03.02.2014 - 03.02.2014
It was time to leave sheep country behind us as we headed to Christchurch, the final city on our journey in NZ and in fact the last city for us on this epic adventure!
It was a two hour drive through the morning mist to get there which was hampered further by a nasty accident with a car fire ball on the side of the road. Stray no longer go into Christchurch city itself and instead do a drop off at the airport. I believe this changed after the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 where they were concerned about bringing tour groups into the city where buildings were unsafe etc. This meant that we had to say goodbye to our Stray Bus there. After hugs all round we were on our own again and made our way to the bus stop to get a public bus into town for 8 bucks.
Dan had found a lovely hostel called Dorset House for us to stay in only minutes walk from the bus stop. Too early to check in we left our big bags and headed out to explore the city. The sun had come out to play and we had a pleasant walk along the river Avon into the city center.
There is lots of building work going on here, a city still recovering from earthquakes in 2011. Many lives were lost and we had been told by our driver earlier that morning that one of the main buildings that collapsed and caused the most fatalities had been designed by a man who had faked his qualifications, so never should have been designing buildings in the first place. He has since disappeared!
There is an eerie quality to the city with not many people around other than tourists and builders possibly because there was a mass movement out of Christchurch after the quakes with people looking for new homes, work and also a safer place to raise families. Many of the older buildings that could not stand the shakes were destroyed and now there is a big effort to rebuild and regenerate the city. The extent of the work still needing to be done years later really shows how catastrophic these earthquakes were.
Re- Start Mall is a great example of the regeneration and the city's resourcefulness where containers have been brought in to create a unique shopping centre.
It's also here that we spotted Quake City an exhibit that has been out together to tell the story of what happened when the earthquakes hit. The 10 dollar entry fee helps to support the recovery and it is well worth a visit. There is a very poignant video wall where you can sit and watch locals re telling tales of brave rescues and impossible survival stories as well as the emotional reunions and devastating loss. One woman spoke of the agonising search for her husband who she had been on her way to meet for a coffee when the quake hit, she ran screaming his name through the streets until he miraculously emerged from the dust into her arms. Another described the 'noisy silence' after the quake, where everything stops apart from the car alarms that have been set off. A class of school children were seen walking hand in hand covered head to toe in dust with tear stained faces and roads opened up swallowing cars and even people. These first hand accounts really brought it home how a normal day can suddenly become shattered in seconds.
Some of the images at the museum were unbelievable...
And the resolve of the local community was inspiring, one example was setting up a cinema that used pedal power, where people rode on bikes that produced energy turned into electricity to power the screen!
Whilst walking around Re-Start mall we found this wall of Smiles for Chirstchurch where one traveller who saw the destruction wanted to bring good thoughts to the city by collecting smiles from around the country.
Other than the 'Earthquake Tourism' we didn't see much else to do in the city but were happy just to relax and enjoy our last day in the New Zealand sunshine at a couple of the nice restaurants and bars.