We reluctantly left the relaxing and picturesque Banks Peninsula and headed for Christchurch. We didn’t know what to expect entering Christchurch as it’s been almost a year since the last major earthquake. At first it looked like a lot of normal road construction, then cranes and bulldozers working behind fencing like building construction sites, then empty lots. Lots and lots of empty lots. The Re:START area is a cool funky open air retail village formed out of brightly-colored containers. Lots of people hung out sipping coffee and shopping. This website shows more detail – http://www.restart.org.nz/index.php.
We were delighted to see that Dorset House was down the street from Vic’s Bakery which just happens to make the best seedy wholewheat bread I’ve ever had. It also happens to be across the street from Hagley Park and an invigorating walk to the museum, botanical gardens and Re:START. After getting new front tires on the car and checking Immigration about extending our visas, we were ready to explore this traditional English city. Weather was hot and sunny so we walked to Re:START looking for someplace to eat. It was after 5pm and everything was closed. We forgot that most of New Zealand closes up early and restaurants don’t open until about 6:30 or 7pm. Long story short, we walked miles, finally found the bus terminal and had dinner down the street from our hostel.
Next day we did some driving around Christchurch and Lyttelton after walking up to Vic’s for more bread. Although downtown or “the Red Zone” is behind fences as rubble is removed, the surrounding urban areas are a thriving maze of malls and commercial enterprise. We briefly got sucked into one of them, Riccarton Mall. Released from the clutches of commercialism, we headed out to Lyttelton to the Maritime Museum. Unfortunately it was destroyed in the earthquake along with much of the area.
Once we started driving around the greater areas of Christchurch the damage was more subtle. Spray-painted signs on empty retail windows grading the condition of the buildings. Housing developments with empty lots or construction fencing. We talked with quite a few locals about the earthquake and its aftermath and it seems they’re taking it in stride and looking forward to getting their city back on its feet. It’s hard to capture the feeling in one blog post so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Oh, I should mention the weather. As I said our first day was sunny and hot, our next day was overcast and cold, our last day we had tremendous rain. That’s NZ.