“Awesome.  A victory for Christchurch,” is how Zane McKinnon, the first person to ride the re-opened Port Hills Gondola attraction yesterday (March 25, 2013) described the experience.  He was accompanied by his mother, Sandy, from Kaiapoi.

Zane, formerly of Christchurch, now living in the UK, is an adventure junkie.  Planning a trip home, he was booking Thrillseekers activities on-line when he spotted a link to Gondola.  Clicking on that he discovered it was about to re-open after more than two years owing to the February 2011 seismic events.  Having pleasant memories of the Gondola and mountain biking on the Port Hills, he booked a ticket to ride not knowing he would be the first.  Zane and Sandy were on the receiving end of considerable media attention.  Also facing the cameras and reporters’ notepads was a smiling Michael Esposito, Welcome Aboard Managing Director.  The day was perfect and it was wonderful to see the refurbished cabins, loaded with people, moving up the cable.  Michael had every reason to smile.  He could look forward to much needed cash going into the company’s bank account.  The Shop at the Top had an excellent day and Red Rock Café was continually patronised.

I took my first ride to the summit with 82-year-old Peter Manson.  Decked out in his walking garb and armed with his hi-tech walking pole, he was in his element.  He reckoned the Gondola rode smoother than two years ago.

During the morning I admired the antics of a workman climbing one of the towers to install a wind speed indicator.  (The indicator tells operators when wind strength renders the Gondola too uncomfortable to use).  As it turned out, we experienced very little wind on the hill yesterday.  The sun shone.  People kept arriving.  Cantabrians were delighted to see the Gondola re-opening as a big step towards normality.  I also chatted to several visitors…..