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Boating in Christchurch: A memorable experience

IANS 19 Nov 2014, 18:46:44 PM IST

Christchurch: It wasn't until a group of Indian journalists landed in his hometown Christchurch that Richard Hadlee himself experienced Punting on the Avon river - a popular attraction in his hometown.
Needless to say that for those aboard the same 'boat' as the legendary New Zealand cricketer, it turned out to be an experience as memorable as it deserves to be. Not just because it was a first time - but also because it was a first time memory shared with an icon like Hadlee.
He was as calm as the river itself, as relaxed as the people who sat or lay on the grass of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens lining the Avon river, and as enthusiastic as a 26-year-old like me who was aboard the punt - a hand-crafted flat-bottomed boat - among five other journalists from India.
He didn't have to, but the 63-year-old chose to join the visiting entourage for the Punting activity. He could've sat alone and quiet - like most people of his stature I had assumed would do. Instead, he opted to sit with one scribe and chatted all along - and not to forget, he also happily posed throughout.
Soaking in the joys of the nature's bounty, paddling ducks and a scorching sun, Hadlee suddenly spoke of Bollywood - Indians's second love apart from cricket.
"I know Bollywood," Hadlee exclaimed before striking an impromptu pose of his arms spread out - much like Shah Rukh Khan's signature romantic pose with his arms wide open. It was indeed what you'd perhaps call in India a Kodak moment!
He definitely left a lasting impression right from the time he first met the group with a warm and no-frills welcome at the Hagley Oval - the venue for the opening ceremony of the much-awaited 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup - to greeting, meeting and interacting with a few special kids playing cricket at the ground, and spending 30 minutes on punting.
So, Sir, would you recommend Punting on the Avon to all visitors planning to attend the World Cup opening party Feb 14, 2015?
"Yes, definitely. It is quite relaxing and enjoyable," Hadlee, the New Zealand Ambassador for ICC Cricket World 2015, told this visiting IANS correspondent as he rubbed his knees a bit, saying: "Just got a bit stiff for me."
The ride surely is an ideal getaway from the hustle bustle of everday life to enjoy some family time or romantic time while a skilled punter in traditional Edwardian attire, propels the boat.
On sight, if there are romantic couples taking a stroll by the walkway or standing atop multiple mini-bridges over the river, there were also old couples basking in the sun popping oranges away into their mouth. Some were seen reading books, and some feeding their babies. And the ducks just sailed along.
Punting is just one of the many attractions that Hadlee hopes attracts tourist attention towards the beauty, scenery, adventure, thrill and experience that his home country offers as several cricket aficionados are likely to attend the World Cup, which is being be co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia next year.
And just when we thought we weren't left for another surprise from Hadlee when he stepped out of the boat following the ride, he said: "Hey, let's do a group photograph!"
I could only smile.