women by honouring them and making sure you always vote – it was a hard won battle, albeit very different to those in the UK in particular.
During the 2014 election Kate appears on Wellington pedestrian lights
detail of the newest Kate artwork
Two women proud their great grandmother & gt gt grandmother signed Kate’s petition
Kate Sheppards home in Christchurch . a private home now
Detail of Kate and others with the petition in the wheelbarrow
Kate Sheppard memorial behind the Council Chambers
Kate Sheppard memorial, Oxford Terrace Christchurch
Over the past five years, returning to the city of my birth, Christchurch, New Zealand, was often like returning to school – but the old three R’s rule of reading, writing and ’rithmetic had been replaced with different R’s – I often had to ask if it has been reopened, renovated, relocated or reduced-to-rubble. Unfortunately, with something like 80% of the inner-city, my old stomping ground, demolished because of quake damage, many were reduced to rubble or relocated.
Of course many of my favourites have another R as they remained-open or have reopened after minor damage was repaired, while a few had to close temporarily while neighbouring buildings were ‘de-constructed’.
A few of my special city-centre places in the remained open (or just closed briefly) category are, The Classic Villa; Canterbury Museum; Botanic Gardens; and The Antigua Boat Sheds.
Two months before the September 2010 quakes, a mayoral candidate said if he became mayor he would apply for World Heritage Status for the city’s unique Gothic Revival buildings. It seemed no city in the world had such a collection of Gothic revival buildings ‘of such high quality and so well preserved’ and I went to the Great Hall in the Gothic style Christchurch Arts Centre, another of my favourite places in the city, to hear about the proposal. He said, “these Victorian buildings date back to the 1850s and as a group are of enormous international significance. They represent the outcome of the furthest migration of any group of people in human history.” He continued, “They are more than bricks and mortar, they are at the heart of our city”.
I’m now back at the Arts Centre, very fortunate to get an escorted, behind-the-scenes, peek at the work being done in this part of the ‘heart of our city.’ Andre Lovatt the Arts Centre CEO, who values the heritage buildings in our city, is showing me around. He knows that ‘with enough time and money, you can do anything’ and time and, money has been and is continuing to be used on this collection of buildings. (Donations welcome to help this work – see their website)
Although the Gothic style is usually associated with churches the mid-Victorian architects used it in other buildings such as Canterbury College in 1873. Other buildings were added and eventually the college became Canterbury University. Over a century later the University moved to a new campus in the suburbs.
With plans to demolish the buildings locals demanded they be kept and eventually the empty buildings became the Arts Centre, which incidentally, my father had said would be a waste of money for the city and ‘should not be saved.’
A number of architects designed the individual buildings, the most well-known being Benjamin Mountford: it’s been said that the Great Hall was a good example of ‘his ability to adapt the Gothic style to colonial circumstance and to produce magnificent buildings within the constraints of limited resources.’
Much of the Arts Centre is reopening this year (2016) and there is anticipation and excitement by retailers who hope to return to the centre and by Cantabrians in general who look forward to being able to enjoy the area again. Check their website to find out the dates various buildings will be opened – and I’m hoping a New Zealand craft market will eventually open there too.
The Fool by Sam Mahon is one of my favourite pieces of public art … I wonder where it will move to within the Arts Centre grounds.
A new sculpture to be installed within the Arts Centre is the twin to this one by Antony Gormley – which is in the Avon (between Worcester and Armagh Street bridges.
I believe one of the first places to open this year will be Rutherford’s Den. This Kiwi, Ernest Rutherford, is one of the greatest scientists of the modern age, and he studied at this college from 1890 to 1894: this den is where he conducted some of his earliest experiments and is now a museum and information area. The Den was extremely popular before the quake and now that it has been totally updated I can see even more locals and tourists visiting it.
These tours leave daily from Te Raukura where the waka are housed within Te Wharewaka o Poneke: a place I know quite well as I not only attended the dawn opening of this building (2011) but also where my weekly social walking group meets, at Karaka (cafe), for breakfast or coffee before we head off on a city walk.
Tuparahuia, our guide for the morning walk introduced himself while standing beside the four waka – including the largest, a single hull carved waka taua, Te Rerenga Kotare, which is used for ceremonial events and which, in the past, would have been a war canoe. Another way to experience the rich culture and history of Te Whanganui-a-Tara and the Te Atiawa people is to join a waka tour of the harbour on one of these traditional boats. (Bookings essential)
Alongside the water of Te Whanganui a Tara (Wellington Harbour) we hear the story of Maui and his brothers fishing up the North Island, otherwise known as Te Ika A Maui -the fish of Maui. Turning back towards the building we stand under the fabulous statue -made in the late 1930s by Christchurch sculptor William Trethewy – which depicts the legendary Polynesian explorer Kupe, his wife, and tohunga. Originally built in plaster, and for decades sitting in the Wellington railway station, in 1999 it was cast in bronze and placed on the waterfront to celebrate the millennium and as a tribute to all who have come to these shores. Under the gaze of these majestic, heroic looking, figures our walking tour continues and we hear the stories of Kupe and his discovery of Aotearoa New Zealand.
In front of the meeting house, on the atea (usually considered a sacred area of ground) is a stylised compass of the stars and constellations used by those early Pacific navigators: it was interesting to hear how those early waka had the 360° horizon marked around the canoe railings for easy navigation when they added their knowledge about the time of the year – something I’d not heard before.
