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Conner's Big Adventure 2017

New Zealand - South Island Part 2

NEW ZEALAND | Sunday, 16 April 2017 | Views [577]

Margaret Mayhem Water Park!

Margaret Mayhem Water Park!

PART 2 - THE CITIES

Christchurch is a truly fantastic city. It is green, filled with art, easy to navigate, and has so much to see and offer, even after the earthquake which was most humbling to see the aftermath of. There is an enormous park in the center of the city called Hagley Park with multiple green areas, fields, tracks, ponds, playgrounds, wading pools, botanical garden, and festival areas. It is absolutely beautiful and was one of our favorite spots. They have events going on in the park almost every weekend. We happened to catch the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra’s FREE concert with a fireworks finale and it was spectacular. Ok, it was mostly spectacular. While the weather in Christchurch in February is generally warm and pleasant, it does get cool at night. And windy. And a bit rainy. All facts which we didn’t anticipate when sitting down for a 2 ½ hour concert that started at 7:00pm…. It was kind of a wing it thing. Even so, we all huddled together underneath our tarp (thank you over prepared husband of mine) and we had a wonderful time :-). Did I mention it was free? Christchurch is awesome.

Another of Christchurch’s virtues is that the city seems to be made for families with children clearly in mind. There are playgrounds and parks all over the city and they are the best playgrounds I have ever been to in terms of both content and quality. Every playground we went to was extremely clean, well kept, and along with all of the standard play equipment they each had a “flying fox” aka zipline! Yep, unmanned, unguarded, super fun ziplines :-). They also have skate parks everywhere (or maybe they call them scooter parks since I only saw maybe three skateboards among the scooters the whole time we were there…?) but unlike skate parks in the USA there was not a single beer bottle anywhere in sight. Not even a cigarette butt! Seriously, I have no idea how they keep their parks so clean in NZ. Maybe they have developed garbage eating grass or something. I don’t know, but I love it. The whole city is incredibly clean with impeccably maintained public facilities. Everywhere we went the bathrooms were clean and well stocked. Water fountains glimmer in the sun, and every couple of blocks you will find a rubbish bin, recycling bin, and an organics bin. Kiwis are a wonderfully eco conscious people.

