Overwhelmed

Trip Start Aug 26, 2012
1
74
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Trip End Dec 22, 2013


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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Thursday, April 11, 2013

Since the earthquakes on February 22, 2011 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Christchurch_earthquake), the Stray bus has stopped coming into Christchurch for a night stop over, understandable so at the time as there was virtual nowhere for tourists to stay and also nothing for them to do. So I and a bunch of others were dropped off at the airport and had to make our own way into the city on public transit and was dropped off by the hospital where the driver said we could just walk over the bridge and to our hostels.  However when we got to said bridge it was all cordoned off, the first of many roadblocks to come across due to the earthquake damage.  Making our way down the road a little further we found a way to get across the River Avon and on to our hostel.  Seeing it was only 10am in the morning I took my time chilling in the hostel taking advantage of the free wifi and made my way out to check out the city around lunchtime.  I didn't have to walk more than two blocks before seeing the incredible damage and destruction the earthquakes have caused.  There are fenced off roads in every direction and wide open spaces were buildings had obviously been before.  Before looking a little closer at the damaged buildings I happened upon what is called Re:START which is a very small area where businesses have re-set-up shop in shipping containers, which is a really neat concept.  Some are just single shipping containers functioning mostly as ATM’s for the various banks while others or more elaborate with one or more containers stacked on top of each other in various directions, with glass on one side to act as store fronts and some complete with patios upstairs and down which made for pleasant coffee shops or places to eat.  This area is flanked by the Ballantynes department store at the far end.  As it was lunch time it was quite a happening place with locals and tourists enjoying the mid-day sun and a bit to eat.  Literally just across the street from Ballantynes though there is virtually nothing; a combination of abandoned buildings and storefronts and buildings in a half demolished state.  Seeing the abandoned storefronts with the search and rescue markings spray painted on them and coffee shops with tables and chairs and items on the tables from customers still intact completely overwhelmed me and the images of 9/11 and the feelings I had when I first saw the destruction of 9/11 in NYC came flooding back to me.  I felt compelled to take some pictures but at the same time felt a bit ashamed to be doing so and tried to do so discretely. Walking away from that area, and heading to look down yet another fenced off road; I met a nice Kiwi who was taking stock of the recent changes that had been happening.  We had a nice conversation and he told me his "quake" story.  He was in one of the shopping malls at the time and described to me how he actually couldn’t move when the quake was happening as the ground was shaking so bad and afterwards found his way out somehow through all the dust as the roof had actually caved in. I’m just giving the short version but hearing him retell it was pretty amazing.  We talked about the clean-up efforts and the future of the CBD in Christchurch.  He’s amazed at how much has been accomplished already so I can only imagine what this place looked like even a year ago as it still looks so raw today. As far as the future, that’s pretty much wait and see.  Apparently aside from the issues on how to rebuild the area, there are also a lot of land ownership issues that are popping up which will cause delays in the rebuild effort.  After saying goodbye I wandered a little more around the streets I could and then getting a bit depressed I decided to walk away and walk over to the area of Sydenham, an inner suburb of the city and check out what it had to offer. Destruction was still prevalent but a tenth of what I saw in the CBD, in fact for a moment when I walked through a little posh shopping center I had forgotten about the quakes wrath on Christchurch.  During the day it’s hard pressed  not see at least a dozen workmen at any one time, hear the constant sounds of demolition machines taking down builds and hauling the cement away, and dodging more orange cones and fencing then you can imagine.  In the evening the CBD is virtually deserted, eerily quiet and next to nothing going on except for a few restaurants and cafÚs and so it was a night of hanging around the hostel.  The next morning I went back to the Re:Start area and was surprised to find a small market going on and almost double the people as the day before. And at the end of the street, bulldozers and diggers where busy demolishing the buildings that I stared in wonderment only the day before as well.   Roads that I could walk on yesterday where blocked off today but new roads where available to me.  Many people had told me that the city of Christchurch changes on a daily basis and I didn’t quite believe it until I witnessed it with my own eyes.  After re-taking stock of the changes I made my way to a newly opened museum called Quake City, an interactive attraction that explains the science behind earthquakes, and has many video displays about the resilience of the community and it’s people and a large collection of damaged goods and iconic objects such as the Cathedral Church spire.  It wasn’t easy to make my way through this exhibition but I’m glad I did as it was really well done.  I had booked a bike tour in the afternoon which was good fun as it was just I and four other Canadians from Winnipeg.  We toured all over the city stopping at various points of interest to learn more about the history in general and then of course if the quake had caused any damage or not.  One of our last stops was the Cathedral Church which was so unrecognizable so that I had unknowingly already walked by it 2 to 3 times and didn’t even notice it.  The fences cordoning a large area around the church didn’t help make it any more recognizable.  We talked a lot about the quakes effect on the kids and their education as they were out of school for quite a long time, and what is going to become of the CBD because at this point most of the businesses operating there at the time have now set up shop elsewhere and there would be no need for them to re-locate back into the city.  Plans I have seen are geared towards making it more or an attraction oriented CBD, with a large entertainment and sport events area and various parks and green spaces which I think makes sense.  Most people I’ve meet travelling here have avoided going to Christchurch because they hear there is nothing to do there.  While that is true, there’s no nightlife or much to see/do activity wise during the day, but I’m glad I came and had an opportunity to see what I saw.  In a few years Christchurch will be completely rebuilt and if I were ever to return I’d have a great appreciation for what has been built as I have memory of what it was like.  Obviously my visit to Christchurch hasn’t been fun or amazing but it has definitely been memorable and will be one of my highlights of my time in New Zealand.
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Comments

Uncle Don on

Hey Molly:
I still printing out your blogs for your Grandmom. She loves them. Your blog now exceeded 100,000 words and I'm sure you have 1,000,000 memories from the trip already. Your scenic photos are great. It must have have been a huge contrast from seeing such natural beauty to seeing such a natural disaster in Christchurch.

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