Te Aro Pa (pa = community or village) was once one of the largest Māori communities in Wellington until the 1880s. It is often acknowledged that those early settlers would never have survived without the support of local Māori.
I recommend you take the tour yourself and hear all these stories, myths, and legends. We also examined the uncovered remains of two whare (buildings) which were uncovered during the demolition, then construction of an apartment block, in 2005. This tour, and others Te Atiawa provide, are a great way to understand the city’s history as you discover Wellington’s hidden Māori treasures.
Note: in Māori, as in many other languages, you do not add an ‘s’ to a word to describe more than on as there is no letter s in the language. Just as we say one sheep or 1000 sheep the same is for waka, kiwi, and Māori (etc) when being used as New Zealand English. In te reo Māori it would be te waka (the waka, ie one) or nga waka to show more that one. For more information about the language please see other blogs I’ve written, including this one I wrote for NileGuide Maori is one of three official languages in New Zealand – check it out here
Some photos for you . . .
Historical crane/boat welcomes its new neighbor
Food is part of all Maori events – breakfast is served
People gather in the dawn
Wonderful view of the great roof line
the bronze statue is impressive
Our guide talks about the effect of change in water levels
As part of my upcoming series of blogs about Christchurch let’s first talk about the elephant in the room. In other words, the earthquakes that shook my city in 2010 – 2011.
I left Christchurch some eight weeks after the September 2010 quake, not because of the 7.3 quake or its many aftershocks, but a decision that had been made in May that year. Since then, I have returned to Christchurch on dozens of occasions so, although I have not lived through the many but normal aftershocks, I have closely seen the devastation wrought on my city.
My roots are deep in this wonderful city: my Cornish maternal roots arrived here in 1862, while my Scottish paternal roots arrived in 1873 – and there they remained, planted and flourishing on the stony plains and peninsula ever since. During this series of blogs, I will be talking about Christchurch as it is post-quake, as well as linking it to my past.
My frequent trips down from Wellington, and usually staying in the city centre, means I’ve watched the continuing journey as a new city emerges. Let’s not pull any punches, Christchurch will never be the old Christchurch again. While I mourn this loss I also celebrate the new – as it is emerging. Those seismic shocks have and are certainly changing the face of the city.
An air of creativity and innovation flows through the city but unfortunately it seems many locals are not aware of this, and say they don’t come into the city as there is nothing to do. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Tourists, and those working in the city centre, are well aware of many things to do. Some of it involves quake tourism of course, for others it’s checking out the huge artworks around the CBD, taking their kids to the magnificent Margaret Mahy playground, promenading, dining and shopping along New Regent Street, which I believe, is now Christchurch’s oldest retail area.
One thing I became very aware of during my last visit (February 2016) is how many tourists still find the devastation hard to handle and often only stay a night or two. One of the difficulties for them seems to be they are unsure what is actual ‘quake damage’ and what has been demolished ‘because of’ the quake. (NOTE: I again suggest the council or some other such body create a historic plaque to state “This building is a quake survivor’ for building owners to use).
It also seems that many find the city-wide building sites noisy and annoying, whereas I see them as a sign of vitality of the city and positive growth. Unfortunately, it seems travellers many arrive at the airport grab their campervan or rental car and take off, heading south or west. Many I spoke to said they’d been told by people in other parts of New Zealand ‘there is nothing to see down there.’ Most said they were thrilled they had ignored the ill informed advice.
To learn about the quake, I can absolutely recommend Quake City, a Canterbury Museum project, on Cashel Mall. Our city centre lost 80% of its buildings, not because they fell down, but because they had to be demolished as being unsafe, this means Christchurch has had much of its history erased.
The sad deaths, from the February 2011 6.3 quake, occurred mostly in two relatively modern buildings which did collapse. The artwork of white chairs as a memorial to them is on the site of my old church: St Paul’s Trinity Pacific, which growing up as a city kid, was the church I attended, and married in, and in those days was just called St Paul’s: it too was a quake casualty.
So, whether you live in Christchurch, or are visiting for a few days, make sure you see the real city centre and learn our history, not just the oft-repeated, lazy writing about Christchurch, as being conservative, just like England, or other such nonsense, this is a new city, developing new roots, and growing on top of our old foundations.
As well is reading some of the many books, stories, and poems that have sprung up post-quake you can also follow my blogs about Christchurch, so I can introduce you to the new as well is the old. Don’t forget many of our buildings (20% remember) survived, albeit most needing repairs, some major, some minor, but we still have many of our wonderful Gothic buildings in use.
So yes the ‘elephant in the room’, our seismic shakes, have jolted us, have left many traumatised, homes and businesses are gone, but a new, hopefully greener, city is emerging, and despite, or because of, my deep roots in Christchurch I celebrate that new city and feel excited every time something old reopens, or something new opens. Of course I am sad that much of my personal history is gone, however, looking over my shoulder at something no longer there is wasting time and energy that I prefer to use positively.
Despite now living in Wellington, I’m a Cantabrian through and through, one-eyed, wearing red and black, and cheering on our sports teams, and the rebuild! However, this does not mean I wear pink coloured glasses when writing about the city. At times I have been and will be critical, especially at locals who voice many opinions about the inner city, despite not having visited the CBD for months, or even years; a heavy-handed government making decisions they have no right to make, or delay; and the Anglican church for the damage their wrecking ball inflicted on the cathedral, and the continuing damage they are allowing by not closing the building to the elements. I believe they caused more damage than the quakes did.