Ok, now I have to tell you about the most futuristic bathroom I have ever been in. Just what would one consider to be “futuristic” in a public bathroom you ask? Let me explain. It all starts with THE COOLEST park on the planet, Margaret Mayhem park (I admit we have far to go still on our journey, but if there is a cooler park somewhere my imagination fails me). It’s coolness begins with the fact that the park is named for a local children’s book author. Way cool. There are picnic tables and benches all around the playground for parents to sit and relax when not actively playing with their kids. Observation - parents are amazingly engaged with their children in New Zealand. With each other too. When families go to the park you almost never see a cell phone or tablet come out at any time. They play with their kids or they chat with each other, or they just sit/lay down and daydream. It is inspiring :-). But more about the park. There is a pavilion with electric grills for public use and they all actually work. Then there is the play equipment. Not one, but two side by side flying foxes. A giant maze of ropes leading up to a two story spiral slide which scared the bejeezus out of me, mostly because I thought I was going to traumatize some poor kid as my lack of sound judgment had me trying desperately to keep my dress from being pushed up past my waist as I shot out the bottom of the slide. More climbing webs, swings, balance toys, and spinning-so-fast-I-can’t-see toys. Tunnels and slides going through a giant hill. A “beach” sandbox with a water bucket coming down out of the pirate ship. Trampolines sunk into the hillside. A giant metal slide, you know the ones that burned the crap out of your legs if you were dumb enough to try sliding down when the sun was out, wide enough to fit five adults. And lest you ask, yes I went down it, and yes it burned my legs. Because apparently I am still hoping that somehow the laws of physics will not apply to really fun looking metal slides. Let’s get back on track. The whole playground was covered in that really nice squishy rubber so you don’t have to put up with annoying wood chips or pebbles getting stuck in your sandals. First class all the way. Now we get to the coolest part of all. Not only do they have a really fun splash pad, and I mean a good one not just a couple of water jets shooting out of the sidewalk, they also have a full water playground! A concrete and metal interactive masterpiece of steps and terraces, creeks and causeways, fountains and spillways, pools and Archimedes’ Screws. I could see all of the little brains growing by the second! It was like a small slice of play heaven and Gregg and I enjoyed it almost as much as Conner did. I should mention here that kids in New Zealand don’t actually know what fighting is. A fact which greatly enhanced the paradisiacal effects of the water park. Fifty kids playing in the same zone and not a single one was pushed down the steps or off of a wall. That’s impressive. Conner was actually confused at first because kids willingly gave him a turn right when he asked. New Zealand children, you are wonderful. I’m telling you, New Zealand has playgrounds down. But wasn’t I telling you about a bathroom? Right. So there I was laying in the grass, daydreaming and watching Conner play, and I look over to see Gregg coming out of the bathroom laughing. Not sure what could be so funny about a public toilet, but when I asked he just told me I needed to go to the bathroom right now, whether I actually had to pee or not. Obligingly I walked over to the bathrooms to see what was so funny. It started making sense right off the bat when I couldn’t figure out how to get into the damn things. These bathrooms were like a shining beacon of newness with red and green blinking lights all over. I guessed that green meant empty and red meant occupied, but I couldn’t figure out which lights went to which doors, so I just started pulling handles. Very scientific. I found an open door and went in. The inside was just as clean and new as the outside with sparkling stainless and white tile. Then I closed the door and the bathroom started talking to me. “Door closed” it said. “Please press button to lock”. Huh? “Over here dummy” blinked the flashing green light on the button marked “Press to lock/unlock”. So I pressed the green lit button. The light turned red and the bathroom said “Door locked. Your maximum use time is 10 minutes. Press button to unlock door.” My first thought was “Well that’s rude putting a time limit on taking a shit.” Then the elevator music came on and I thought “At least they help you relax into it.” Now that I was in there I figured I might as well have a pee, but when it came time to flush I got my next surprise. It wouldn’t flush. Not because it was broken, but there wasn’t any way to flush it. No button, no handle, no sensor even. Still, I figured it must be automatic, maybe it was just taking a long time to sense that it needed to flush so I went to wash my hands. Built into the wall was a washing station with symbols for water, soap, and a dryer. I put my hands under the soap spot and received my soap squirt directly in my hand rather than on the floor or my elbow. Thank you pretty bathroom :-). Then I placed my hands under the water spot, and the toilet flushed. Yep, the toilet won’t flush until you wash your hands. Brilliant! (And no it wasn’t a coincidence, I found the sign afterward. And still tested it again just because). I dried my hands and pushed the unlock button. The door told me that it was unlocked and out I went, laughing even harder than Gregg was when he came out :-). I know, I must be some sort of special to get so much entertainment out of a bathroom. But seriously, it was way cool.

Can I just say that both Gregg and I commented at one time or another about how we felt like, in terms of the people, we were back in the good ‘ol 90s. Kids played with each other and just “hung out” without electronics, and families went on outings together to spend time with each other, not just to get out of the house. Even the clothes and hairstyles screamed 90s. Cut off jean shorts and ponytails everywhere, and yes some of them were slightly to the side. It was fantastic!

Dunedin was a cool city. A very young feeling and bustling college town that I think we would have enjoyed quite a bit more without a 6 year old in tow. Strangely, he wasn’t super keen on scaling the street equivalent of Mt Everest every time we returned to our apartment? Just north of Dunedin was Oamaru which is where we saw the Little Blue Penguins and is also the steampunk capital of NZ. They had a super cool Steampunk playground (seriously, the playgrounds!) and right next to it they were building a road track for kids to learn the rules of the road for scooter and bike riding. This is very cool since children in NZ ride scooters everywhere. Even Conner :-). We found one later in Christchurch and Conner LOVED it. They had little road signs and the roads were painted with all of the typical traffic signs, even a little one-way bridge :-). My one regret on the South Island is that we missed Nelson entirely, but there’s always next time!

Tags: christchurch, dunedin, oamaru, playgrounds

 

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