Winston Aldworth

Winston Aldworth is the Herald's Travel Editor.

New Zealand: New ways to see Christchurch

Winston Aldworth takes some unique tours of a re-shaped Christchurch.
Mini golf in Christchurch on the course managed by Gap Filler.
Mini golf in Christchurch on the course managed by Gap Filler.

By vintage car

"It's surprisingly warm," says driver Paul Fleming. "Because you're sitting near the engine."

He's right. The cab of "Happy" - Fleming's 1922 Chummy Tourer - is pretty cosy, and I am right by the 747cc engine.

Passengers have a key job, Paul tells me. "People will wave, so you have to wave back."

They don't just wave - a couple flagged us over and one guy made a booking for the next day.

On the day we toured, the barricades of the Red Zone had supposedly been removed. There were still plenty of fences and traffic cones blocking many roads. But with some careful navigation and with Fleming doling out some charm to the people standing about in high-vis jackets, we get through.

Fleming has the inside story on many of the sites of the old Christchurch and knows the grim stories behind the big quake-affected sites.

We pull up outside what was once a busy sandwich shop. Pie wrappers and a milkshake container sit on tables exactly where they were left on February 22, 2011. No one has entered the shop since then. There's some pretty gruesome mould in the sandwich cabinet.

"But look in the end cabinet," says Fleming.

"One of the soldiers pointed it out to me."

There, perfectly preserved - in fact, worryingly preserved - and untouched by everything: a couple of brightly-coloured yo-yo biscuits, looking like they're fresh out of the oven.

By mini-golf

Gap Filler, a group of local artists, have set about putting empty lots of their shattered city to new and interesting use. Their mini-golf course gives you a handy - and unique - means to see the damaged city.

Start at the Gap Filler HQ, by the Pallett Pavilion on the corner of Durham St and Kilmore St, hand over a $10 bond for a putter, ball and score card and you're on your way.

The holes aren't easy. In fact, they get fiendishly difficult by the end. I finished the nine-hole course two over par (depending on how closely you count). For the competitive among you, the trick is to drive hard early and (hopefully) set yourself up for a flukey eagle tap-in.

"The wonderful thing about this project is that it is for everyone", says Richard Sewell, Gap Filler project co-ordinator and Gap Golf enthusiast.

"Kids, their parents, the young at heart love mini-golf and we see this as the perfect invitation for people to return to the city together, to play and discover new places while travelling from hole to hole. It's a great project too because it can easily move and grow as sites become available or unavailable."

The scorecard includes information on the buildings that stood in the lots that now play host to mini-golf courses.

Gap Filler has a heap of other projects. Their acclaimed Cycle-Powered Cinema is making a brief comeback during Open Streets Ciclovia on September 29.

By vintage pushbike

Design your own tour in style at Vintage Peddler. Each of the personalised bikes - Ron Burgundy, "he's single (speed)" - has been lovingly restored for a classical cruise around around the city's many cool coffee spots.

This is a great way for former-Cantabrians to play the "what building used to be here" game.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Air New Zealand and Jetstar run daily services between Auckland and Christchurch.

Accommodation: The George is handily located overlooking Hagley Park and the Avon river.

Further information: See christchurchnz.com.

Winston Aldworth travelled as a guest of Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism.

- NZ Herald

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